5 Secrets to Becoming a Successful Working Creative
I’ve made a living from doing what I love to do for over 20 years. I’ve won a few awards along the way, met famous people and enjoy a flexible work life. My sons, Alex, 17 and Chris, 20, are also both emerging creatives.
Chris and Alex have grown up watching mommy hit deadlines, get ready for presentations and lead conference calls on the weekend. When Alex was 4-years-old, he had been trained to answer the phone, “Mommy is deadline, she can’t talk to you.” They have seen the hard work it takes to make a living from what you love to do.
They are both aspiring musicians and already have an established work ethic. The first thing they do when they come home is hit their instruments, work on their song or record in their ghetto-grade studio in the basement. They have learned the first rule in becoming a successful creative is to work with what you have.
1 Work with what you have. Most people who have told me that they have a dream to write are waiting to have that slot of time to write. Or they need a computer or a writing coach or someone to tell them what to do. In today’s online and print on demand environment, writers have more opportunities then they did in earlier generations.
My advice to someone who wants to be a writer is to write. Start a blog. Take a writing class. Volunteer to write your church/PTA/organization newsletter, press release, article, etc. Just do it.
2 Work with who you know. The cardinal rule I’ve learned since my journalism professor helped me land my first internship is that who you know matters. That means you need to be polite to everyone. You have no idea who that barista at your favourite coffeehouse knows that could open the door for you.
The owner of a local body shop opened the door to my social media business. When I first met Gerald Wicklund, I wondered how a body shop could use my social media / public relations services. I’m glad I didn’t think I was too blue-blooded to meet with him. Gerald has taught me more about marketing then what I’ve learned in college.
I’ve told my sons to meet everyone they can in music. Go to every music conference or open mike night and network. Network, be friendly and help other musicians.
3 Help other creatives. Creating a platform and opportunities for other creatives will pay off huge dividends. Glen Campbell, who has sold more than 45 million records and accumulated 12 RIAA Gold Albums and 4 Platinum Albums, hosted a show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, where he interviewed artists and offered them a platform.
Another creative that I admire, Jennie Lee Riddle, is a Dove award-winning songwriter. She hosts a songwriting camp for teenagers and mentors emerging musicians. She has created a platform for them and helps them find opportunities.
The well-known Biblical principle of “sowing and reaping” is true for working creatives. If you’re rude, hard to work with and lazy, you will fail. If you’re kind, hard-working and easy to work with, you’ll find a place in your creative field.
4 Working in a creative field means your path is “creative.” Another thing that I’ve tried to show my sons is that when you’re a working creative, your path is creative. Don’t expect a linear path like your friends who study accounting, engineering, nursing or teaching in college.
You’re going to take more risks and probably go through more jobs then your nurse or teacher friend. That’s the nature of the field that you’re in that changes daily. Right now a high school student is probably creating another social media platform that’s going to launch another industry and a need for more writers and content.
I started as a newspaper reporter and my next job was working in a public relations firm. Then back to a news magazine as an editor followed by a stint as a scriptwriter and back into public relations then an advertising agency, then technical writing. I’ve bounced between different fields where writing was the core competency.
I’ve had to teach myself how to build web sites, write scripts, public service announcements, news alerts, and much much more.
5 Learn everyday. From newspaper reporter to social media strategist and online magazine editor, I’ve had to teach myself something new every year. You have to be willing to teach yourself and find the resources.
Don’t expect people to tell you what you need to learn. In fact, don’t expect any help from anyone. Become the help to that business owner who needs a press release written or a web site built. Meet people’s needs and your own needs will get met.
Become a regular reader of the latest industry news as well as thoughtful business leaders. Feed your brain on a regular basis to keep the creative juices flowing. Nurture your creativity and you’ll be amazed at new doors that open for you.