Being a creative is a joy and a privilege. Getting to make stuff up, to be part of creating something new is great fun. It’s never boring, and there are few jobs of which that can be said.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Creative people don’t think in straight lines, don’t see things as they are but rather as they might be. The Catch 22 of creativity is that this complicated nature, the very skills that make the uncommon parts of your job easy, can make the more common parts of your job hard.
Let’s look at some of the things creative people find hard, when it comes to running a creative business, and suggest a few ways to soften them up:
#1: Finding clients
Yes, we’re starting at the beginning. If you’re a freelancer, either full-time or part-time, how do you go about getting those all-important first clients?
Well, you apply that creativity of yours to marketing your own business.
Even marketing professionals are notoriously bad at marketing themselves. So, here are a few quick pointers:
- Get a great domain name (we can help you find your perfect domain name).
- Put together a fantastic website (here are some pointers on how to build a better portfolio website and win more work).
- Spread the word with wonderful content marketing (which we explain in our brief history of content marketing).
Start with the people you already know and then build out your network. Look for local networking events. Find contacts through social media, in particular LinkedIn.
Networking doesn’t have to be face-to-face (if that’s a concern) because it’s increasingly easy to ‘meet’ people virtually.
When you do make contact with a potential client, keep in touch with them. Don’t just try to sell to them – build up a professional relationship. Send them articles you think will be of interest to them and their business – offer them free tips – build up some trust. That’ll pay dividends when they, or someone they know, need your services.
Build a community
You could create a Facebook group which gives you the chance to reach out to people and offer your services. You can use this as a platform to ask questions “what do you need? What problems does your business face?” This market research will help you hone the services you provide, to ensure there is a market for you.
Facebook groups and online communities like Reddit and Indiehackers are also good places where you can join in ongoing conversations and offer people help and advice. These are great places to build your reputation as a creative person who helps others.
None of these ideas are over-night solutions, but they’re all good, tried-and-trusted techniques for getting valuable clients to take you seriously and give you work.
Also, check out our advice on eight ways to attract clients.
#2: Finding new ideas
When you’ve been asked to create the twentieth identical advert, you can really be struggling to find ways to make it distinct from all the others.
The best fuel for ideation is simply to keep your eyes, ears and mind open – to constantly be learning, seeing and experiencing new things.
Constantly expose yourself to new creative stimulation. No, that isn’t rude; it means trying new things. Listen to bands you’ve never heard, watch films in new genres or from different countries. Try a new sport. Read new websites, watch different YouTube channels and listen to fresh podcasts on subjects you know nothing about. Anything that is new to you is good – it will spark new ideas and create new connections, which will only give you more material to draw on when it comes to ideation.
Keep a journal.
Creative writers do this; they carry a notepad with them everywhere they go to jot down any daft idea that comes to them. These ideas can them be a great resource to dip into when they’re looking for inspiration.
Hoard inspiration online.
Whenever you see something online that interests you, save it. You can save Facebook posts into a Saved Items folder and sort them into subfolders. You can also bookmark webpages in your online browser, or you can combine all of this in an app like Evernote or Pocket to make notes, save web content, arrange it all, and access it through any platform. This is a great way for your magpie mind to gather interesting and insightful information and hoard it away for use another day.
Use the calendar
There are always events going on in the world; anniversaries, commemorations, holidays, new movies, new books, new TV shows, new seasons. These are all moments that can offer some inspiration. Similarly, there are national and international awareness days that can tie-in with, or offer relevance, to the work you are doing.
#3: Imposter Syndrome
One of the big hurdles creative people face, is a crisis of confidence. Because Creatives are, almost by definition, doing things they haven’t done before, in ways they haven’t done before; there’s always the worry that it might be wrong. This expands into the suspicion that maybe we aren’t really very good at what we do and, therefore, we’ll get caught out as a fraud.
All high-achieving, intelligent people feel this!
Million-selling novelist and Goth messiah, Neil Gaiman, once described his own struggle with “the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something and that any moment now they will discover you.” See? It doesn’t matter how famous or successful creative people are, they can still suffer from this.
There are several forms this syndrome can take, as identified by Dr. Valerie Young:
She refers to ‘competence types’, or rules that people who struggle with confidence try to follow:
Nothing a Perfectionist does is ever quite good enough and they’re never impressed by their own successes.
The way to deal with this is to understand and accept that your creative standards are likely far higher than your clients’. Something you may feel is only 50% as good as it could be, is plenty good enough if the client is happy with it!
These people are workaholics who put in the longer hours and work far harder than is strictly necessary.
The way to moderate this is to stop worrying so much about getting approval from the boss and, on the other hand, to not take criticism too personally.
The Natural Genius
People with this competence type feel that everything should come easily to them and, therefore, if they find something tricky, or spend a long time over it, they are ashamed. They are also likely to avoid things that they don’t feel they can do well.
The remedy to this mindset is to accept that creative people are always learning, always a work-in-progress and, instead of seeing things you can’t do as problems, see them as opportunities to learn something new.
This one is fairly self-explanatory – people with this competence feel that, for their work to be good enough, they have to achieve the end result by themselves.
The solution, then, is fairly simple: don’t be too proud to accept help.
This mindset leads the person to always believe they need to know everything about a subject, to overcompensate for fear of being exposed as ignorant. This mindset can lead a person to always feel like an amateur.
The solution to this is to understand that no-one expects you to know everything, that there is no shame in checking facts or asking for help.
Freelancing and remote working are becoming ever more common in the creative industries. As Ben the Illustrator revealed in his research: a whopping 83% of illustrators work from home. Graphic designers, web devs, copywriters and SEO managers are also increasingly likely to work remotely.
This will, typically, mean you spend a lot of time by yourself. That’s a big selling-point for a lot of people, but no-matter how anti-social you are, there will be times when you get bored of your own company.
Working at home can make you feel cut off and isolated, and isolation can lead to mental health issues. So, how can you combat this?
The best thing to do is stay connected with the rest of the world – and this works best if you have a range of things to do:
It seems insultingly simple, but just getting out of the house regularly can transform your day. Make a lunch-date with a friend, go to the gym with someone, or to a movie.
Having a dog can really help with this, because they need to go for a walk, which means you do too. So, again, schedule your dog walks to meet up with some friends.
An hour or two out of the house can break up your day, help keep you motivated and focused, and it’s good for your mental and physical health.
How about varying the things you do for a living? You could take up a part-time job doing something completely different, such as teaching, or working in a shop, or at a zoo; you name it. You might even be doing the same thing you do at home, but leaving the house and going to a workplace, meeting people, seeing a different view out of the window, it’ll all help with that sense of isolation.
If you can’t face the notion of getting a part-time job, you could always volunteer at something. Animal shelter, food bank, care home, charity shop, local museum – there are any number of ways you can get out of the house, meet different people and do something to make the world a better place.
Joining groups is also a great way of getting out of your own headspace for a while.
There will almost certainly be a coffee shop or community centre in your area that hosts cultural events you could be interested in – they’re a great way of spending time with new and interesting people.
There will be local Facebook groups, for example, on subjects you’re interested in. These can lead to interesting conversations and relationships both online and in the real world.
These are also a good way of you pursuing interests beyond your work discipline. Spending time with people who don’t do what you do is great for your creativity, because you can talk about something else!
The key with any of these interactions is to schedule them. Make time! Accept that they are important, that you aren’t shirking your responsibilities by needing a change of scenery.
If it was easy, everyone would do it:
In an upcoming article, we’ll share a few more of the hardest parts of being a Creative.
Meanwhile, don’t forget: creating new things can look like magic to those who don’t, can’t or won’t do it themselves. But, even magicians have to practice. And even magicians have to market themselves, come up with new ideas, believe in themselves and deal with the days when the phone doesn’t ring.
Because even magicians are business people.
Hopefully, this will have given you some food for thought and helped you over a few hurdles in your own creative role.
But please do let us know what parts of your creative work are the hardest for you – and what solutions you’ve developed. We’d love to share some tried-and-trusted techniques with other people like you!
Catch up with us on Facebook and drop us a comment.