60 Things Every Creative Needs to Know
If you spend enough time doing something you love, you’ll inevitably gain some perspective on the nature of the work you do. Over the years, through our work on Design Instruct and as freelancers, we’ve come to realize a few things about being a creative. You’ll find them listed below.
1. Have a plan.
And stick with it unless an opportunity presents itself that would make your plan a lot better.
2. Give them what they need.
There are two types of clients: The ones who know what they want and the ones who think they know what they want. It doesn’t matter what kind of client you get, it’s your job to give them what they need.
3. You work for your client.
If a client is “difficult” to work with, YOU have to make adjustments. You were hired to be a part of their world, not the other way around.
4. A good reputation is earned by doing great work.
5. Carrying a pen or pencil when you’re not “working” is helpful.
You’ll be surprised by what you’ll be able to get done.
6. Giving someone a business card is better than putting your information on someone’s phone.
If they really want to get in touch with you, they’ll use your card and you’ll know they mean business.
7. Have a portfolio you can be proud of.
Don’t show-off any work that you don’t absolutely love.
8. Don’t do it for the money.
You’ll be disappointed (especially when you’re just starting out). Do it because you don’t know how not to do it.
9. Use your hands.
Sometimes these newfangled computers with their doodads and thingamabobs can work against you. Know when to go old school.
10. You must study the work of those who came before you.
Know that they basically willed their jobs into existence, like creative gods. They are the reason the creative industry exists. They are the reason you are here.
11. Passion is contagious.
Don’t be afraid to show how passionate you are about what you do. When you show excitement about your work, it makes it really hard for everyone else not to get excited as well.
12. Perfection in your work is unlikely.
But that shouldn’t stop you from trying to get there. You never know.
13. You must stand up for your creative choices.
If you can’t defend them properly, it means you have more work to do.
14. There are many ways to approach a project. Choose wisely.
There’s the “right way” of doing things, then there are also the really awesome ways of doing things. They all have pros and cons.
15. A good, structured education may take you far.
But you can’t learn everything in a classroom. That’s when your experiences and your instincts need to kick in.
16. If your work is good, you’ll know it. If it’s less than good, you’ll know that too.
The key is to be honest with yourself about the work you’ve done.
17. On a long enough timeline, if you keep working hard, your work will be the best.
Unfortunately, you’ll die before then. In the meantime, always do the best work you can do.
18. Look for the simplest solutions.
Then elaborate only as needed.
19. An idea is just an idea until you do something about it.
20. Don’t be too guarded with your ideas.
They’re not yours to begin with. If you thought of it, someone else has thought of it. Let your ideas go and more ideas will come.
21. Helvetica is loved for a reason.
22. Not everyone will “get it.”
That’s OK. Ask them why they don’t get it because they’re probably seeing something you’re not seeing.
23. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
No one is that cool. Not even Fonzie.
24. You were hired for a reason.
Sometimes that reason will be because they think you’re good. Other times, you’ll be hired because they just need someone who has your particular skillset. Either way, be thankful for the chance to show them what you’re really made of.
25. If a client is happy with you, they’ll tell everyone. If they’re unhappy, they’ll tell everyone.
26. Those who say “you can’t” only say so because they can’t.
27. Some people will not want to pay you for the work you’ve done.
If that’s the case, it means that you haven’t made your work valuable enough for people to think they have to pay for it. Don’t let that happen.
28. Never work for free. Never.
It makes everyone who charges for their work hate you and your clients will never respect what you do.
29. If you don’t value your work, no one else will.
30. You’re either all-in or you’re nothing at all.
You must commit and don’t be afraid to get in the thick of things. (see #11)
31. The only way to fail is to stop.
32. Take it personally.
It’s a job but it’s also what you’ll leave behind.
33. Listen to your critics.
They are the ones who’ll make you better at what you do.
34. Always show them what they want and at least 1 example of what you want.
Show them something unexpected.
35. A draft is just a draft. Treat it as such. Learn to let go.
36. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
Accept it and start over with a new idea before you get too far into the project.
37. Dream big.
Just remember to wake up from that dream so you can do the real work needed to get there.
38. Don’t look for problems where none exist.
40. You must actively seek out new ways to get inspired.
There is nothing routine about being creative for a living.
41. Be mindful of the things in this world that give you energy and the things that drain your energy.
Avoid the latter when you can.
42. The deadline is sacred.
If you agreed to it when you started and nothing about the project has changed, be very ashamed if you need to ask for an extension.
43. Be your own hype man.
Just don’t overdo it.
44. Keep it real.
45. Doing good work will never be easy.
It will just feel easier because you’ll get better at your job.
46. You’ll make mistakes.
47. You’ll burn some bridges along the way – either, intentionally or unintentionally.
That’s ok. Repair them later when you can and make them stronger.
48. Once in a while, do spontaneous personal work.
Personal work is really where the interesting things happen.
49. If you say something can’t be done, that just means it won’t be done by you.
50. It has been said that someone will always be better than you.
But no one ever said that YOU can’t be that someone. Always aim to be better than what you are right now.
51. Bad ideas are only bad ideas until they start working.
52. Teach someone what you know.
You’ll be surprised how much you actually learn while doing so.
53. Go outside and observe nature.
54. Learn to manage expectations.
You will get some really funky requests from clients. Make sure they know what they’re asking for.
55. Invest in yourself.
56. Have a vision and then let it guide your choices.
57. You need goals.
Make them clear. Make them realistic. Make them timely. And then work towards them.
58. Be honest about what distracts you from getting your work done.
Avoid them when you’re working. Relish them when you’re not.
59. Produce results that your clients can feel and see.
The nuances of your job and how difficult it can sometimes be takes a backseat to your client’s needs.
60. Contrary to popular belief, you do need your soul.
Don’t give it away for nothing.
You probably already know some of the things listed above. In fact, you undoubtedly know a few more things that we don’t. In that case, please share it with us in the comments section below. Cheers!