Hallmark, the nation's largest card company, publishes more than 50,000 different cards and replaces 90 percent of them each year. To fill that reservoir of lush and gush, Hallmark has a creative department of 500 copywriters and graphic artists situated in bullpens on three floors of their Kansas City headquarters. Writers are hired right out of college at a starting salary of $20,000. Staff writers are very competitive; they work long hours and are always on deadline, even though they're writing for occasions twelve months ahead. The best writers are in great demand, so, in order to keep the best ones, Hallmark now prints writer/art director credits on cards and pays royalties on best-selling cards.
You don't have to be an artist. Card companies have a full stable of in-house artists. They need humorous prose and verse. When Hallmark advertises once a year for freelance help, their ads beg for humorous ability:
ARE YOU FUNNY OR WHAT?
Well, if you can channel your sense of humor into the creation of brilliantly funny greeting cards, we have a place for you at
Hallmark____Just write ten funny greeting card ideas on a single sheet of paper and send them along with your resume to Hallmark...
If you apply, Hallmark will ask to see your portfolio. To help you develop one, they suggest a number of exercises to work on: puns, choosing which one of a variety of copy ideas is most appropriate for a wedding day card, topical ideas for cards, samples of sentimental copy, insult humor (called slam cards), and a new product idea in which you also demographically identify the intended market.
American Greetings, in Cleveland, Ohio, has a similar quiz for staff prospects, but they also test for scansion (a device to determine the rhythmic quality of a verse), how well you can spot intentional errors in verses, and ability to use alliteration. Applicants who send in ideas that spark are invited in for personal interviews. The final decisions are based on the applicant's portfolio of ideas, not necessarily on previous experience in the greeting card field.
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When you think of freelancing, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? You probably think of a writer, novelist or journalist right off hand. That is primarily because for centuries, the only real job you could have as a freelancer had to do with your mastery of the written word.