How Did You Start Your Creative Career?

Whether you’re a fresh-faced grad or you’re crushin’ the creative career life, there’s always more to learn about the artistic work world. And what better way to find out more than to go directly to the source? We talked to creative professionals from Copywriters to Art Directors and asked them to answer two questions:

  • What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to an artist/creative just starting out from your own experience? 
  • What advice would you give your younger self just starting out?

Here’s what they had to say!

Alex Solis | Founder & Artist at Oddworx

“Advice to give myself: ‘Focus on doing what you love and work for yourself, it’s not only so much more than possible to make a living from it, but also a million times more rewarding!'”

Elisha-Rio Apilado | Art Director at Havas

The biggest piece of advice to other artists: “Whatever you do in life, personally or professionally, I beg you to aspire to fail and make mistakes. What makes you the person you are (and will evolve into over time) is not your achievements or the number of ‘likes’ on your art piece on Instagram. You should definitely appreciate these small tokens of blessings, but the #1 thing(s) that is going to help mold you into who you’re supposed to be as a person and contribute to your art style are the lessons you’re going to learn from those attempts that didn’t 100% succeed. Also, it’s okay to say ‘no.’ Don’t overwork yourself just to prove a point to others or even to yourself. Saying ‘no’ right away shows how much you respect your time and your self-awareness of how much you can handle. We’re human; it’s okay to take a mental break from being creative. In fact, you need those self-care moments to refuel yourself and be inspired again for the next creative project you’re going to slay.”

Advice to your younger self: “Oh man, I would most definitely want to shout this or at least CAPS LOCK text message this to my younger self: “Calm TF down! And accept things even when they don’t go according to plan!” Life is constantly changing, for good reason. It’s because we can’t stay settled and comfortable. We sometimes need that push out of our comfort zone to really set that fire inside of us (and it’s inside of ALL of us). Changes are a good thing – not always ideal, but they place us in situations where we fully understand how we are under pressure and/or in situations where we don’t know what’s going to happen. But that’s the beauty of it: not knowing how exactly things will net out. That’s the adventurous side of everything. When you find yourself in those fire drill moments or moments of completely no clarity on what to do next, it forces you to reflect on who you are and take a moment to pause and tell yourself, “Okay, I can’t control what just happened, but I CAN control how I’m going to react to it. And that’s empowering as hell to know this as your superpower.”

Valerie Lopez | Production Artist, Designer at Threadless & Bucketfeet

The biggest piece of advice to other artists: Nurture the professional relationships you make. Get coffee with a former professor or chat it up with that designer you met at an art show. These connections can pave the way to your dream job.

Advice to your younger self: Fake it till you make it, little baby. You’re never going to feel prepared, but real-world experience will teach you everything you need to move forward… So don’t panic, you got this.

Andrea Bell | Social Media Specialist @ Busy Beaver Buttons and Comic Creator

The biggest piece of advice to other artists: “Young artists have so many great tools around them to utilize nowadays. I would comfort the young artist and let them know there’s no timeline to success and, in fact, success means something different to everyone. I’d tell them to work hard for what they want, remember to be patient and to create work you enjoy and that is a true expression of yourself. That way you’re just building onto your legacy as a person and hopefully having fun every step of the journey.”

Advice to younger self: I would tell her she’s doing great! I would urge her to step out of her comfort zone while she’s in school, and not just fulfill the instructor’s wishes on a project but to make something she too is happy with. But of course, I’m pretty happy with how my younger artist self built what I needed for my older artist self.”

Abby Wiscomb | Junior Copywriter at Havas

“If I could tell myself one thing, it would be that you don’t need to do it right the first try, or the second try, or the third try. You’ll usually kind of get it right by the 6th try. And by the 10th try, the idea will probably get killed. lol. AND to always wear all black to work …because that’s intimidating to account people. lol jk…but not really.”

Karen Mooney | Production Artist at Threadless (+ musician and illustrator!)

“Advice to both my younger self and also to artists just starting out: don’t compare your personal progress and growth to the artists around you. Try to focus on yourself and putting in the time needed to build and hone your skills. Everyone kind of stumbles out of college or gets their start at a different place in their life, and it can take some time to find your voice as a creative person. Don’t be afraid to try new things and to fail miserably. Don’t be afraid of the creative dry spells (yes, they will happen. No, you aren’t broken.) Another piece of advice would be to just practice. Even if nothing good comes out of it, putting pen to paper/brush to canvas/fingers to keyboard will condition your mind to be prepared for when you DO have a brilliant idea that you’d like to execute.

Katie Lukes | Illustrator, Designer at Threadless

Biggest piece of advice I’d give to those starting out: Make make make! That’s really the only way to get better at your craft. Make stuff that you’re genuinely excited about, not stuff that you THINK you should be making. Advice to give my younger self: Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you look up to for help and advice. Most people are happy to help in some way!

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Featured illustration & infographic made by Katie Lukes.

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3 responses to How Did You Start Your Creative Career?

  1. Mireya says:

    Such great advice all around but what truly speaks to me is the calm the F*** down and make make make….

  2. Gaby says:

    Wow! I feel energized after reading all this. I am about to start my personal project and this helps a lot. Thank you, guys!

  3. Truly Amazing advice. I think a lot of us creatives, especially me, can benifit from a mindset of establishing a safe-to-fail environment for operating. So many times I have stifled my creativity by setting rigid expectations beforehand. Calming down is priceless. I’m ready to keep it going. After all, we either succeed or we learn…

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