1. Your Network is Essential
The truth is, successful creatives are successful not only because they do good work, but also because they have people in their lives who know they do good work.
Imagine two creatives. Artist number 1 is a superstar graphic designer who has worked for clients like Nike, Vogue, [insert dream client here]. The other is a struggling freelancer worried about where their next project is coming from. What’s the difference between them?
Luck? Geography? Talent? Socio-economic standing? Maybe all of these things?
In reality, luck or geography or varying levels of talent can all be compensated by the people you know and surround yourself with. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best at what you do if no one else wants to support you or cares if you succeed or not.
This isn’t some kind of ringing endorsement to be a schmooze-y brown-noser to everyone you meet (those people are the worst). It has, however, more to do with valuing the connections you make with others and nourishing those relationships so that you have good people in your corner. Do good work for a client and they’ll be more than happy to recommend you to their friends. Share your passion and enthusiasm with others and they’ll want to help you succeed because who doesn’t want to be part of a success story? You must welcome others to care about your work because that’s the only way your work will be relevant to others.
No one gets “there” alone. Not ever.
2. Perfection is a Lie
Perfect work does not exist. There will always be something you’ll see in your work that will make you want to throw it out and start over.
We are our own harshest critics. If you’re a self-respecting creative (I’m assuming you are), you’ll always be overly critical of your work because you’ll always want to be a better version of yourself. The truth is, that’s enough because wanting to do better work is the same as actually doing better work. Be happy with that. Stop chasing perfection because that will get you nothing besides another missed deadline.
3. Trends Aren’t as Important as They Seem
Following trends is a dangerous proposition. Chances are, by the time you get the hang of an emerging trend, it is probably on its way out. Or at the very least, slightly irrelevant to the next incoming trend.
The truth is, trends are merely indicators of our shifting sensibilities. Trends are just reminders that things are always moving and changing. They aren’t destinations, they are merely directions or headings. Trends let us know which way the industry is moving so that we can adapt accordingly and keep moving forward with our work. Being good at the newest hot trend right now doesn’t mean you’ll have an advantage tomorrow. It just means you’ve been paying attention. Paying attention is all you really need to get by. Pay attention well enough, do good work, and you’ll get ahead of the curve.
4. Getting Paid is Important
As much as we would all like to make excuses for those times when we accepted work that paid us in”experience” or the opportunity to beef up our portfolios, the truth is we all need to get paid for the real work we do. Creative work is one of those professions in which “free work” is readily discussed and accepted for one reason or another. For instance, a friend will ask you to design a logo for free in exchange for a “mention” in some obscure section of their website. A client will promise to pay you in “future work” because they don’t have the budget right now. No other profession works like this.
No matter what anyone says, the truth is that the real work we do as creatives has value. That needs to be acknowledged and honored accordingly. Always.
5. Distractions are Real
The nature of creative work is such that you have to actually create things. This requires clarity of thought and a certain concreteness in your ideas. Distractions, by their very nature, keep you from those things.
Be honest about what distracts you and clear your surroundings of these distractions. You might think you work better with loud music playing in the background but what if the noise is just distracting you from your best ideas? You might think working in a busy cafe is productive, but what if it’s just mimicking productivity? Maybe you even pride yourself in being able to focus in the harshest situations but imagine how focused you can actually be if you weren’t so distracted all the time.
The truth is, distractions can take many forms and they’re not always obvious. The sooner you acknowledge what helps you and what doesn’t, the sooner you’ll be able to get your work done — and done well.
Tell us more about the true things in your life in the comments below.