Secrets of a creative director: Why freelancers need personal projects—and how to finish yours​

You became a creative because you have great ideas. 

But it’s hard to prioritize your own work:

  • You run out of time 
  • Struggle to pick a project 
  • You abandon your ideas because of perfection paralysis. 

Why senior creatives need personal projects

We’re featuring Dan Nelken, a copywriter and creative director whose work has been featured in massive campaigns and international award shows. 

After decades in advertising, Dan desired to transition from a professional creative to a professional creator. 

As a busy freelancer and dad—he struggled (like the rest of us). BUT he persevered…and it paid off. 

The resulting work is his best to date: a bestselling book on copywriting. 

In this video, Dan will share how he made the shift from creative to creator. 

What makes Dan’s advice so relatable is that his success as an author is so recent. Dan is just one step ahead of us on his journey — and so he is able to dig deep into the details of his obstacles and solutions.

If you are a copywriter, designer, photographer, or director seeking to create meaningful work, don’t miss this video with Dan Nelken. 

Watch This Talk:


[00:00:00] Dan Nelken:
Well, thank you everyone for coming. Um, thank you for supporting creative pulse.

[00:00:19] Dan Nelken:
I know this journey for me since I started creating content online, I started to hear from people and I hear from people all over the world, but but Canada and Vancouver specifically. There, there wasn’t a ton. I don’t know if it’s just a Canadian thing where we’re like, you know, everybody together, nobody stand out, you know, if you want to do that, go to America, but it just seemed to be an even in terms of community here in Vancouver and Canada.

[00:00:44] Dan Nelken:
It’s not there. So, so when Ami reached out, you know, I live four blocks away. It was like, hands down. I do want to do this. Um, he had just read my book and, uh, am I echoing? No. And, [00:01:00] uh, yeah. I said, I’ll do the talk, but I don’t want to talk about the book. I want to talk about why I wrote the book, which is more important to me.

[00:01:08] Dan Nelken:
It was, it’s in the dedication in the book and that, that’s the book right there. I was shocked as anyone that it became an international bestseller. It’s been translated into one other language. Very impressive. Uh, it was Italian. And I’ve actually been paid by another country that I was surprised. They have the Ukrainian rights.

[00:01:32] Dan Nelken:
It’s a publishing company. I was surprised. I thought maybe that money should have gone to a drone or something, but, uh, I took their money and to no one’s surprise that that book hasn’t come out in Ukrainian yet. Um, but yeah, the thing took off. It was number two on Amazon and the advertising category in the U.

[00:01:51] Dan Nelken:
K. In the U. S. In Canada, and I was just typing this thing four blocks away from my son’s bed while he was at school, you know, [00:02:00] and, uh, I wrote it to kind of, you know, help one person like other than me, and it was just what I needed to hear how I needed to hear it. And clearly, that resonated with people. A lot of people needed to hear it in the same way.

[00:02:13] Dan Nelken:
Um. So this is the dedication in the book, which is really why I’m here. It’s like to you, the reader, create something you have complete control over. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect. All that matters is that it’s yours. That was driving me for a really, really long time. And I know I’ll just go through.

[00:02:36] Dan Nelken:
This is really my journey from full time to freelancer to free.

[00:02:45] Dan Nelken:
Now, I’m not completely free, but I’m very close. And I feel like. If I was a smarter person and knew what button to create and push, that I would be completely free and I am very close. [00:03:00] Tonight’s session, we, what is happening?

[00:03:08] Dan Nelken:
So, I’m going to go through why we’re here, which I’m kind of covering. A bit about my background for those of you who don’t know me, which is most of you anyway, personally, and my background in terms of my career. Uh, I’m going to share and go over what I’ve been doing these last few years. How I’ve been doing this stuff.

[00:03:28] Dan Nelken:
How you can do this stuff. And then Q and a about doing this stuff. Um, so why we’re here. I mean, really, it’s over the years working in advertising like a lot of you and working around creative people. I can’t tell you how many times I look across the boardroom table. Just so impressed and inspired by someone’s creativity or brain in some way.

[00:03:55] Dan Nelken:
And I remember thinking, well, you should be doing your own thing. You should be. [00:04:00] Imagine if you put some of that creative energy into. Your own business or brand or personal brand. Like we spend all of our time creating for other brands and building agencies. And so I saw that a lot throughout my career.

[00:04:15] Dan Nelken:
Um, so, so for you, you know, how many of you, I’m sure your show of hands, if you’re comfortable, have ideas for yourself when you’re coming up with ideas for other companies and brands, I’m sure lots of you do, and then probably don’t pursue them and they just keep coming and coming because. The thing is always on.

[00:04:36] Dan Nelken:
And then there’s also this admiration when you see other people that you’ve maybe worked with, that they’re kind of close to you that are, are doing something and you, you know, it’s kind of been both for me where I’m like, I’m so inspired by what you’re doing and impressed, but also, you know, want to like kick them in front of a bus a little bit, because really it’s, it’s like, you’re not doing the thing.

[00:04:57] Dan Nelken:
And so I’ve felt that a lot, [00:05:00] and there’s been also frustration and anger with myself, but also I think maybe more relatable. Is like this or just as relatable. The frustration and anger that we’ll feel working with clients, client feedback, working for somebody else, um, you know, I know I felt that a lot and we can, we tell ourselves in those moments like, you know, to calm down, to write the email tomorrow, all of those things like we’re not supposed to feel those things or the envy of someone else is a bad feeling to think that about someone else who’s doing something.

[00:05:33] Dan Nelken:
And so we bury it. Really, those are just human things to feel and it’s a, it’s a sign that you want to do something too. Um, and then of course there’s just the desire that we always want to like do more in life and create more. And you know, this isn’t it. Like, I know I can do more. We all, I think, have that feeling.

[00:05:53] Dan Nelken:
I think that’s why most of you are here tonight. And then we all want more loonies and toonies. [00:06:00] Um, I think that’s relatable, especially in Vancouver. Um, So, you know, we’re always looking for signs. I know I was like, what am I supposed to do? I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know which idea to pick and all of these things.

[00:06:15] Dan Nelken:
Um, I wish I had a book that just had answers for me. But I think these are the science, you know, the bad feelings. I think I always expected the sign to be like, you know, a rainbow and very clear and to feel really good. But now that I’ve been paying attention, I’m like, Oh, it’s these bad feelings that I was just like suppressing because I was a bad person.

[00:06:37] Dan Nelken:
Um, but no, it’s okay. If you’re frustrated and angry, um, feeling envy, those are like also signs. And of course, sometimes they do feel really good. And there’s like a, um, a clear sign. And, but yeah, I think for me, when I look back, now that I push through to create some things, you know, I maybe could have paid [00:07:00] more attention to to those things.

[00:07:02] Dan Nelken:
Um, this is a quote from Jerry Seinfeld. It’s important that I tell you that first, I think, but. Because for people on my side of the cubicle, Jerry Seinfeld, which is not in a cubicle, the goal is always creativity. Spending your time overcoming, come on Jerry, corporate resistance to creativity. I just don’t want to do that.

[00:07:28] Dan Nelken:
I don’t think he really did. I mean, it’s not realistic for all of us to be Jerry Seinfeld and to have a career like him, but I think we can all relate to this corporate resistance. You get a photo of that. I just clued in who you were. I was like, yeah, I was like, he looks familiar. Carson Ting. I’m just going to go through some people in my career that, that, um, I’ve encountered that are doing things that have inspired [00:08:00] me.

[00:08:00] Dan Nelken:
And also, you know, want to kick them in front of buses or whatever. Carson is speaking. Uh, he’s the next speaker later this month, um, as an illustrator. And he was, I believe an art director and just leaned into his passion. Sapodilla soap. I don’t know if you recognize this brand. My friend Jill, um, she’s a copywriter, one of the best copywriters I worked with, but she burnt out and she always struggled with maybe the corporate resistance and other things.

[00:08:28] Dan Nelken:
Anyway, she hasn’t worked in about six or seven years. That company was, was bought out by the same company that owns Gorilla Glue. I don’t know if you know these guys, but it’s, uh, Rob, Brian, Scott, and Jeff who started 123 West, the agency that’s very successful. They’ve done an awesome job. This is them starting out in a garage and then, of course, rethink the agency here that started here was two creatives or and, you know, there was a whole team of people [00:09:00] that left a bigger agency to start their own.

[00:09:03] Dan Nelken:
Mary Jo Dion is a copywriter I worked with many times. She was amazing. She was always doing something, building something. I remember she had a T shirt. It was like the fleas needs just a simple idea, and I think proceeds went to, you know, neglected animals. But it took off and it was, I forget her name, but she was in one of the actresses from 90210, Tori Spelling.

[00:09:26] Dan Nelken:
Is that right? Next thing you know, Mary Jo and her friends are at the Playboy Mansion with Tori Spelling and all these people. She’s done a one woman show. She’s now, I know she’s fully made the transition, but she was going over to London taking screenwriting. Now she’s doing screenwriting. Like she’s just always doing stuff.

[00:09:45] Dan Nelken:
Danielle Krissa, who is more famously known as the Jealous Curator. When I started my career, she was an art director for web, which at the time was like so neglected, you know, web, internet, who would use [00:10:00] that? Anyway, um, she had a blog when no one had a blog, and she was just sharing, like, art that she admired because she wasn’t creating for herself, and so she was the jealous curator.

[00:10:12] Dan Nelken:
She’s written tons of books, talked on a stage with a red sign behind her. Um, and I, you know, we saw her just chipping away at something. I don’t even think in the beginning it was, this is gonna be my career. And her and MJ, actually funny, David Sedaris, the author, when he was here, I went with Danielle, Mary Jo, and Jill, the one who sold the, uh, the soap company.

[00:10:39] Dan Nelken:
I never put that together. Um, anybody recognize the illustration style of these early ads? Uh, I’m forgetting his, his, uh, The name is not he was mother didn’t name him Dr. Seuss, but, uh, he worked in in advertising before he started doing what we know him for [00:11:00] this guy, James Patterson. I don’t know if you know he was he worked his way up from a copywriter to the CEO of J.

[00:11:06] Dan Nelken:
Walter Thompson in, uh, whoever in the U. S. I think was Chicago. I’m not sure he was doing this on the side for the longest time, and he started out. He sold more books than J. K. Rowling. Now, obviously, not all of us. He’s, he’s, he made, I read an article, it was like, from maybe 10 years ago, that year he made 90 million off book sales, which is nuts.

[00:11:30] Dan Nelken:
Um, and then we have, uh, Mike Cesario, the founder of Liquid Death, who was an art director, um, and freelance, uh, yeah, art director in advertising, worked for some top agencies in the U. S. You know, his story, if you listen to him on a podcast, Mike Cesare, he’s amazing, really, really inspiring in terms of taking all of the frustration.

[00:11:55] Dan Nelken:
Him, him not feeling like he fit in and he just kind of created something that [00:12:00] was very much in line with like who he was as a, as a person. Uh, and this guy recently, his name is Rob Mayhew. He started out on Tik TOK. I think he was a strategist and he was just kind of making fun of the industry and observations on the industry.

[00:12:19] Dan Nelken:
Now I’m pretty much, I think he’s like a tick tock consultant. He’s interviewed everywhere. He all kinds of collaborations, even the crazy sweaters he wears. The company that does that is sending him sweaters. And it was just from him deciding to create and start putting something out there. And it’s just more evidence.

[00:12:42] Dan Nelken:
And there’s lots of it. I could, I could have 30 more people, people who are doing kind of what you’re doing. And it’s just. They turned their kind of passion and skill set onto themselves and were like, well, I can try this idea and just stick with it. And anyway, [00:13:00] now they’re on one of my slideshows. Um, I’m going to quickly go through my background and then I’m going to tell a story you’ll never forget.

[00:13:08] Dan Nelken:
Um, I was a forklift driver. This is gonna be really quick. Oh, faster than even I was ready for. I went to ad school. Then I drove a forklift again. And then I started my career at Cosette as a copywriter in Vancouver. And then when there was a TBWA Vancouver, I was a copywriter there. And then I started my own little thing.

[00:13:34] Dan Nelken:
It was called the goat farm. And, uh, my friend, Jill, one night we were working at TBWA. It was probably like our third night in a row, 9 PM. And she said, why don’t we quit our jobs, buy some land on one of the Gulf islands and start a goat farm. And, uh, I ended up as a freelancer getting a decent size, like a piece of business.

[00:13:59] Dan Nelken:
And so I [00:14:00] said, hey, uh, how about we start that goat farm? And, uh, it wasn’t the one she had in mind, but, uh, So I did that for six years, and, and then, I was like, I’m done. I remember, I think I, I did try. I think it might have been the only time, because I’m a man. Um. No, but in advertising, I had just lost it. I just thought we were so unfairly treated by this client.

[00:14:28] Dan Nelken:
I had set clear boundaries on the type of work we wanted to do. I actually said no to taking this project. I would only do it under these conditions. I was like, good for you, Dan, like setting boundaries. And then the person leading it, uh, left. And the person taking over wanted to just show everyone who was boss.

[00:14:47] Dan Nelken:
And I, I, I did it. I just drew a line. I just couldn’t take it for myself and my team. And I just said, I’m kind of done. And I’ve been driven by that a lot. Like I, if I was a stronger, [00:15:00] uh, person in some ways, emotionally, I would, I would have stuck with it. So in, in, in a way, it’s been a benefit, but I just, I just couldn’t do it.

[00:15:08] Dan Nelken:
Like some of my friends who are able to, to stay in it. I was maybe too sensitive. I don’t know. Anyway. So I meet this guy. Animation studio. They made these animated explainer videos for startups all over the world, and it was taking off. He taught himself how to animate and he sent a video to Alexis Ohanian, who was the founder of Reddit and married Serena Williams, he had a startup before Reddit and he taught himself how to animate, he couldn’t draw.

[00:15:41] Dan Nelken:
It was like these stick figures. And, uh, he had a really thick accent. So it wasn’t a polished voiceover like we’re used to. And Alexis Ohanian. Post this thing on Twitter. He didn’t have a ton of followers then, but he was like pretty big in Silicon Valley takes off. Ashton Kutcher happens to be an investor.[00:16:00] 

[00:16:00] Dan Nelken:
So he shares it. This is the funny explainer video I’ve ever seen. He’s got at the time, million something followers. I meet this guy then. And, uh, he didn’t really have a huge, like business acumen. Mine was like a tiny bit bigger. So I was like, charge four times what you’re charging. And it was crazy. The guy who did this little weird character here, um, Ross Bollinger, when I would work with him, he was hard to work with, for a reason, you know, it’s, it’s just what we’re talking about, because he was just passionate about his own thing, and he was like miscast in this role.

[00:16:38] Dan Nelken:
When I worked with him, he had a YouTube channel called Pencilmation, and he would draw this little character and a pencil would come in. And then he had to take a break from Pencilmation because he needed money, he was doing too much. Anyway, Pencilmation is worth it. I think it’s 32 million dollars now.

[00:16:56] Dan Nelken:
He had one video take off [00:17:00] and, uh, so he said, well, I’m going to take what I just made and invest it. And his production went up at one point. I don’t know if it’s still true, but it was from an animated channel, more than Disney. This was just like a guy that’s in Philadelphia that I worked with. Okay. This is, this is the character in his little series.

[00:17:26] Dan Nelken:
It’s going to get weird now. So the founder of that company, he made all kinds of things, but he had something that I didn’t, or he lacked something that I had too much of. It was like emotion. He was just a machine in a way. I think he’s probably would be diagnosed with Asperger’s, but it was really interesting to see.

[00:17:48] Dan Nelken:
He didn’t overthink creating when most of most creatives do and most creatives are like more sensitive. Generally speaking, he didn’t have that. So he would just make things. [00:18:00] And anyway, so I go to this, uh, party. It was his, his birthday. I didn’t know many people and, uh, I was getting to, I was learning a bit more about him while I was there in his personality and his lack of maybe emotion.

[00:18:14] Dan Nelken:
His, his wife had said when he’s flirting with me, he says, Hey, honey, I’m flirting with you now. Um, and then things we’d get, whatever. Anyway, these two guys come up to me. You know, I was chatting with them and they. There were two young Romanian guys who had just sold an app to Twitter for zillions of dollars.

[00:18:37] Dan Nelken:
And they said, here’s where it starts, um, Has he told you about, um, the fuckbox? And I was like, what? Can you repeat that sentence? So I’m not even going to repeat it. I will say that word a few times though through this story. And, uh, so I guess as the story goes, I can’t even, I’m not going to show you the image just yet.

[00:18:57] Dan Nelken:
But him and his wife were [00:19:00] watching A Burn After Reading, and in that film, George Clooney’s character had like a sex machine. And I think his wife had just made a comment like, man, I wonder what that would be like. So this guy who makes things, he was like an engineer. And again, this is going to make him sound really creepy.

[00:19:19] Dan Nelken:
But he didn’t, like, he just wasn’t, he wasn’t creepy. He just didn’t, Maybe a little, but he, he just was kind of like a machine. Once he said to me, I’m going to now do what you’re doing because you’re closing a lot of leads. I’m going to do this. And I said, how do you know that? He said, well, I’ve just, I’ve been reading your emails.

[00:19:38] Dan Nelken:
So don’t get, um, so anyway, his wife says, I wonder what that would be like. So he, um, just show you. Okay. This is a box. So he went and got a Mastercraft toolbox. And he drilled a hole in it, he took the shelves out, he attached a motor from an old sewing machine, it was a [00:20:00] rod, and I think you can figure out the rest.

[00:20:02] Dan Nelken:
This was like a dimmer switch. Um, so anyway, I’m like blown away because I didn’t really know this guy at all. And uh, so after, I’m like kind of creeped out a little for sure. The next time I see him I ask him about the fuckbox. So what the guy did, he had a blog, not associated with his business, obviously.

[00:20:28] Dan Nelken:
And, uh, he didn’t really have much of a business. I don’t even know if his face was associated with it. So he posts, look at this thing I made. Of course, it’s the internet. Kinda goes mini viral. And so, he says, well, if you’re interested, uh, add your email list to whatever, this thing. Within, like, two weeks, he has 500 people interested in the FBOX.

[00:20:52] Dan Nelken:
So what he did, it’s just a PDF instructions. It still exists to this day. F U K BOX. It’s pretty funny, what he’s written. It’s [00:21:00] pretty funny. He just sold the PDF, 20 US, and every single day for at least, when I knew him then, for two years, he would sell at least one, just a PDF of the stupid thing. We’d be like, out for lunch, be like, oh, PayPal notification thingy, I just sold a fuckbox.

[00:21:19] Dan Nelken:
Um, and I was like, I need my fuckbox, what is my fuckbox? I knew I had more feelings than he did, so I, and maybe like, just awareness and self respect. But this guy also When people were making online courses, he made an online course. And this course was making, this was early days, a hundred grand a year.

[00:21:42] Dan Nelken:
And so then he made a course on how to make a course. He even made a course on, like he met his wife. I hope he’s not here. Um, uh, he met his wife. Um, he had a system for online dating. And he was like, if I meet this number of women and do this and this and that, then I [00:22:00] will, I will find my wife. And it worked.

[00:22:03] Dan Nelken:
Um, And he made a course about that. Nobody, uh, nobody bought it. Uh, but this is the thing. I, I mean, he’s made so many things that are very impressive. Anyway, okay. So, I’m gonna have some water. You are gonna get awkward maybe. Um, No, I, I think part, part of these events and part of the reason we come out is to interact with other people.

[00:22:28] Dan Nelken:
If you’re not comfortable, you can do this, uh, in your phone. But what I want you to do now while I get some water is you can have a conversation or make some notes on, like, Oh, actually I’m jumping ahead. I think maybe just like share an idea with the person around you or just be aware of it and put it in your phone.

[00:22:47] Dan Nelken:
Something, it could be a bad idea, a terrible idea, any idea, something that you’ve had in your head for 10 years or five years or something you thought of doing or might want to do. And if you don’t have anything, just talk about someone who’s [00:23:00] doing something that you kind of admire, or maybe that person who you want to push in front of us in the most loving way possible.

[00:23:07] Dan Nelken:
And I’m going to have some water. Okay. So I don’t know if it’s a few minutes on me or what? Oh, thank you.

[00:23:20] Dan Nelken:
Need to

[00:23:24] Dan Nelken:
power. So, I mean, I were just talking about the next slide and neither of us know what it is. I figured I should know what’s let’s all see what it is. Ah, no. Oh yeah. Okay. I know what this is. Um, so I haven’t made it yet as I was saying, but I’m making it, I’ve never really shared this before. It’s like a, not that it’s.

[00:23:45] Dan Nelken:
Yeah. Uh, so I have 40,000 followers on LinkedIn. I’m like a few hundred short, um, 8,000 newsletter subscribers. Um, I’ve made over a hundred thousand in course sales since I launched that course. Uh, [00:24:00] that’s US accounts. Uh, the book has been like 35 grand in the two and a half years. Um, I think with a lot of all of these things, like honestly, I, I wasn’t planning on getting into this, but.

[00:24:14] Dan Nelken:
But I, these numbers would be five times higher. I don’t say if I knew what I was doing, but also like knew my own value and valued myself knew how to price it. The book when I, I was, I’m going to make it the cheapest. And I looked at all the, one, I wanted it to be more affordable, but if I’m being honest, it was like, I wasn’t comfortable charging more for it.

[00:24:39] Dan Nelken:
Now it’s, it’s, I don’t know if it’s more expensive than the others, but, um, it’s definitely not the cheapest. My course, honestly, it’s five times the price of when I launched it. So with things like that and products, I’ve learned to like take your time, get the launch right, convince yourself of the value before you [00:25:00] launch.

[00:25:00] Dan Nelken:
Then you know, but like, I don’t know how much is, once you know, and you’re confident in the value, you can sell it. And I’m, I am now, and I will be selling it more. Not tonight. The book is just 21.

[00:25:11] Attendee:

[00:25:12] Dan Nelken:
Um, And like 30, 000 on like talks and workshops that are just kind of starting to happen. U. S., all of this is U.

[00:25:22] Dan Nelken:
S. Isn’t that crazy? And then affiliate, that’s good money once you can start getting that. You just like, once you build an audience and you can, you know, you have to be careful with the things that you’re schlepping. Um, and then once you build an audience, you get asked to schlep things and you get sent things.

[00:25:41] Dan Nelken:
Um, But when you find one that is like you believe in and all of these courses or whatever it is that people ask me, I take them first and make sure there’s value. So I can do that. I hope, by the way, I took the slide out, but we [00:26:00] have time. Affiliates with Amazon. I was an affiliate and they sent me a check for a dollar and 99 cents.

[00:26:06] Dan Nelken:
Uh, and they said, you’re out of the program because I wasn’t selling enough. You have to meet a certain level. So, um, not all good. Uh, okay. So, yeah, I started sharing on LinkedIn when I had this rough draft of this book and I was like, I’ll share bits of it once a week because. I don’t have time to do it. I don’t even know how to do it.

[00:26:27] Dan Nelken:
So how could I commit to more? So that was it. I did it on Mondays, which I then learned is the worst day to post on LinkedIn, other than maybe like a weekend. But I, once I learned that I didn’t stop and I didn’t stop because I was sharing what I thought were like helpful tips that would have helped me.

[00:26:47] Dan Nelken:
And I did at the beginning of the week because you’re going into a week and maybe this will help someone this week. So as opposed to a Friday or Wednesday, there was like intention behind that. And then, [00:27:00] you know, I started to go viral and you see, this is like over 3, 900 likes and hearts and things, and shared 337 times, and this I’ve, I’ve so many of these, that’s crazy, this is, I wasn’t getting, this is a bat that’s almost dead.

[00:27:17] Dan Nelken:
I did a talk in Pennsylvania and I was horrible. That was the first time I was flown, and I was like, really not good at any of the virtual talks I did. I think I wasn’t comfortable either saying, Can everybody like, smile and do whatever, and I want a photo. I just couldn’t do that, so that’s a bat.

[00:27:35] Dan Nelken:
Pennsylvania, that’s a photo I have. Um, I’m starting to get better at it. Um, this is me giving a talk to an agency, um, just outside of New York. Not in New York, I’m not there yet. Uh. This is a talk I gave recently to Mattel, so there’s writers from Barbie and Hot Wheels and American Girl and Mega all around the world.

[00:27:59] Dan Nelken:
I asked [00:28:00] them to all pretend like they fell asleep during my talk so I could share. Um, I’ve been contacted by, yeah, all kinds of, oh, these are like podcasts and stuff. And these started before the book, look how happy we are. Um, I am now being flown for the first time to speak at CopyCon in London. This will be November later this year.

[00:28:22] Dan Nelken:
So all like, very shocking. Um, it was like I can think to, oh actually I’ll share, I have it on another slide. There are some brand name dropping. I have more coming, like this is all just starting for me. It’s all been in the last kind of, I don’t know, six months I guess? That like other things have happened, but like the brand talks it and again, I had people and agencies all over the world brands.

[00:28:48] Dan Nelken:
I was like, not getting back to people because I hadn’t convinced myself of my value or that I was an expert. And so it feels good to be asked, but you know, you [00:29:00] have to convince yourself and I didn’t write the book because I was an expert. I was like, who do I? Need help with. And, uh, it was really, it’s called a self help guide for copywriters.

[00:29:10] Dan Nelken:
I was writing it to help myself and I was an insecure kind of self doubting creative, and then they’re like, you expert. I’m like, no, I’m wrong. Guy, I’m not an expert. Um, no, I I’ve got this far, but I still don’t know what I want to do. And I still feel like I don’t know anything. So like, I don’t think that goes away.

[00:29:31] Dan Nelken:
You just kind of, kind of got to do stuff. So. What’s, I mean, this was where we were going to do like another session. Yeah. Okay. So I’m going to stop again and I just want you now to talk about like, what are some of the excuses? I know some of you, when you registered, sent questions or things you were asked what you were struggling with.

[00:29:53] Dan Nelken:
Maybe if you’re comfortable, share them. Uh, with the person next to you again, continue the conversation or [00:30:00] continue the note taking if, if you’re more comfortable with that and just maybe talk about what stopped you in the past or what’s stopping you now, like what’s coming up, what are the excuses and then I will go through probably some of the same ones and tell you what I’ve realized now that I’m on the other side of, of some of these things that have made some things about those things.

[00:30:21] Dan Nelken:
Five minutes.

[00:30:28] Dan Nelken:
Or did you turn it off? I turned it off.

[00:30:39] Crowd:
Thank you.

[00:30:42] Dan Nelken: All right. Ready, ready?

[00:30:48] Dan Nelken:
All right. This is totally unrelated, but about, I don’t know, maybe 20 years ago, I went to, it was like a dinner theater thing. It’s like off the highway when you drive. Highway 1, I don’t [00:31:00] know what it’s like. Anyway, before the performance, there was a guy who walked around and was chatting with everyone.

[00:31:07] Dan Nelken:
Like, and there was probably 300 people there and during the performance, he would go, Hey, Tony, he would call you out on the balcony. He remembered everyone’s name. It was insane. That’s nothing. I don’t know. It was a talk in there somewhere. I just thought of that. I was like, okay. So I’m sure you’ve talked about some of the excuses and some of the things that have been stopping you.

[00:31:32] Dan Nelken:
Uh, and I know some of you shared some things. In the form, I’m just going to go through like my own experience with these things, these excuses that I had. I mean, there’s more than I can fit in the slide deck tonight, but I’ll talk about some of the popular ones like anybody has come up for anyone. Uh, maybe 1 person, um, I’m too busy.

[00:31:54] Dan Nelken:
Kind of the same thing. Oh, let’s go back. I mean, nobody has time [00:32:00] like it. I’m at an age now where my in laws and my parents are retired and they’re really busy. Um, they don’t have time to do anything. Like, I don’t want to say it’s not an excuse. The problem isn’t not having time. It’s like, oh yeah, we don’t have time to exercise or these things.

[00:32:20] Dan Nelken:
It’s like we haven’t formed the habit yet. And so you have to commit for a certain amount of time to form a habit, like even if it’s 15 minutes a week, or 30 minutes on Fridays. And then all of a sudden you have the time, like nobody has time to, I don’t know, like say 3 hours in a day, and then you get a puppy.

[00:32:39] Dan Nelken:
All of a sudden you have fucking time to walk the dog, and play with the dog, and lose sleep. Like, and then, you know, you go to like this stuff, what do we watch on TV, there’s obviously the phone. podcast and social in real life. Like I know for me now that I’m creating things and I see my life changing and I have more [00:33:00] joy, it becomes easier to say no to certain things.

[00:33:04] Dan Nelken:
Like I can pretty quickly go, do I want to hang out with this person or do this thing? Like when before I’d be like, Oh yeah, let’s do this. And I’m like, let’s have a drink and now I’m like, no, I’m not, but it becomes clear because it’s taking value. Like, I know what value I’m creating in the time now. And I also know dog, no dog, kids, no kids, like there isn’t much time in life.

[00:33:27] Dan Nelken:
Like, that’s what I realized to, like, if I live now that the, like the seal is broken and I’m creating a thousand lifetimes, I will never be able to create a thousand lifetimes. All the ideas I’m capable of producing like we all just like blood. Let’s make a shoe Like let’s start a shoe company like we could do that.

[00:33:45] Dan Nelken:
We just don’t you know, so you it’s like you got a start and I’d become I’m gonna say more protective of my time, but I just value it more now that I’m doing stuff Okay, so then there’s also like self help [00:34:00] books. There’s coaching. There’s meditation therapy exercise Journaling all bad. No, I’m just kidding But But, you know, I overindulged in like all this stuff for the longest time.

[00:34:15] Dan Nelken:
And so it’s all good, but if you’re not creating anything, you’re not actually realizing the benefits of a lot of this stuff. And so now if I listen to a podcast and I know I’m creating, you know, It helping me and it will help me make money. It will help me do things as opposed to just being theoretical and constantly like consuming inspiration.

[00:34:40] Dan Nelken:
And then you’re like, okay, I read a self help book and, uh, I feel better. My life is forever changed. And then the next day you repeat all the dumb shit you’re doing. Um, and so it’s like, you stop doing that once you start and you form that habit. When you do have time, um, [00:35:00] Oh, yeah, this is another one. All of my creativity goes into my work.

[00:35:04] Dan Nelken:
I said that probably a million times. Uh, I’ve jumped ahead a little bit, but this is your personal creativity and your professional creativity feeding each other. Um, you know, when I think about when we have an unresolved creative problem, and if we’re creatives, like our, our minds don’t like that. And so they will obsess over that and you’ll give it as much time.

[00:35:28] Dan Nelken:
Like you cannot work enough. What are we always asking for us? Creatives more time. But like, as far as they’ve been, like, studying creativity, it thrives when you need to leave it alone and take breaks. And as I’ve been down this path and learning more about the brain, like, I would never want to walk away from a brief that I hadn’t cracked.

[00:35:53] Dan Nelken: Like, I wouldn’t take an evening off. I just couldn’t. I would stick my mind on it, like, endlessly until the clock [00:36:00] went ding and there’s a deadline. But once you’re, like, creating for yourself Like they do feed each other because you, you realize you, you, you now have formed the habit and you have to do it, but you also realize that I don’t need to put as much pressure on myself to do like my life’s work for this client or this agency and when it doesn’t go well and you get the negative feedback, which always comes or the feedback you don’t like or don’t agree with, it doesn’t hurt as much because you have an outlet and I’m not just talking here about, you know, yeah.

[00:36:37] Dan Nelken:
I don’t know, making collages, like I, for me, because I wanted my life to change, it was always to make money to change my life so I have more freedom and more control over my life and my time. It’s happening, like it’s not been easy, but it is happening. I don’t know which one of my ideas to pick. [00:37:00] What if it’s the wrong one?

[00:37:01] Dan Nelken:
For me, I was paralyzed by that.

[00:37:04] Crowd:

[00:37:05] Dan Nelken:
what I’ve learned is like, I’m not super passionate about copywriting. It’s happening. I wrote a book on copywriting. I have a course on copywriting. What I, what I realized too, it’s like, this is, this is coming, but the passion comes from creating. When I think about every project I’ve got creatively in my career, I could have no interest in this client or this thing, but I always find passion and I want it to be good.

[00:37:32] Dan Nelken:
So like, you just have to pick something because you look at any of these people, like some of the people I brought up, even Mike Cesario, the liquid death founder. He started with a brandy. Before that it was t shirts. Before that, like. All the knowledge you gain from picking something gets transferred over to the next thing and the next thing.

[00:37:49] Dan Nelken:
I have too many ideas, I can’t pick one. Like, you, at a certain point you just have to pick one. Because, one, the joy comes in the doing. But two, again, [00:38:00] everything that you learn from pursuing that idea is applied to the next one. There is no wrong one. The wrong one is not doing anything. I have too many children.

[00:38:09] Dan Nelken:
I have too many ideas. Um, super valid. But, um, they are So selfish. But you know, it’s like, again, not having time. Nobody has time for one child or a dog or another child, but you, you have to, it can be 30 minutes a week. You can find that time for yourself. I have two young children. It was a couple of years before I hit publish on the book.

[00:38:38] Dan Nelken:
I found out my wife was pregnant and we had just sold the crib having my son. We’re like, we’re done. Um, and I, I thought, well, well, this is the perfect excuse to wait, you know, what, another five years until she’s in school and then I just couldn’t, I couldn’t do it. And I wrote a note to her, thanking her and [00:39:00] saying that I will never be able to give her what she’s already given me because I knew I would finish the book.

[00:39:08] Dan Nelken:
Like, I wouldn’t let this be an excuse. Uh, So I’ve already kind of covered this one. I’m not passionate about any one thing. Like, ideally, you know, we win the idea lottery and we have the thing we’re super passionate about that comes so easy and there’s never any problems. And that idea finds you and you do that forever.

[00:39:25] Dan Nelken:
And life’s perfect. Um, but again, the passion comes in the doing, and it’s really what I’m realizing. I’m just not ready yet. That’s the other thing. Parenting analogy would be like, nobody’s right. I had kids fairly late. I’m still not ready to have kids. There’s no, you can’t wait and to be like, okay, now, now I know enough to start doing something.

[00:39:51] Dan Nelken:
Well, now I feel like an expert and I can write a book like it works the other way around. You do the thing and then [00:40:00] you have to learn how to like kind of accept that you might be an expert and then, uh, you know, make some money. Uh, okay. There’s so many, this is like social media, so many platforms. I don’t know where to start.

[00:40:12] Dan Nelken:
Like just for myself, it was one platform once a week on Mondays. That was it. I think that can scare people away to think well you have to post this many times if you’re going to do it and it has to be like this and you have to like, who fucking cares, you know, if you’re not creating anything, doesn’t matter what the response is like all of that, like, just, it’s the habit, because it doesn’t really matter like, here’s the thing, most people think what you’re putting out there is like, most stuff is not very good.

[00:40:45] Dan Nelken:
And people maybe don’t have, uh, very high expectations and people don’t notice it. The only time you get kind of like trolled is if you go viral with something, which if you have a post that doesn’t do well, it’s nothing. And so then you get the upside of going viral [00:41:00] and then the downside if someone hurts your feelings and it’s amazing how much you focus on that.

[00:41:05] Dan Nelken:
Um, but that’s what happens, I think, because you get to a point where you’re getting X amount of views, you become just objectified and you’re no longer person. But. People are so damn supportive. It’s like such a small percent of people who are, who are like, unkind and do that. And we tend to focus on them, but I’ve realized through this, man, people are awesome.

[00:41:29] Dan Nelken:
Um, so I don’t have time again. That’s the same one. I don’t know what to post about, but like, we’re all creatives. You don’t start like in the book, I talked about headlines. I say like a great headline doesn’t, isn’t, um, how can I even forget it? What is it? Uh, A great headline isn’t a great sentence. It’s a good idea expressed in words.

[00:41:50] Dan Nelken:
And I used to get stuck because I would try and start with writing headlines. And I was like, no. If I come up with ideas first and fill the [00:42:00] page with even really bad ideas, all of a sudden I can do that. And so if we take that approach with social, all of a sudden you could take, if you’re not doing anything, take a year to just come up with ideas.

[00:42:11] Dan Nelken:
Bad ideas. Every Friday. Fifteen minutes. Start the next year. Because if you’re like me, you won’t do that. And 15 years ago by and you’re still like, uh, I haven’t done anything. I’m not an expert in anything. I’ve already covered that. It comes after I’m too old. Look at me. Uh, I, I just started this. Uh, and I also think like the more senior you are as a creative, generally speaking, it’s younger people creating, but the more senior you are, so much value.

[00:42:44] Dan Nelken:
That they don’t have. A lot of them are just parodying what someone else has posted, and someone else has posted, and someone else has posted. So if you are more senior creative, yes, it feels old to post on social media, but um, or like [00:43:00] we feel too, it’s not. There’s so much value there that, that the world isn’t getting and you’re not getting.

[00:43:06] Dan Nelken:
Uh, you will never run out of reasons to not do things. Like that’s, there’s always reasons. Like I think for me, I realized once I started pushing through, you know, that’s sure they’re all valid too. But you just can’t let them stop you. Okay, I’m, we’re not going to do a break here. I’m just going to roll through.

[00:43:28] Dan Nelken:
There’s like two more sections and then I will have water and pizza and a beer. Um, so I’m just going to go through my experience. Like this is why it’s so hard to do things because my momentum of not doing things was like, it’s hard to stop that. And so it’s not starting with I’m going to post this many times a week.

[00:43:49] Dan Nelken:
It’s like, what can you sustain? It’s hard to stop that. Feel that frustration too. Like for my book, it was really like, this [00:44:00] was kind of what it was. And I started to allow myself to feel the bad feelings. I took a contract when I was close on the book. And I was like, I hope it’s the worst one yet. I think it was, um, maybe I made it that way, but, and I still have to take on contracts, but I also, I did feel like a volcano was, I started to feel like if I don’t make anything, my dad is almost 80 and he’s like, He wants to write a book.

[00:44:29] Dan Nelken:
He’s been saying that, you know, for 40 years. So I’m like, okay, I have a good example of this right here. Like, he’s like, I’m not ready yet. He still thinks he’s going to do it. Um, find the motivation to, I mean, this is actually from an old PlayStation ad. I’m not going to play it for you, but it’s based on a study and in a lab, they had fleas in a jar.

[00:44:50] Dan Nelken:
They know it. Um, so you put fleas in a jar, you remove the lid. They jump out. You put the lid [00:45:00] on. They hit. The lid, and then they stop about an inch short. If you take the lid off, they never jump out, ever. If you dump them out of the jar, they never jump any higher than that point. And any flea born to those fleas never jumps any higher than that level.

[00:45:19] Dan Nelken:
Isn’t that crazy? Anyway, so that, that motivates me a lot when I think about even a talk, where I’m like, so nervous tonight, and I’m like, I’m gonna pull the fire alarm and get out of it, or flying somewhere for the first time. I think about my kids and how like if I can just jump a little bit higher, maybe they’ll be able to do it too.

[00:45:44] Dan Nelken:
And I also see like just my friends and who have seen what I’m doing and my friends who are doing things to be like, yeah, man, you know, if I’m doing it, I am like, maybe some people want to push me in front of a bus, but maybe some people are also inspired and do [00:46:00] it too. You can’t start at the end.

[00:46:09] Dan Nelken:
So this was, my book was a PowerPoint project as part of a course that I never made. And, uh, you know, it became something. So here’s how I’m starting to at times make four grand us an hour, uh, accounts here. So like I wrote a shitty draft of a book over eight years while I was like taking on contracts that frustrated me and I posted and refined bits of it on LinkedIn once a week for two years on Mondays, uh, I appeared on some not so popular podcasts, but I knew, you know, I was nervous, but I knew no one would listen to them.

[00:46:45] Dan Nelken:
So I said, yeah, slightly less shitty podcasts. Uh, I spoke at some schools. They started reaching out. This is even before the book came out. I started an email newsletter because people said, I don’t always check LinkedIn. [00:47:00] You should have a newsletter. So I started posting things saying, uh, you know, if you want to sign up for a newsletter, I might start one day.

[00:47:07] Dan Nelken:
Uh, go to this link, and so people started signing up, and so I started. I had published on the book, sitting on my son’s bed while he was at school. I appeared on more podcasts, spoke at more schools, started to be seen as an expert. I did some cheap talks. This one’s free, by the way. For me, anyway. Uh, I did some free talks to ad agencies.

[00:47:31] Dan Nelken:
I launched that course, raised the price on my talk. I got feedback on the course, more feedback. I did my first workshop, that was with Lily Lemon. Uh, I was flown to speak, I started to see myself as an expert finally, and then I started charging agencies and brands 4, 000 for an hour. Uh, so what it is, is like, I’ll speak for 40 minutes and, uh, and then they’ll get [00:48:00] access to my course.

[00:48:00] Dan Nelken:
But I mean, that’s just, it’s just going to keep going up. When like three years ago, I hadn’t any of this, like this is kind of when I started three, three years ago posting, but it was over the course of eight years. And then there’s this, this book that I had just decided and said, no, I’m finishing something for myself.

[00:48:19] Dan Nelken:
That was it. And then the momentum starts to go the other way in a positive direction. And it’s hard for me to now stop. If anything, it’s like, okay, I need to just control and slow down, which is like pretty awesome. That’s I’d rather have that problem. But it is possible. You just start like inching. Okay, so be prepared for endlessly coming up against.

[00:48:41] Dan Nelken:
I don’t know. Okay. I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know anything about writing a book. I don’t know anything about publishing. I don’t know how to use LinkedIn. I don’t know how to make a course. I don’t know how to end a course.

[00:48:55] Dan Nelken:
I don’t know anything about lighting, editing. I don’t know anything about speaking. [00:49:00] You know, like I realized once I started pushing through that this is what was stopping me, it was, I get to a point where something felt uncomfortable when for me. If I was writing a screenplay be like I only thought about I want to write this and you know, my acceptance speech It was like nothing in between and then I realized going through this.

[00:49:21] Dan Nelken:
I’m like, oh, it’s like endlessly coming up again Something you don’t know how to do which doesn’t feel good And then you go back to one of the excuses and you’re like, I don’t have time I’m just I’m having twins or whatever it is But no, those are the things pay attention to when you’re stopping whether it’s growing your business or whatever you want to do It’s that uncomfortable thing, at least for me anyway.

[00:49:44] Dan Nelken:
Okay. I’m going to quickly go through this last section, creative people problems. And the judgment from peers, I think stops a lot of us. Like when, for me working in advertising, it is a very judgy kind of field. We have [00:50:00] panels that judge work. And when we look at work, we say why it’s terrible or what we do differently.

[00:50:06] Dan Nelken:
But the real world isn’t actually like that. It’s like in our world, we’re very hard on the work and, you know, People are so supportive, as I was saying earlier. And the other thing is, like, the first award show I judged was in Nigeria, like, since I started on this path. It was like, nothing in Vancouver.

[00:50:23] Dan Nelken:
This is the first talk I’ve done in Vancouver. I’ve done talks in the UK, Australia, online. It was like 1, 200 people showed up to hear me speak. It was like 400 in the UK, like, Here, not much. And I think when it comes to judgment, we worry about like the people we work with, the people close to us. But once you start sharing, especially if it’s like online and you do something, you realize like how small we’re thinking that, Oh, I’m worried about this, but I’m now reaching people all over the world.

[00:50:59] Dan Nelken:
I think we [00:51:00] can all tend to, especially creatives and advertising overvalue creativity, writing this course. Um, and I think it’s because like. You know, when I worked, you’d have like a copywriter with an art director. That was the creative team. And in the ad agency world, you’re like up here and you are like the big shots kind of, but it’s so overvalued.

[00:51:23] Dan Nelken:
And we realized like when you get out into the world and create things, how important execution is like ideas. We all have them. We have lots of them. Like there’s this, I’m a Mac. I’m a PC app. I think all this, like I’m a Mac, but really, you know, it’s uniting. These parts of our brain and embracing things that we’re not good at as well, like becoming more whole, and maybe it’s like building something with someone who doesn’t think like you, you have a partner, because I think a lot of times it’s creatives talking to each other, sharing ideas, that’s a good idea.[00:52:00] 

[00:52:00] Dan Nelken:
We don’t know how to make things. We don’t bring them to life. Um, so it’s either igniting that part of your brain that you don’t use and don’t want to use, and maybe don’t enjoy using as much, um, or finding someone. And when I look at the successful companies that have been built. Um, even some of the agencies, they had a mixture of people who complimented each other and then, of course, there’s perfectionism.

[00:52:22] Dan Nelken:
I don’t need to add to that. I think once it’s on the screen, um, we all know, I think working we’re so focused on details when we’re in a creative department, whether it’s design or writing, like way, way, way too far, but in the real world outside of that, it doesn’t matter, especially with content nowadays.

[00:52:41] Dan Nelken:
It’s like, and even tech, the tech world I think is influencing us and how it’s like a MVP product. We don’t have enough time to be as polished as we are, slightly less polished and get shit done. Uh, this is really my journey from like idiot to expert [00:53:00] in my own words. I wrote this, uh, not long ago. The difference between an idiot and an expert is one of them just stuck with something.

[00:53:07] Dan Nelken:
No, you just keep chipping away. Another thing that stops creatives is like, you know, we don’t want to use our art to make money, but I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s just another excuse because that’s an uncomfortable thing to do and what an uncomfortable path. Um, but oh man, I had like five, uh, ads and one of them was buy my book on copywriting so I can stop working as a copywriter.

[00:53:34] Dan Nelken:
Uh, and I just shared these on LinkedIn every time I share one, I don’t share them all the time, but what do you know, the book like sells more. I shared this for my course. I’ve been doing this recently like this post alone when before I would post and it was like I’d get likes and whatever. It was probably like, I don’t know, 2 grand or something.

[00:53:53] Dan Nelken:
So I’m like, oh, I think I’m going to do that more. And it’s not just like to make money. I think one of the most [00:54:00] amazing things that this path is I’ve given the book. 4000 copies away. Like, that’s just the digital version, which is obviously easier. The course I’ve given away. There’s a. Ad school based out of India through Africa and people who can’t afford an ad school.

[00:54:17] Dan Nelken:
I donated Every women’s day. I donate to to women through that program. People will message me Um, i’m like it’s just so easy for me to give I feel so good to have created something of value um And I just it’s one of the biggest reasons why I want this path to like work for me Because man, that’s awesome too to have that feeling on top of it The U.

[00:54:42] Dan Nelken:
S. money. Uh, okay, close. The clicker wants me to talk about this more. Oh yeah. So I believe we’re all kind of sitting on winning lottery tickets. I think the winning numbers are between our ears, and it’s kind of up to us to like do the [00:55:00] work, to kind of do the digging. We just have to start chipping away at something in a direction.

[00:55:05] Dan Nelken:
It doesn’t have to be the right thing, because doing that thing will be like, Oh no, it’s actually this I want to do. And all of that stuff will be applied to it, but you’ve got to start. Chipping away on something, anything. This is back to my earlier gif. You will Alright, let’s talk. That’s heard, bye. Of course, um, so, uh, this creative creator network is an idea I have now.

[00:55:32] Dan Nelken:
If I, because I feel kind of alone in this path and I’m connecting with a lot of creatives who want to create more for themselves, I’m building something. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how tempting that is. It’s not a good sell, but I will work up the value, uh, maybe later this year. It’s either, I don’t know if it’s a course or a community or both, or just a community.

[00:55:52] Dan Nelken:
I think what I’m going to do, there’s like 300 people have signed up on this wait list. Once, as it grows, this is, I’m same [00:56:00] strategy as fbox, uh, collecting email addresses. Um, but yeah, and then I’m going to reach out to everyone, like what, what would be most helpful. So if you’re interested, you can go to nelkencreative.

[00:56:12] Dan Nelken:
com and sign up for my newsletter right now. This is the only way to do it. And it will give you a prompt from a creative to creator and you can add your email there. I will not spam you because I have not messaged a single person. Once I figure out what it is, uh, I will send it and I will, I will never spam you.

[00:56:29] Dan Nelken:
Um, you can email me, uh, anytime about anything, uh, down at nelkincreative. com and connect with me on LinkedIn if you haven’t. Uh, I think that’s, uh, Oh yeah. Questions. There’s yeah, I’m gonna have some water, but there’s a microphone Hey Dan Of [00:57:00] all

[00:57:17] Attendee:
these successful people you spoke of at the beginning Did any of them start off where they thought they were gonna go to?

[00:57:28] Dan Nelken:
You know, I bet you know, you know, like there’s a reason James Patterson didn’t like quit his job because he kept going until he was CEO. It took him a long time. I don’t even think he likes working in advertising and even says his. His career as an author, nothing to do with his creative career, which I don’t think is true.

[00:57:48] Dan Nelken:
Um. But I think of my friend. It’s funny, my friend Jill, who’s sold the soap company. She’s kind of right back where she started like she’s not done anything for a few [00:58:00] years not feeling valued and she’s trying to figure out what to do next. There’s no she all she did. I remember back then she’s like, what’s a boring category that I could make kind of interesting.

[00:58:11] Dan Nelken:
She was a creative and that’s how she chose that it wasn’t passionate about soap, which is interesting to me. Yeah. And then, oh, sorry, but jealous curator. I know she was just doing this thing. She was like kind of quiet and Just knew she was stuck and couldn’t make things. Just not many people read it, but she just kept doing it.

[00:58:32] Dan Nelken:
She built a habit and took off. Awesome. Maybe else.

[00:58:43] Attendee:
Uh, Hey Dan, thanks for the talk. Um, I was just wondering here. When do you know that what you’ve been trying to finish has been finished? It’s good enough.

[00:58:53] Dan Nelken:
Okay. I can only, so question was, how do you know if it’s [00:59:00] good enough? Like you’re finished. So I can speak in the book that I probably read that thing 400 times and every time near the end, I could read it in a night and I realized I could never read it without making a change.

[00:59:21] Dan Nelken:
And I. I think I just got to a point where I didn’t want to read it again. You know, I was kind of sick of it and, uh, yeah, that’s why I’m not talking about it tonight. No, that’s not why, but yeah, I really, I just, uh, endlessly went over it. And I was like, this is as good. I knew I could always be better, but this is as good as I’m able to make it.

[00:59:44] Dan Nelken:
And I have to move on with my life because I always knew for me, the book was the first thing. If I finished one thing, I knew I could do more things. I didn’t expect for it to be what it’s become. You know, there’s always party that hopes, but, uh, that was it. It was just, but I did want it [01:00:00] to be good and that’s why I read it so many times.

[01:00:02] Dan Nelken:
And yeah, I just get sick of it. I think some people like put, hit publish on books and do things sooner just because they want to do it. And then they’re, they’re not that, that good. So you have to really exhaust yourself, I think. Yeah. I don’t know if that’s just me. I don’t know. Other people would probably have a different answer.

[01:00:24] Ami Sanyal:
I have a question on that myself. Um, I feel like a lot of us as creatives, we work with other creatives. Um, so there’s like a vetting process built into the stuff we make for clients. Um, did you have something like that for the book? Did you have people that were looking over your shoulder and be like, damn, this sucks.

[01:00:42] Ami Sanyal:
Or like, no, we can fix this section. Did you rely on any systems like that for yourself?

[01:00:46] Dan Nelken:
No, I, not enough. Not enough. I, I had a few people read it. Um, in hindsight, like the chorus, had I vetted it and had more people do it, I would have been more sure [01:01:00] of the value. I had enough people read it to give me feedback that I knew I needed, but didn’t want to hear.

[01:01:07] Dan Nelken:
It was like something very structural about the book that I’m like, I know this would make it better, but I don’t want to do that. And then they were like, you know, be better if it did this. I was like, yeah, I know. Um, so I think you can probably do too much of that too. Really. I think why it it’s done well is it kind of wrote it to myself.

[01:01:28] Dan Nelken:
I didn’t try it and press anyone. I didn’t have a lofty title anywhere to be like, Oh, let’s, you know, I just wrote what I needed. I took things out like, Oh, this is trying to be too funny. I wanted to be helpful and a little bit funny in places. So I did have some idea of what I wanted, but that was it. And even when I share stuff like tonight, like what have I always needed to hear?

[01:01:55] Dan Nelken:
What do I still need to hear? I don’t worry too much about what [01:02:00] other people expecting. I just hope it resonates. And I’ve been maybe lucky, I don’t know, or maybe we all have more in common than when we think. And that’s why it’s resonating.

[01:02:15] Attendee:
You mentioned a couple of times, um, that you realized your value and it sounds like you’re always sort of realizing your value. Um, do you have any hints? I don’t know. Open question. I’m talking about realizing your value. I

[01:02:27] Dan Nelken:
guess. She’s just asked about realizing your value and how to do that. I think it’s tough because we always struggle as freelancers, even how much to bill.

[01:02:39] Dan Nelken:
So like for the course, what I did. I gave it away in exchange for, you know, people that hurt my feelings with feedback. I wanted the feedback where the people giving it were kind of apologizing to, like, because I knew that this would convince me of it. I, so [01:03:00] I had done some paid talks. I didn’t know how much fully to bill.

[01:03:04] Dan Nelken:
Is it, is it too much? Is it not enough? So I reached out actually to a local agency and said, can I do this for free in exchange for hurting my feelings? They said, yes. And that talk showed me, convinced me of the value of what’s like, what do I need to do to convince myself of the value? And I think as freelancers or even, you know, full time employees, we don’t do that enough.

[01:03:25] Dan Nelken:
Because as creatives, our value is often determined by other people, what they think of our work. If we get a title, if we get a raise, we feel valued. If we have negative feedback, we feel sad. But once you’re sure of your value, like that stuff feels good, feels a little bad, but you know what you’re worth.

[01:03:45] Dan Nelken:
And once you know your worth, it’s how I’m now going to be able to like sell that course more or sell my talks. Because, you know, I’ve pretty much convinced myself. Of its value by reaching out to, I reached out to [01:04:00] 50 people who had taken my course and there’s some System at what point does it feel too cheap?

[01:04:06] Dan Nelken:
At what point does it feel too expensive? It was like I forget the name of the method Told me okay This course should be double triple So then what I did was I added way more value. I updated all these lessons and still charged lower So now without a doubt, I know I can sell this thing. So It’s avoiding things because when you are finding out about your value, you run the risk of people saying it’s not good, which happens in my course.

[01:04:32] Dan Nelken:
It happens in my book. Um, the, the bad feeling, then you make it better and then you, you know, your value and you can charge more and do that. So that’s what I have to stay on. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Well, did you see more? Sell them. [01:05:00] Yeah.

[01:05:22] Dan Nelken:
I mean,

[01:05:23] Attendee:

[01:05:28] Dan Nelken:
don’t really know. Cool. I, I’ve, if there’s like self talk around that, like I know that I built the habit now. It just felt, I guess, so good to have an impact in the world. And so now, when before I was too tired, like the choice becomes easy when it’s, the kids are in bed to like work on my thing when I never would have, you know, even before kids, I don’t know why I was so tired and busy, but you have kids and you’re like, Oh, this is busy.

[01:05:59] Dan Nelken:
Yeah. [01:06:00] Um, So I don’t know the self, it kind of motivated me, you know, having kids cause I’m like, I had enough excuses on my own without them and now I got loads every day and I was like, I just, I just can’t, I think I just was like, I got to a point where like, are you full of shit and not going to make any, if that’s true, get a job.

[01:06:22] Dan Nelken:
My problem was I didn’t work myself up in the corporate world. So the jobs I would get were like, no, I’m like, no, I just couldn’t do it. Um, and so I guess it was like feeling that frustration to be like, you’re not a fraud or you are and stop coming up with ideas and just get a fucking job and stop it or do something about it.

[01:06:45] Dan Nelken:
That was some of my self talk, I guess.

[01:06:51] Dan Nelken:
Let’s do one last question.

[01:06:56] Attendee:
Cheers. I resonated with what you said about putting all your [01:07:00] creativity into the work. And I find like with the job, it’s like easy for ideas to flow and to get excited about them. But then when it comes to doing personal work, that excitement is like harder to find. Cheers. Bye. And I wonder if you just have any like, I don’t know, personal experience or suggestions as to how to find the excitement in your own work.

[01:07:22] Attendee:

[01:07:24] Dan Nelken:
So how finding the excitement for your own ideas, like you can get it for ideas at work, but, um, you know, I would say like doing the book wasn’t exciting. It’s like that birthing process. Um, but going through that, it’s like so rewarding. So even now, when, now that I’m at this stage, if I, I have a, like a, Google doc, so it’s headlines for my book, or this course, or even video ideas, I have not made many of them, like, it’s just so fun, like, I’ll have a product, and like, man, I [01:08:00] could get a brief for a stapler from that agency, and be like, oh, okay, this is, this is exciting.

[01:08:06] Dan Nelken:
So I think it’s like just building the habit, and once you have a thing, like, we could make up a thing. Tomorrow, like a funny Instagram account or whatever, and write lines for that or come up with ideas. Like, I think it’s choosing something it’s hard because you have your own, like, personal baggage and then all these excuses.

[01:08:26] Dan Nelken:
So you do have to fight through some stuff, but I just can’t tell you how I, I screwed up my slides, but the headlines that I share from my book. I don’t care. Like someone posted me today, you didn’t share a link to your book. It’s like I didn’t share that. I just sell the book. Like if you want it, you can like enter it.

[01:08:45] Dan Nelken:
I sometimes do, but I didn’t. It was more like, I didn’t want to push it on anyone. I’m just sharing a creative headline that I wrote that I wouldn’t have been able to get through an agency, or I would have had to go through all these layers of approval. And it’s like, I can just put, it just feels so good.

[01:08:59] Dan Nelken:
[01:09:00] Like I don’t need to make money from that. And I feel like I’m not done. That’s why this whole like creative creator network or whatever it’s called. It’s like, that will allow me to do, I just want, then I can make things with other people and we can just make stuff. Like, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. And I think back to when I got into advertising, even before what got me into it was I had ideas, but I didn’t know what to do with them in it.

[01:09:24] Dan Nelken:
Jobs, give us a place to do something with it and we don’t have to figure out on our own, but I don’t know, man. It’s just like, pick an idea. And just choose a cadence that you, 15 minutes a week, it’ll come, like it comes from doing. It doesn’t come before, is what I realized. It’s a long one, long answer. I talk a lot, I’m not done yet.

[01:09:45] Dan Nelken:
Let’s give her a last round of applause.

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