Designing Your Creative Career

The topic of creative careers is something that I could honestly talk about forever, I have a lot of opinions on this topic, and some personal experience I can draw from, I wanted to take a moment to talk directly to those who are feeling underwhelmed and unfulfilled on their specific career path, and are looking to pivot, rethink, or redesign their careers. 

My Career Path

Before I get to the good stuff, I’ll give you a little bit of a run down of my own career path for context. I hold a Bachelors and Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture, and although I respect the field, and enjoyed studying Landscape, I very quickly became disillusioned when it came time to join the workforce, as I felt that I wasn’t able to be as creative as I would have liked, and so I set out trying to find other careers that I could potentially twist my knowledge and experience into. 

During this time I discovered the world of Design Consulting, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t found it earlier. Fast forward to today, after a lot of up-skilling, hard work, and grit, today I work as a Illustrator and Visual Designer at a Design and Innovation Consulting company in Boston. I am thankful that I have been able to design a creative career for myself that bolsters creativity, putting it to use in strategic design projects for big companies in my day job, that pays the bills, and also allows me to have the freedom of pursuing my own illustration business that brings in a modest, but meaningful stream of income.


Designing your Career

I want to address all you creatives out there who are dissatisfied with where you are in your career. You most likely already have the tools you need to make the change, and it’s time to strategically think about ways you can start creating your creative path, finding those opportunities, and designing your own wonderful and unique creative career. 

So, here are the steps you can take to start expanding and rethinking your career: 

  • Think about the things that bring you joy
    When it comes to designing our creative careers, we want to get off the bandwagon of chasing after jobs or careers that we believe will bring us money, or respect, because ultimately, these aren’t strong enough drivers to get you through the work required to breakthrough into a new creative venture in a meaningful way. You need to look for the things that feel fun, and don’t feel like work at all. What are the topics that you can’t shut up about? What would you be happy to spend weekends, late nights, or early mornings working on? Where are you willing to invest time, energy, and even money? Sometimes these things aren’t completely obvious at first, and may take some research, and digging into different creative fields to uncover the careers that you may not even know existed, so for me that was Design Consulting, I had no idea that this even existed as a career path, and I’m sure that there are many more out there that may surprise you. The bottom line is that you need to feel passion and excitement about what you choose.

  • Figure out your goals and objectives
    How do you want to proceed in your chosen career pivot? If you like the idea of being an illustrator for example, do you want to work full-time in house somewhere? Do you want to be a full-time freelancer, maybe part-time? Do you want to make some extra income from prints? Do you want to teach? Do you want this to be a source of income at all? There are so many different avenues you can take with any creative career and it’s important to figure out what your goals are, so you can start to lay the right foundations for success.

    Next it’s time to get strategic with your goals, create a timeline for your big goals, and break each of these down into smaller more manageable ones. So for example if your goal is to start selling your original paintings online six months from now, start reverse engineering from that. Perhaps in month one and two you will buy all the materials you need, and take a painting course to remind yourself of all those foundational skills you’ve forgotten about, then in month three you will create a website, and in months four to five you will work like crazy to get as many artworks ready to sell as possible, and then in month six you will focus on launching and marketing.

  • Just do it!
    It’s so easy to fall into the perfection trap, a lot of us feel that we will eventually post, share, launch, or sell when we are good enough, have a certain amount of followers, or have 10,000 hours under our belts. This thinking is super detrimental. I like to use the analogy of learning a language, if you’ve ever tried to learn a language yourself, or known of anyone that has, you probably know learning that language in a classroom is no match for travelling to the country in which that language is spoken, being in that context, being immersed in the culture and communicating with people who speak the language. Your ability to learn and pick up a new language increases exponentially when you throw yourself into the thick of it, I want you to think about your new creative endeavor in the same way. Posting as much of your work as you can, and focusing on quantity over quality, just getting involved and making yourself seen is the most important thing you can do.

    I hope that my experiences and thoughts on the topic of creative careers provided some sort of insight and clarity that you can take and apply to your own life. As always I want to keep the conversion going feel free to reach out to me, through my contact page or on instagram, I’d love to hear from you, let me know if you have any questions or thoughts on this topic!