In any business, your reputation and the impression that you make plays a major part in the success of your career. Being well-respected and taken seriously as a creative will, in time, open doors and lead to work that will get your ideas and creations (whatever they may be) to a wider audience and generate income as well. However building your reputation takes time and conscious effort. Below are a few things you can do to begin building your all-important reputation as a creative.
1. Develop quality material
It should go without saying – but I’m saying it anyway – that you should be actively working on your creative craft. Coming up with consistently good ideas and results of any kind takes lots of practice. Don’t let the myth that “all you need is one good idea” distract you from working on improving your work every day. I’m of the belief that creativity is a muscle requires constant exercise in order to stay strong.
2. Present your ideas professionally
Whether it’s is fair or not, you’ve only got one chance to make a first impression with your work. Even though, strictly speaking, a good idea is a good idea, the way you present that idea counts. Creative industry professionals are exposed to a lot of ideas every day. Don’t give them a reason to discount yours by pitching a poorly prepared concept. Remember, you’re running a business and you need to make sure your product (in this case, your creativity) is polished and marks you as a pro.
3. Develop your people skills
I think it’s important to remember that your ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. Your best bet for finding a receptive industry audience for your work is to remember that interpersonal skills count. Being friendly and taking an active interest in the people you’re meeting makes a big difference. For example, if you’ve got a meeting with someone in the creative industry, do a little homework and find out about the person and their company. Take the time to get to know someone before you begin asking them to do something for you. This can also be as simple as asking the person you’re meeting with what they’ve been working on instead of immediately telling them about you and your projects. And, although I’m not your mom (I don’t think…), I’m going to remind you say “thank you” when someone has taken the time to meet with you and/or answer your questions.
4. Take criticism well
Creativity is subjective. Everyone has their own sense of what they like and what they’re looking for. If you’re hoping to get one of your ideas or projects accepted, then listening to the comments of an industry decision maker about your work can give you real insight into what they’re looking for. Responding defensively to these comments won’t get you anywhere. You certainly don’t have to agree with every comment or critique but it’s in your best interest to give them real thought and consider the source. Remember, these are the people who make the decisions about whether your creations will be put in the position to succeed. Pay attention and see if there’s a way to give them what they’re looking for without feeling like you’re compromising your creative approach. I believe it’s possible to do both.
5. When pitching your work, remember that “less is more” on every level
I understand how passionate creatives are about their projects. It’s incredibly tempting to want to show any interested person A LOT of your material. Don’t. Only present the idea or project that is most appropriate for the pitch. There’s no good reason to add a “bonus idea.” Believe me when I tell you that if an industry exec wants to know more about your work, they’ll ask. Here’s an example, if at the end of their work day, an industry decision maker sees two portfolios, and one has one concept/project in it and the other has nineteen concepts/projects in it, which portfolio do you think they’re going to review? Also, once you’ve submitted your idea, be prepared to follow up. Again, less is more. A very brief email or voicemail about two weeks after your submission is just about right. You might need to do this a couple of times (with at least a two week space between each successive contact) before you get a response. However, if you’re polite and to the point, you’ll almost always get a reply eventually.
6. Be dependable
It’s essential for people in the industry to know that they can count on you to do what you say you’re going to do. By showing up to meetings on time, following up on things you’ve discussed and generally being reliable, you can go a long way towards developing a bond of trust. When people on the creative industry side feel they can trust you, it’s amazing how many opportunities present themselves. It sounds simple but by consistently delivering on what you promise, you’ll stand out from the crowd.
There’s really no way around it. Building a solid reputation as a creative takes time and effort. That being said, a healthy dose of patience and humility will ease your path. The good news is that once you’ve established yourself in the eyes of the creative world as a solid, reliable professional, the benefits far outweigh all of the work it takes to get there.
Find out more about my creativity & innovation workshops for business teams.