Diversify Your Studies
by Taylor Slattery | August 9, 2022
If I could give the younger me one bit of career advice, it wouldn’t be to watch more tutorials or to start learning a certain tool sooner to be ahead of the curve. Rather, I would have advised the younger me to start learning about business.
The tools you need to be successful at your craft as a creative professional will come with due time. Their acquisition tends to happen as the result of a sort of creative osmosis that occurs naturally just by being around other creatives more experienced than yourself. You will consciously or subconsciously start to pick up on their habits and over time, integrate them into your own practice, making them your own.
This is true of any environment, and while exposure to more seasoned creatives may benefit your creative practice, for many creatives, their business acumen remains critically underdeveloped. Unless you have the good fortune to work alongside colleagues on the more business and operational side of the equation, this sort of knowledge can be harder to come by, which is why I recommend you start to immerse yourself into this world as soon as possible.
Marketing, sales, finance—on the surface, these topics seem simple enough. You’ve undoubtedly heard these terms before and likely have an idea of what each entails. Conceptually, a solid grasp of these topics can be obtained with relative ease, however, in practice, becoming proficient at sales or marketing requires a great deal of failure.
So how do you go about learning about business? Like I said before, this sort of knowledge is best gained through osmosis. If you can place yourself in an environment filled with skilled practitioners of the skills you are looking to obtain, simply by being in their presence for long enough, some of those habits and knowledge are bound to rub off on you.
If you then add a bit of intention into the mix, the sky’s the limit. While you’re still in school, or even if you are in a transitional period and creative work is not yet your full-time job, I highly recommend picking up a job where you can learn some of these skills firsthand. That might be taking up a part-time gig with a small business like a locally-owned cafe, where you can take a peek behind the curtain at the operational side of things, or finding some sort of position in sales where you can cut your teeth and start developing those all-important soft skills. Supplement that experience with some additional research on your own, and you’ll be in good shape.
The reality of working as a creative today is much different than it was even 10 years ago. Entrepreneurship is a path open to anyone willing to learn the rules and play the game. By leveraging social media and platforms like YouTube, individuals have the power to fully support themselves through their creative practice, without needing to sell their skills to a client in order to do so.
The difference between a creative business that succeeds and one that fails is not the quality of the work each produces, but rather, how well each is run as a business. The better you can position yourself in terms of business knowledge, the better you can leverage the tools at your disposal to craft whatever kind of creative, fulfilling life you desire.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.