If you’re reading this article, chances are, you have some sort of creative passion. And if you decide to pursue that passion into a career in the creative industries, you’re in for one of the most rewarding, exciting, and (obviously) creatively fulfilling adventures of your life.
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:
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.
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 copywriter at an ad agency, try taking a screenwriting class. If you’re a graphic designer who specializes in presentation design, try experimenting with a logo or poster design after hours.
The point is, if you want to stay strong creatively, you need to flex your creative muscles—and stepping outside of the box and working on projects outside of your job is just the creative workout you need.
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.
Spend time cultivating your network. Connect with other creatives and look for opportunities to share your work. Attend industry events. Reach out to people whose work and career you admire and ask them for coffee.
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.
When you work in the creative industries, the more connections you make, the better. Make sure those connections know how to get in touch (and send opportunities your way) with one of Canva’s business card templates, like the Colorful Leaves Creative Writer Business Card or the Pastel Modern Web Designer Business Card.
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.
When you pour your heart and soul into a project, you want people to love it just as much as you do—which can make it hard when they have to deliver tough-to-hear feedback.
But being open to receiving feedback is part of the gig! When you’re working on your own projects, you’re free to create whatever you want. But when you’re working on a project for someone else (like a client or manager), you need to create something that’s in line with their vision—and that means taking and implementing their feedback.
So, for example, let’s say you’re designing a logo for a client—and they tell you they don’t like the look of the fonts you incorporated into the design. Instead of arguing with them or trying to make them see why the fonts work, accept the feedback, ask what they’d like to see changed, and then implement the changes.
When someone critiques your work, it can sting. But if you want to thrive in a creative career, learning to accept constructive feedback—and accept it graciously—is a must.
When you’re a creative, accepting feedback is part of the gig. And, depending on your career path, giving feedback might be part of your role, too. Deliver feedback to your team with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor with one of Canva’s report card templates, like the Blue Lines Homeschool Report Card or the Orange & White Modern Homeschool Report Card.
You need creative chops in order to succeed in a creative industry. If you want to work as a screenwriter, you need to be a great storyteller. If you want to be a design director, you need to have a solid design eye. If you want to be an interior designer, you need to know how to stage a room.
That goes without saying. But in order to succeed in the creative industries, you need more than just creativity—you need professionalism as well.
It doesn’t matter how talented you are—if you’re difficult to work with, consistently late on deadlines, and never respond to emails, no one’s going to want to hire you.
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.
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.
The point is, in order to succeed, you need to believe you’re going to succeed—even in the face of rejection. Tenacity and perseverance are the names of the game—and you need to play them well if you want to build a career as a creative.
If you’re lucky enough to turn your creative passion into a career, you want to do everything you can to make that career successful. And now that you have these tips, you have everything you need to succeed in the creative industries and take your career to the next level.