As Vincent van Gogh said, “It’s a pity that as one gradually gains experience, one loses one’s youth.” I firmly believe that creativity is best practised while embracing the characteristics of youth, which are inherent in all young creatives. The trick is giving yourself the best platform to put them into practice.
A creative is only as good as their ability to sell themselves. This is the most important lesson any designer, illustrator, photographer, filmmaker, writer or entrepreneur can learn. Paul Arden put it far more eloquently than I can: “Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have.”
Many of the creatives I’ve met are reluctant to sell themselves and their ability. Often this is for fear of the stigma associated: ‘If I tell people how good I am, they’ll think I’m arrogant!’ That stigma is completely mythical.
Self-promotion is a crucial part of developing a career. When exercised with humility, stumbling into arrogance is wholly avoidable. A confident and humble creative who is proud to showcase and discuss their talents will have employers kicking down their door.
Consider two creatives who are equally exceptional. Candidate A has an online portfolio. Candidate B also has a portfolio online, but actively networks as well – they send their work to creative publications, make the effort to know their peers and enter awards. It’s clear who is more likely to be spotted by their favourite agency. Make it your mission to get your work the recognition it deserves.
Just don’t wait for it to come to you. You may think, ‘If I just do good work, people will find me.’ Unless you’re lucky, you’ll be waiting a while. Vocal creatives who give themselves opportunities are the ones who get to tell the ‘right place, right time’ stories. Don’t be afraid to make some noise about who you are.
Part of the job description is to communicate. Whether selling an idea to a client, your film to a distributor or yourself to an employer, become at ease with the thought of self-promotion.
Promote yourself, not just your portfolio. The art of selling yourself doesn’t end at showcasing your work effectively. It includes communicating your vision, ambition and the value you can add. Having the confidence to put yourself up for promotions, new roles or projects is what will evolve your career.
Last year, a talented friend of mine began searching for senior design jobs in New York. His position at the time was also senior designer. I suggested changing his title to art director, then applying. A few months later, he’s an art director at a top New York interactive agency. Don’t sell yourself short.
I’ve always believed that if you’re passionate about creating something from nothing, and you make that thing a labour of love, then this can be applied however you see fit – creativity is transferable. Generally speaking, we’re taught from early on in education to find a specialisation in our preferred field and stick to it. For me, that drastically undersells human potential.
As a young creative, you have the gift of agility. Now is the perfect opportunity to explore as many facets of creativity as you like. The consequences of specialising too early will hamper your career. Once you’re continually hired to do what you became adept at early on, your willingness to learn decreases. Always be prepared to embrace new things and apply yourself to them.
Creativity dries up quickly if you aren’t inspired. The best projects – the ones where you wake up and say, ‘This is what I want to be doing’ – are the ones that propel your career further than any others. If the thought of the coming day’s activities doesn’t excite you for a while, change what you’re doing. The older you get, the harder this becomes.
Mark Twain once said: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Young creatives have an obligation to put their ideas into practice. Innovation relies on younger generations challenging what is conventional.
Unfortunately, when we think about committing to a new venture, we’re often confronted with the fear of failure. In a professional capacity, there’s the concern of tarnishing a reputation or your position in a company. Individually, there’s the worry of letting down your peers or the realisation that our invincible creative facades have a fragile ego underneath.
However, the best creatives fail. The best entrepreneurs fail. And then they fail again. Thomas Edison famously said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways it didn’t work.” You learn more from embracing a failure or two than from a thousand successes.
Understanding and developing your ability as a creative comes from enjoying trying to succeed whether you do or not. To quote the great Michael Wolff, “Leap before you look.”