Creation: Differentiating — three powerful steps to succeed as a creative
by Artwell Nwaila (@artwelln) Many years ago, on my first day of work, the first person I met was an old man whom I thought was the boss. He showed me to my desk and made small talk to put me at ease.
One of his tales was of the 20 wonderful years he had enjoyed at the company. The gentleman finalised his story by telling me that he was the scanner guy and had a few months left before he retired and got a big pay cheque.
The first think I could think of was “WTF? I am more senior than this guy who looks strangely like Steve Martin!” Could this be my future? Was I destined to be a 200-year-old scanner guy? Damn it, I should have listened to my folks and studied a suicide-inducing career such as accounting…
It was at this point that I decided that I would differentiate myself; I would not follow the same path that most creatives walk upon, where they are just creative in the corner waiting for retirement. As with any successful brand, I too would have a unique selling proposition to make me rise above the clutter.
In this post, I share three points I’ve learned from industry leaders that will help creatives differentiate themselves from their counterparts, therefore making success more reachable.
- Make a ruckus — Seth Godin
Bestselling author and blogger extraordinaire, Seth Godin advocates creatives to be bold in their endeavours. I think this point is powerful, especially when you find yourself in a space where there are many creatives. It’s the ruckus you make that makes you stand out.
When I refer to ruckus, I’m talking about always being bold enough to be always heard, and by that I don’t mean being an annoying clown.
It can be done in many ways; mine was to always be heard through my blog. This platform would literally fast-forward my career growth.
- Learn a new skill always — Joe Girard
Canadian-born speaker and trainer, Joe Girard has tasked himself to learning a new skill each and every month. These may be new skills that can and will be a weapon in your palette of skills — a graphic designer is just a graphic designer; one who has a knowledge of digital marketing and understands the value of networking is a gem to any potential employer.
I’ve embraced this point quite heavily by trying to learn something new when I can, such as web development, photography and a little bit of calligraphy. I am currently making it my goal to learn a new, small skill monthly (related or non-related to my industry).
With the advent of the Internet you have no excuse for not learning. Who knows? Your passion for tap dancing could get you that creative director job.
- Freelance — Galen Mooney
Creative entrepreneur Galen Mooney believes that freelancing develops your entrepreneurial side, ignites your personal brand, and teaches you how to interact with consumers directly. This is true and so much more.
Most creative leaders don’t allow their staff members to freelance as they feel it disrupts and affects their day to day work. But I know for a fact that creatives get bored doing the same mundane work over and over, and sometimes the only opportunity to learn new skills which they can bring into the organisation is through freelancing.
So, if your boss tells you that it is not good to freelance, you tell him or her that he or she is stunting your knowledge growth and that makes him or her evil.
From a technical-skills point of view, freelancing can help you find new skills, polish them and make you stand out; most importantly, you get paid for this.
Just as with any career, those who put in the extra effort to polish and differentiate their personal brand will see success quicker. Do not end up a 65-year-old scanner, waiting patiently in the corner of the studio for retirement.
Artwell Nwaila (@artwelln) is a creative director at Offlimit Communications and publisher of the award-winning creative publication SA Creatives (@thesacreatives). His monthly column on MarkLives, “Creation”, is a humorous take on life in the creative world, seasoned with practical advice based on experience.
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