Sean F. O'Connor
Writer / Brand Strategist / Founder
What do you do?
My primary role is Brand Consultant - helping clients get clear about who they are, how to position themselves / their business, and how to communicate all of it through compelling words, phrases and more. That said, this work - these conversations - are often sprawling and always collaborative — with the client, designers, and others who help get the job done. And it always involves writing.
As a Writer (outside of my consulting work), my craft is typically short, humorous essays for magazine and radio - shooting my mouth off about what I see going on around me.
My Voiceover work puts me in front of a mic to shoot my mouth off for corporate clients mostly. I do the "voice of reason" really well. Along the way, there are occasional video games, radio ads and other miscellany.
Last but not least I'm a vinyasa Yoga Instructor. This is one of those part-time things that informs my world in a full-time way.
What steps did you take to get where you are now?
Broad peripheral vision. I try to move through the world with my eyes (not to mention my mind!) wide open. Curiosity matters in any field, but working in design and branding - not to mention as a writer - it's essential.
Over the years I've found that people trump projects. While the content / context of the work matters, connecting with great people is a better buzz.
I'm not answering your question directly, but I've certainly meandered more than I've followed a map.
For other people in your field, what do they usually lack?
Which field? Ha!
What are you working on right now?
One project I'm super excited about is helping one of the world's most innovative non-profits reinvent how they talk about themselves - the primary focus is on teaching their staff how to tell their stories.
On the volunteer front, I'm a board member for Yoga Behind Bars, an organization that provides yoga & meditation instruction to incarcerated men, women and teens. This is hugely important work that touches so many of our society's current "hot buttons." Given the daunting mission of reimagining the criminal justice system, it feels sometimes like we're bringing water pistols to a war zone. Totally inspiring though.
And always there's the start of some or another essay tucked into the dock on the side of my Mac.
We are all Slashies with multiple skills, which one do you wish you could do more often?
My passion for the arts, fashion, architecture and design (in all its forms) drives my day-to-day interests and personal activities. So my intention is to move into doing more branding and messaging work in the fashion / culture / lifestyle space.
And, and, and... I want to do more culture writing / commentary for publication. See also: PROLIFIC.
Did I mention speech writing? I think I would love to be a speechwriter.
What is frustrating you right now?
As a primarily solo operator, it's frustrating to not be able to act on all of the ideas that cross my mind, or to pursue the interests that spark my imagination. When a friends cries out in response: "You should totally do that!" it's difficult to acknowledge the reality that one guy can only do so much.
What task keeps landing at the bottom of the To Do list?
The current rock in my shoe is that I'm not doing a weekly (or otherwise regular) written thought-piece on a branding / design topic for my blog.
If you could hire someone for $20/hour, what would you have them do to make your day easier?
If I had a 20 dollar an hour personal assistant I would have them do new client outreach and introductions, as well as update the myriad websites intended to facilitate those conversations.
Let's bring out the time machine. What do you wish you could have told yourself, when, and why?
Years ago... articulate your goals, keep them in front of you, pursue them. Rinse and repeat. (And don't be afraid to abandon them should they change or become irrelevant.)
If you could talk to an expert to gain more insight on something, what would it be about?
Hmm. Ted Sorensen (JFK's trusted wordsmith and confidant) is gone. But it would be cool to discuss being a speechwriter with a leader in that field. This is newly on my personal radar, so I need to research names...
I would also like to try working with a writing team - preferably comedy - for a series or late night show.
What kind of opportunities/projects are you looking for?
I'm interested in telling some bigger stories and collaborating more with other creatives. Would love love love to be working on some fashion stuff - men's or women's.
The idea of "Heritage brands" is an interesting one to me. I've been thinking lately that I would like to work with a brand(s) to help build them up to be worthy of that kind of status in the future. If it's not already trademarked, the tagline for that is something like: "building tomorrow's heritage brands." ha.
What is your ideal client?
I currently work with a very low-glam client in a no-glam industry - and have for more than 7 years - who trusts me implicitly. We can think out loud together, speak candidly about what works or doesn't, have transparent conversations about budgets and money and what things cost... all of the stuff that's often "wrong" in other client relationships is so right with this one.
Do you allow yourself to say No?
I'm can be too predisposed to being a yes - open to the possibilities inherent in any new opportunities. And I've also gotten much more aware of the fact that if I get sucked into something that's less than great, I'm depriving myself of something else that could be.
What is your rate?
I typically work on a fixed-bid basis - or a budget range - based on the scope of work. As an example, if a typical client with a typical website wants me to help them with a rebrand, then I'm going to charge them somewhere between $5 - $10k for the upfront excavation / positioning work; and to create web copy/content based on that foundation will probably run them another $4 - $8k. Give or take. (There's no design/development work included in any of those fees.)
If a project is too squirrelly to put my arms around, I might do an hourly rate between $80 - $150, depending on the phase or nature of the work.
How should someone approach you about working together?
A couple of concise sentences in an email followed by a phone call is my favorite way to get things started - whether a new project, collaboration, or anything really.
I have a bit of a paper & pen fetish. I like to write letters and take notes and doodle and sketch (badly). I'm thinking of taking a handwriting course.
A new blank book - be it a moleskine or some other brand - and a great pen gives me a feeling similar to the one I used to get as a kid when I got a new pair of sneakers. Boundless possibility.
And naturally, much of my work involves the constant caressing of the smooth black keys of my MacBook Air.
My latest: My Struggle, Karl Ove Knausgaard (I-IV)
Billy Collins, Updike, Nicholson Baker, Ian McEwan, Dave Eggers, David F Wallace, New Yorker
Google, Gmail, etc
This member profile was originally published in September 2015.