Being a creative is as challenging a career as I can think of. There are few careers where you sign up to be critiqued daily, hell hourly, for 40+ years! It’s also one of the most rewarding. You get to be creative… for a living. It’s right there in the title of the job: “creative.”
There is a learning curve for young creatives though. And for those making a career switch who thought things were going to be all about ‘wacky’ beer-fueled brainstorms and nerf guns, there’s a lot to learn, some advice?
Learn to accept and use feedback: You will receive feedback on your work - all day, every day. You will need to learn to take the feedback for what it is and to make your work better (or, you know, make the logo bigger).
Grow a thicker skin (no matter how thick it is now): Got hippo skin? Get ready to grow elephant skin. All that critiquing? All that feedback? It can get to you. Just remember… it’s about the work. Not you.
Learn to like cold Thai food eaten at 1am during ‘pitch mode,’ ‘crunch time,’ ‘production season,’ and on Tuesdays and get comfortable with not being 100% available for friends and family. Advertising is not exactly known for excellent work/life balance - many agencies joke about it. You have to learn this, love this.
You will get paid to be creative…. on someone else’s terms. You need to make not only your boss, but your clients, happy. You get to make fun stuff, that they may not want to buy. You get to write your heart out and create the funniest thing your mom has ever heard and it will fall flat in a creative review. You will also sell ideas, art and words and they will morph until you no longer see yourself in them. You will win awards for something you never expected. You will make a client happy, your Creative Director happy, sell your ideas and then…? Nothing. Just get prepared to do it again tomorrow. You see? Creativity for sale. It’s a weird marketplace.
Understand that you will be selling your creative output and yourself: It’s a strange thing. You can be an amazing art director, but if you are impossible to work with, or nobody knows who you are, you will not get the work. Reputation is just as important as talent.
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Learn to be your own best advocate: This rings true for any career but especially true in creative circles. If you are doing a great job as a mid-level copywriter, you will be seen as a great mid-level copywriter. Great but have you wanted to move up to Sr. Copywriter for the past 4 months? You need to tell someone. It’s not that they don’t think you deserve it, but if you’re rocking mid-level and not making waves, they’re just not going to think about it. You need to know where you want to be an navigate yourself there. It may mean switching agencies several times in just a few years, it may mean having an excellent relationship with your ECD. But you have to be in charge of your career.
Another aspect of creative work that sets it apart from most careers is the relentless chase for awards. All agencies expect to not only put out work that their clients like, but work that wins. But here’s the deal, your agency may win an award for some work with your name attached - just don’t bet the farm on it. There are only so many awards, agencies and credits to go around.
All in all? Get prepared to have fun and be frustrated. To be told your work is great, and no good - in the same day. To absolutely love what you do and to work harder than you thought possible.
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