2020 so far, well, has been rough. Rough might be an understatement. Yet, our generation is fortunate to have the information and technology to support us through unprecedented times. In this article we discuss Five Mistakes to Avoid as a Solo Creative.
The shape of the world as it stands, may have thrown you off course and has you feeling restless self-isolating for who knows how many days.
So if you are feeling troubled, have unsettling thoughts or feeling frustrated with your creative output this article is for you.
With so many tools, resources, information—you name it—available at our fingertips, there should be no reason why you can’t achieve what you set out to achieve, right?
Some people are able to do more with less, focus more during turbulent events and simply get more done. Why is that?
There are a number of reasons, but today I’ll be sharing some attitudes, thought-barriers and mistakes that prevent creatives like you from achieving your goals.
I’ll also get a bit personal, too if you don’t mind as some of the mistakes to be described took a mental beating.
So let’s dive in…
1. Being Indecisive
Mid-way through my graphic design career, I failed to make any firm decisions about my career growth.
When faced with a relatively important decision, my go-to answer was “hmm, it’s up to you” or “whatever the best option is for you”.
I used to say it so much these responses rubbed onto my circle of friends and we would all push the decision onto someone else (which was quite hilarious at times depending on the matter at hand).
Joke aside when the stakes become higher, the consequences of our decision become larger. We crumble under the pressure to make decisions.
We don’t want the weight our decisions hold, and we also don’t want to be wrong; nobody likes being wrong.
It’s difficult, especially if you’re the kind of person who thinks a lot about what other people might say, feel or react.
So why should you step up and be decisive? How does indecisiveness affect your creative growth and the goals you set this year?
So here’s what’s up:
- You give up the ability to control your actions
- You put everyone’s happiness before your own
- You show a lack of self-confidence
I do get it. Allowing decisions to rest in someone else’s hands takes a lot of the pressure away from you. It’s stressful to make decisions and I still have to take a moment before giving an answer. However…
Making the right decision 100% of the time is just not realistic.
Indecision keeps everyone stuck. When you make decisions, this forces you to move forward. Whether this involves in-house decisions or relationships, this direction is beneficial for all sides.
It took some failures to realise this which is why I hope after reading this article you trust yourself to make a firm decision.
Try starting with your gut.
Immediately gauge how you feel when you pick an answer. If you feel your stomach turn then that could be a sign the decision isn’t the right one.
On the flip side, using my gut feeling has left me in some crappy positions in the past, but ultimately you’re being true to yourself and you push yourself forward.
2. Not Taking Action
With creatives spending more time indoors, especially those of us in work from home situations, now would be the best time to dust off those unfinished projects and pick up a new skill.
If only it was that easy!
For most people, especially myself for a period of time, find getting started as the number one reason blocking us from reaching our goals.
It’s good to have goals, okay to talk about them, but the doing is the most important part.
Showing what you have done instead of saying what you will do, speaks volumes.
You’re not going to necessarily hit your goals right now, but any small step you take is helping you build towards the creative you’re seeking to be.
The whole idea of just doing is to get used to creating, building and working so that you gather more experience points.
Those of who have played any Pokemon game knows the grind of levelling up your team (running inside a patch of grass to fight wild Pokemon for days on end).
This grind really has to start for yourself. What will you do to take the necessary steps to reach your goal? Will you set time aside for these goals? Will you be committed to a schedule?
Check it out…
Don’t wait until you have the perfect circumstances to begin taking action.
Plenty of people say they need so and so to be in place, or they need to acquire a new tool, or they need more time but these are just excuses.
There is no perfect setup, so just start.
Here’s another thing…
You need to practice. Then the next step, practice. Then yep, more practice. Being a better creative and achieving your creative goals can only happen through deliberately setting the time to improve your skills.
Action beats intent.
There’s no other way around it. I could be talking about the lifestyle I want, or I could be putting in the work to move towards that ideal lifestyle. So remember, action beats intent.
3. Avoiding Responsibility
Are you waiting for someone to tell you what to do? Do you also give excuses to why things haven’t been done?
In my case, I was making decisions based on what others might think of me. I was creating scenarios and what if moments inside my head, while letting others decide.
When it came to taking responsibility my thought process (before) went something like this:
- What will this person think of me if I say or do this?
- Will he/she judge me?
- Will my decision make them happy?
When you make decisions based on what others might think and might say, it’s certainly not going to help you own your life, make you look responsible or move you any quicker towards your goals.
Living this way, I didn’t seem like a person who could take the lead and meet expectations. So when you let your friends, colleagues and partners down, they’ll simply stop believing in you.
My thought process now, however:
- How does this make me feel?
- What’s in it for me?
- Will I be better off making this move now or later?
This new thought process does sound selfish, but asking yourself simple questions like this keeps you in control of your mood and actions.
What a responsible person would do is tackle the difficult tasks, admit they are wrong without blaming anyone, don’t waste any time, show capability by sharing results achieved.
You also can’t control how people respond, you can only control how you respond. Let your actions speak for itself.
What does taking responsibility for your creative goals mean for you?
Being responsible means you are in 100% control of how you feel. Being responsible means you stop blaming others.
Here’s what I advise:
Choose to approach every situation in your life, career and relationships with an attitude of responsibility. When you accept responsibility, your mood changes and you’re now in the best mind space to respond.
You’re putting your success and happiness first before anyone else and it will be the fastest way to become a better creative, a better person and ultimately goals achieved.
4. Side Hustling Without a Clear Purpose
What I really mean here is allowing other people’s hustle be the leading reason you create.
Let me just preface what I say by stating competition is healthy. It’s also fun to compete with peers.
When I came across dope work I would straight away begin thinking “I gotta reach that level, how do I get to that level”—which is fine, but how they got there and what’s realistic for them may not be realistic for you.
The likely scenario is they have spent an incredible amount of time, years even to reach their current skill level. The sad thing is, those people I was “competing” with paid no attention.
They had no idea I set out to compete with them. I was hustling in silence and creating scenarios in my head once again where I always came out on top.
Now getting your hustle on using every hour of your day to work on your side projects is fun. I believe it should be fun, but when you start to use the achievements of other creatives as your benchmark, essentially you are saying this is why I’m working. That is a sure way to feel unfulfilled.
I enjoyed “hustling” that’s for sure, but who was I helping as a result of working on these side projects? I found out I just wanted the satisfaction that I was doing more than most people.
If I out-hustled that creative, I was okay with settling for that result.
If you’re in a similar boat, then I’m sure you’re aware of this hustle culture—it’s the you gotta put in the work, use your time wisely, stop watching Netflix, use your weekends to work on your business.
Once you get caught in the grind, there’s a chance it starts to become routine, the work feels less fun and you forget why you even started.
I believe it’s so important you map out what you want the next two years to look like and what you want to achieve by X number of months.
So try to set some intentions for yourself. Example of good questions to ask are:
- What will X goal enable me to do?
- Who will I become as a result of pursuing this goal?
- Why is achieving X goal important to me right now?
5. Forgetting Why You’re Creating
Us creatives love to explore new topics. So much so, we’re constantly jumping onto the newest tool or latest design trend.
It was in 2019 when I revisited Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why”. The biggest takeaway for me and it’s consistently repeated in the book is “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
I love this because it explains the reason why your company exists, why your employees come to work every day and importantly why your customers care about your business.
So you could be thinking why? Why do I need to know my why to create? Why are those goals you set important?
Here are a few quick benefits:
- You set your own standards
- You create targets, deadlines and best practices
- You know your values and how you should behave To dive in a little deeper…
Your why helps refocus when you become lost.
By having your why written down, and it could be on anything, paper, digital, body part—if you’re creating and you struggle to remember “why am I doing this?”, reach for the reason you discovered.
It will become the spark you need to get you back on track.
Your why will become your leading differentiator.
Simon Sinek talks about this as well. It’s the reason you get up in the morning and the reason people feel compelled to get up to work.
You can then use this differentiator to create a unique selling proposition that will attract more followers for your brand, new users or clients—which segues nicely into…
Your why attracts people similar to you.
These kinds of people will share the same values, mindsets and beliefs. Therefore you’re able to communicate and resonate with people who want to listen to you.
What you’re doing here is building community which is an incredible way to grow and learn with creatives doing similar or advanced work.
Lastly, knowing your why creates purposeful content.
Purposeful content of course is better than content that is haphazard, and again you want to ultimately share work people resonate with.
I’ve touched on being purposeful in the previous sections, but this where I believe the real value is at. It’s where you’re able to shine.
It’s setting a clear picture for yourself as well as your audience to why your work or product is important.
This creative journey is rough. You want to avoid losing sight of your goal, so remembering your why is like your torch in the dark forest.
Hopefully this helped you begin to think about why you’re creating and why creating matters to you.
To conclude, success and failures begin with what your mind believes. If you think you’re wrong, you’re right. If you think you can’t win, you’re also right.
I much appreciate your time, and thank you for reading this article!
Be sure to take at least one thing away from what you read today. Memorise it and learn from it, so that you can make the rest of the year, a year of growth and success.
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A life-long learner, Jonathan Perucho is a marketing designer for the fashion luxury industry helping brands storytell effectively through illustrative social media graphics. Connect on Twitter (@jaytenart) if you enjoy coffee, branding or Korean music!