How to Start Your Creative Career: 8 Tips for Creative Success

August 9, 2023
Written by
Bailey Fortenbaugh, Yosuke Shingu
Published on
August 9, 2023

Are you thinking about pursuing a creative career? When it comes to things like videography, graphic design, UX/UI, and beyond, the path to success can seem a little less traditional than in other fields.

College or no college? Freelance or agency jobs? Book smarts or experience learning? There are so many ways to go about getting the skills you need to pursue your creative career, and it can be a little overwhelming.

In this blog, we’ll go over some common questions about creative careers and give you 8 essential tips for achieving creative success. So strap in and get ready to learn! And, while you’re at it, check out the video below for a condensed version of this blog.

1. Creative Skills: College Vs. Learning on Your Own

It’s the age-old question: is college really necessary for a creative career? The short answer: no, not necessarily. There is an abundance of free knowledge out there through resources like Youtube, LinkedIn Learning, and more. The reality is, anyone can be self-taught and have the same qualifications as a college-educated creative.

But there are benefits to school, too, and it’s not just knowledge. One of the biggest resources you will gain from going to school is connections. You’ll be surrounded by and have easy access to people already in your industry. Making connections with people more established than you can help you get a job in the future, give you more opportunities to learn or find work, and more.

Another perk of going to school is structure. Let’s face it, the hardest part about self-teaching is setting aside the time to do it. When you’re in school, it’s a lot easier to sit down and study, learn, work, etc. Instead of blocking out chunks of time to crank out tons of lessons on your own time, you can attend classes and lectures scheduled by your program. Plus, school has deadlines. School is overall much better for keeping yourself accountable.

2. College Doesn’t Teach You Everything

A sad reality of the creative field is that unless you are attending a highly specialized, renowned program, you will likely leave school missing the core skills that will make you stand out in the industry.

College covers the basics. It gives you the standard knowledge you need to get started. The work and knowledge you pursue on your own is what helps you create a stand-out portfolio, develop your unique style, and understand real-world creative work.

Bottom line: what you do to get better is up to you! Either way, you have to do your shit.

3. Presentation Skills Matter

Early in your career, you’ll often find that it doesn’t matter how good you are if you can’t sell your ideas. You could be an excellent video editor, designer, developer, and so on, but none of that matters if you can’t present yourself and your work.

If you reduce a creative career down to the simplest thing it can be, it’s a sales job (not really, but hear me out here). Yes, you design/create/develop/edit/make things, but before you can start making, you have to sell your ideas to someone who is going to pay you to make them.

You’ll be lucky if you can find a creative job that doesn’t require you to talk and collaborate with others or clients. You need to practice your ability to speak, present, and sell. Without these skills, you will struggle to excel in a creative career.

Internships, freelancing, and other real-world experience opportunities are the best way to cultivate this.

4. Street Smarts Vs. Book Smarts

Going to school, and even learning online, you’re going to be learning a lot of rules.

People will tell you that there’s only one way to do things, but that is not true. Going to school will give you the tools and rules of a creative career, but those rules can end up hurting you in the long run and be restraining.

For example, school may teach you tips and tricks for making something like a design appear more masculine, harsh, or bold. But at the end of the day, some rules don’t always hold true. You need the principles of your creative career combined with your own judgment.

A balance of book smarts from the skills you learn in school combined with your own knowledge and experience will set you up for success.

5. Are You Creative Enough?

Well, who knows?

We can boil it down to 3 types of people in the creative field: People who can see it, people who learn to see it, and people who will never see it. 

You might have heard this called “having an eye.” Some people have an eye for visually creative things like design or photography, while others don’t. You have to figure out if you can see it, if you can learn to see it, or if you may never see it.

The only way to figure this out is to start learning in the creative field you’re interested in. Compare your natural talent and your progress to that of others to gauge what you can improve on and where you are in your skills. Take feedback and use it to improve and assess your talent. 

But most of all, be humble and aim to grow. Because even if you can’t see it in the beginning, it's up to you to decide if you’re going to be one of the ones who can learn.

6. How to Start Making Money in a Creative Career

Unfortunately, in the creative field, you have to make a name for yourself before you can start earning the big bucks. People aren’t going to pay you well without a good portfolio and proficient skills.

In the beginning, you have to do things for free. Design a logo for your friend’s coffee shop, edit your cousin’s wedding photos, film an event for your friends… you need to start looking for work and building up your portfolio. 

Now that you have a portfolio, you can start advertising yourself. Start posting your work on social media and letting people know what you do. When people start seeing your work and what you do, they’ll think of you when they need work like yours.

Your clientele will build over time and allow you to get more work, improve your skills, and make more money.

Bonus Tip: But How Much Should I Charge?

Our favorite rule is the rule of 5:

Let’s say you’re quoting 5 different potential clients. If you get all 5 jobs, you’re likely too cheap. If you don’t get any of the jobs, you’re probably too expensive. But, if you quote 5 jobs and end up getting 3 of them, you’re in the sweet spot. You’re just expensive enough to justify your skill level, and people are willing to pay for it!

7. Confidence is Your Currency

People always say “Fake it ‘til you make it.” And there’s some truth to that. Once people start seeing your work and what you’re doing, you need to be confident in your abilities. You are a video editor. You are an animator. You are a graphic designer. 

But instead of calling it “faking it,” we like to call it “Act as if.” Act as if you are the creative professional you want to be. That confidence will carry you through new experiences, help you learn, and help you attract more opportunities.

8. Encouragement: Pass it On

It can be easy to see other people in your field as your biggest competition. After all, you might be gunning for the same jobs or trying to excel in the same classes as other people around you. The reality, however, is that the people around you are a resource.

In a field as tough and competitive as the creative, we have to have each other's backs. The purpose of this video and blog post is to be encouraging and helpful for aspiring creatives, and we need to pass that on to other creatives. Support your friends, share your knowledge, and help each other grow.


We hope these tips help you in your creative career journey! Be sure to check out the video above, and take a look at our other blog posts for more insights.

While you’re here, check out some of our video and advertising work, and shoot us a message on our contact page if you have any questions.

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