Friday, 10 July 2009

Helping Creative Talent Take The Leap

Yesterday evening I hosted what I billed ‘A Big Conversation’ at London’s Royal College Of Art on the theme of ‘Taking The Leap’. The RCA is very progressive in running a professional development programme ‘FuelRCA’ to provide students with business & life skills to help them make the transition to life outside the college. My talk was part of that initiative with the attendees including 2009 graduates & continuing students from disciplines across fine art, textiles, fashion, illustration and industrial design engineering.

Each student has a real creative talent to offer the outside world, whether they are looking for commissions, exhibitions, work placements, freelance work or setting up their own studios. As I stressed, of course there is no prescriptive route for success in this rapidly changing ‘scrambled up world of work’ but I did impart the following Survival Tips:

1. PUT PASSION AT THE HEART OF ALL YOU DO. You need to love what you do & be passionate about your talents.
2. SELF-BELIEF. Whether you are freelancing, job hunting or working for yourself have stacks of self-belief/ confidence in your talents.
3. BE DISTINCTIVE. It’s a crowded market out there and success – and survival – is about having a clear point of differentiation. Work out what makes you different.
4. YOU ARE A BRAND. Whether you’re working for someone else or setting up your own design studio you need to think like a brand. What is the spirit at the heart of your DNA? Make sure your personality pervades all that you do.
5. SHOUT ABOUT YOUR TALENTS. Get over the taboo of self-promotion and use social media tools - blogs, twitter, videos – to stand out from the crowd.
6. UP YOUR GAME. Professionalise your offering, embrace a style of how you adhere to deadlines, deal with clients, honour commitments, run projects etc. But you don’t need to wear a suit!
7. BE AUTHENTIC. Your personality is at the heart of your business, don’t try and be something you’re not. Don’t bullshit. The goal is that ‘The Work You’ is ’The Real You’.
8. SELL YOUR TALENTS. Winning clients or getting a job is tougher than ever; get over the ‘Sales taboo’ and use friends/family and word of mouth to sell your creative talents. ‘Sell’ is not an expletive; it’s all about establishing and managing relationships.
9. HAVE AN ENTERPRISING MINDSET. You don’t have to ‘sell out’ as an artist but you do need to be focused on turning your creativity into a business commodity. Recognise the importance of creating business opportunities, of charging the right fees and becoming a commercial success.
10. DON’T OVER-PLAN. Forget a detailed business plan; it’s more important to just put your ideas into action rapidly and with online tools, that’s easier than ever. Tweak as you go.
11. BE A JUGGLER. Career choices don’t have to be ‘all or nothing’, embrace plurality. Carve out a work life that reflects your multi-dimensional talents.
12. LOOK AFTER YOUR CLIENTS. Super-serve your clients, don’t neglect them, keep in touch and nurture relationships. Repeat business with existing clients is often the best foundation for growing your business.
13. KEEP IT LEAN. If you’re setting up your own business, it’s recession-friendly to keep it lean. Keep overheads to a minimum, use freelancers rather than staff, share office or studio space (or work from home).
14. STAY FLEXIBLE. Be prepared to re-invent your offering or business model when things change. You might need to change to keep pace with market demand or technological developments.
15. GO FOR IT! Take a leap of faith into the unknown. Act on instinct!

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