Want to be a creative professional?

Being creative for a living is not the easiest thing in the world. Some professions are down right impossible unless you’re a visionary. In fact, some of my friends are very successful in various creative art industries and I’m always impressed or in awe of the things they can accomplish in difficult scenarios.

In my 16+ years doing design work for the interwebs, I’ve been lucky enough to land some pretty incredible gigs, work with the most talented people on big and small budgets & timelines. I won’t lie—even with raw talent and a knack for things that are considered creative—it’s been a lot of work.

One of the things I think we can never have enough of is education. I’ve taught in various situations both in classrooms and outside of them. This article is meant to give a bit of an intro to a couple of the philosophies that I think have helped me continue to do creative work with creative and innovative people.

Focus Your Passion

Finding your passion(s) in a creative field is not always that easy. If you’re like most of us, you have a lot of areas of interest. Most of the time your focus shifts over time or maybe you struggle figuring out where to focus. If you keep at it, after a while you start to appreciate the overlap of your interests and how they benefit one another.

If you’re just starting out or switching careers, I think it’s crucial to focus on a specific interest and really dig into the nuances of what can be crafted from that interest. You may find out that your passion and what you’re actually good at are not the same thing at all! But, that’s part of the learning process.

This takes time. It’s just a fact of life. But, all great things take time, right?

Work Ethic

The single most important part of being a creative person in the real world is understanding that you have to continuously hone your craft. There are a lot of us on this earth and that means a lot of competition. Companies prefer to work with someone that has incredible work ethic rather than a rockstar with no sense of standards.

Teamwork is extremely important. Whether you’re working as an independent maker or in a group, you will be working with other people and those people will rely on you to work hard and communicate well.

Integrity stretches to all aspects of your livelihood. It fosters trusting relationships with clients, coworkers, supervisors and everyone else in your life. Coworkers will value your opinions and ability to give quality feedback. Clients trust your advice. All will rely on you for moral standards and being a team player.

In all aspects of you as a collaborative or independent, you need to have a strong sense of responsibility. When you feel personally responsible for your piece of the puzzle, you’ll show up on time and put in your best of your abilities.

It takes a certain level of commitment to finish your tasks every day. Be determined to complete assignments or deliverables — even if they are self-defined.

Be Consistent

“Across professions, consistency is a direct product of work ethic.” — Harsha Bhogle

Only certain people are born with incredible talent; but we all have the option to work hard. Sometimes talent blows people away and sometimes it blows fleeting into the wind. However, if you’re diligent and tenacious you will be able to perform consistently over time. Consistent effort is what creates the best results. It gives ideas time to develop and teams of people the ability to produce great work over time.

Innovation companies are the best example. I imagine if you sit for a second you can think of plenty of ideas that would “change the world”. Now, can you think of how you will produce these ideas into something that changes human behaviors in the right way to accomplish that bombastic goal?

Most likely not.

It will take time, iterations, and consistently working towards the end goal — even while that end goal shifts with the movement of life itself.

Always Deliver

I cannot stress this one enough. If you consistently deliver the goods, the folks you interact with will appreciate the value that you bring to the table.

This isn’t the easiest to estimate in the early stages of your career because every project is different. But, over time it becomes easier. The more lessons you learn and the more you hone your craft, the more you’ll be able to foresee similar patterns. At the end of the day, if you say you’re going to do something — do it. If you don’t think you can do it, don’t lie about it. Lying or underestimating your ability to deliver on your word will only chip away at your reputation.

If you have the opportunity and time — over deliver. Especially early in your career and if you’re smart, for it’s duration. This builds trust and very positive relationships with people that will talk you up to their peers and grow your business.

Strive for the Best

The creative fields are not where mediocrity and commodity thrive. Sure, you will possibly make artifacts or products with the intention of commoditization, but that isn’t really why you’re creative. Where the creative fields thrive is ideation. Ideas aren’t tangible and they mutate constantly as we evolve. As creative individuals, we have to keep pushing the boundaries within our given limitations in order to stand out from the many people doing almost the same things as you are.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” — Norman Vincent Peale

Let’s not get this confused with perfectionism because they are absolutely are not the same. You will never get to perfect because we are human beings. What we can do is identify the right values and choices to make so we can make informed decisions towards the best possible solution to a given challenge.

Sometimes, striving for the best is about looking out into other areas that may or may not overlap with your craft to find patterns and try to tie those into your work. Sometimes it means looking up to the people who have already done something similar to what you’re trying to do and understanding why they made the decisions that they did. Understanding those patterns and decisions can help you get from A to B faster and bring more value to the table.

Spread the Word

Don’t forget to get the word out about yourself, your craft and the things that you’ve made for the world. You’re great at what you do and everyone should know it.

Whenever you talk about what you do — do it with confidence. People react to emotions first, then logic second. So, if you believe in yourself, others will too. If you struggle with anxiety—get someone to help you conquer it so you can succeed in letting people know how great you are!

No matter how you talk about yourself, have an online presence for people to reference. People will look you up to validate what you say. You should have your own website or at least a place where you can showcase your work to others and an easy way to find it.

You can then talk about it with the myriad social media platforms, in-person at events and parties and even paid advertising and PR. There are many avenues to promote yourself and your craft. Figure out your audience. Then figure out how and where to speak to them.

If you have questions—feel free to ask me in the comments below. I love helping people!