If you’re a creative, turning your passion into a career is the definition of living the dream. But the road to success in the creative industries isn’t paved with rainbows; if you want to succeed, you need a strategy.
But what, exactly, does that strategy look like? Let’s take a look at some of our top tips to help you succeed as a professional creative:
1. Find your niche
There is such a huge variety of creative careers—and even within those careers, there is such a huge variety of jobs, roles, and specialties.
When you’re a creatively driven person, you might want to get your hands into every creative endeavor possible. But if you want to build a successful career, you need to find your niche—and build your creative skills within that niche.
So, for example, let’s say you’re a graphic designer. There are so many jobs that fall underneath the graphic design umbrella. You can design logos for small businesses. You can design pitch decks for start-ups. You can design resumes for executives, menus for restaurants, posters for concerts and music festivals…the possibilities are endless.
But you’re not going to reach your full potential if you bounce from one creative opportunity to another. If you want to truly become a master of your craft—and find success in your field—you need to choose a niche. So be a logo designer. Be a pitch deck designer. Be a resume designer—but don’t try to be everything at once.
2. Challenge your creative thinking
When you work in a creative industry, it can be easy to “coast” on your job; since you’re working on creative projects all day, that’s all you need to keep your creative skills up to par, right?
Not necessarily. When you work on the same kinds of projects day in and day out (which can often happen in a creative role), it’s easy to grow stagnant—and your creativity may suffer.
That’s why working on projects outside of work is so important. It gives you the opportunity to step outside of the box and work on projects that challenge you in a different way—which can reignite your creative spark and make you better at your job.
So, for example, If you’re a graphic designer who specializes in presentation design, try experimenting with a logo or poster design after hours.
As the old saying goes, “You are your network”. This is, to some degree, true in every industry—but it’s especially important in the creative world.
So many creative opportunities come via referral, whether from a past client, a colleague, or someone who knows and loves your work. That’s why it’s so important to focus on building your network; the more people you know—and the more people who know your work—the more opportunities you’ll have.
Again, the more people you know, the more people out there that will know your work—and the more people who can recommend you for creative opportunities.
4. Never stop learning
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been working as a creative for a month, a year, or a decade—there is always something new to learn.
Approaching your career with a student mentality—no matter how long you’ve been working in your field—will ensure that you’re always learning, always growing, and always challenging yourself creatively. Take classes, learn about other creative disciplines, keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in your field. Acknowledge that there will always be things you don’t know—and, if you want to reach your full creative potential, you should always be willing to go the extra mile to learn them.
5. Be as professional as you are creative
In order to succeed in the creative industries, you need more than just creativity—you need professionalism as well.
Put just as high a priority on acting professional as you do on being creative. Make it a pleasure for everyone—clients, managers, and coworkers—to work with you. The more professional you are—and the more positive the experience of working with you is—the more opportunities you’ll have in your creative career.
6. Practice perseverance
It doesn’t matter how talented you are. If you decide to work in a creative field, you’re going to face rejection—and oftentimes, a whole lot of it.
If you let your first “no” stop you from hitting your goals, you’re not going to make it very far. Working in the creative industries is not for the thin-skinned; if you want to succeed, you need to practice perseverance.
It can be tough, but if you want a career as a creative, you need to stand behind the value of your work—no matter what kind of rejection you might face. Apply for a job—only to have the hiring manager tell you your samples aren’t quite what they’re looking for? No worries—that just frees you up to find a company that’s a better fit. Sending out your portfolio and feel like all you’re hearing is “no?” That’s ok—that just means you’re one step closer to a yes.