How to keep your cutting edge as a creative talent

creative talent

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I don’t know about you, but as a self-employed creative talent and online entrepreneur, I suffer from FOMO.

Fear Of Missing Out.

In my case, I worry whether I learn or know enough to stay relevant in my biz. Those worries become little monsters molesting my mind:

  • Do I know the right apps?
  • Are my skills relevant?
  • Should I know more about X or Y?

I’ve talked to passionate entrepreneurial and creative friends of mine who shared the same worries.

I want to share the core ideas of our talk, hopefully inspiring you, too.

1) Complement your core skills

While creative talent is in demand, even niched-down experts can face severe competition. Why not power up your knowledge with (seemingly unrelated) skills to stay relevant?

If you’re a stellar copywriter AND you have an eye for visual design, you can out-compete mere keyboarders. You’ll know how to use white space, strategically-placed images and font style effects.

I have an acquaintance who’s a traditionally trained and experienced psychologist who’s getting into marketing. She’ll have a natural advantage over “classic” marketers, thanks to her thousands of private ‘people’ sessions and insights into the human mind.

Or take me as an example.

I’m creating my own killer-combo improving my designing/illustration AND writing skills, which is rare. Some creatives do great at illustrating. Some writers excel at (copy)writing. However, if you can combine those skills, you can further develop your edge.

Lesson: if you’re focusing on your specific craft, think about adding a secondary or tertiary skill which can complement your set. This attitude will give you an advantage in competitive markets.

2) Flirt with future trends

It’s impossible to predict the future. Even popular statisticians like Nate Silver failed to see the winner of the infamous 2016 election, despite thousands of data points.

What you can do is becoming inspired about possible technological shifts.

Blogs like futurism.com publish futuristic mind-snacks. Automatization, linking the internet with your brain, dealing with information overload (*cough* content shock, anyone? *cough*) are topics relevant to web creators and marketers.

Reading smart science fiction is also a fun and educating way of future-proofing your mind. Classics like Snow Crash foresaw a massive cyberweb in the early 90s. Online avatars, web chats, big data, apps, digital business; Snow Crash featured it all.

Imagine how your life and biz could have changed if you had taken the author seriously back then.

I’ve just started devouring the new near-future novel by Eliot Peper called Bandwidth . The story deals with climate change, geo-politics, and manipulated news feeds. According to the author, the story is well researched and acts as a warning. Perhaps it inspires you about the future of the data flow:)

3) Remember & foster the ‘core’ values

Apps, websites and tech gimmicks change like shapeshifters, but core values rarely do.
Trust, accountability, punctuality, respectfulness and friendliness will always matter when dealing with human clients. Even the most tech-savvy marketer or entrepreneur will crash and burn if he doesn’t apply the core values.

A little story to illustrate the point:

I’m part of a Berlin-based biz meetup where entrepreneurs and creatives fire each other up. Lara (her name changed for privacy reasons) is a friend of mine. She’s a driven small business owner and was looking for her web redesign. She hired a tech-savvy member for almost 10K. The guy, let’s call him Ben, ended up outsourcing the work he claimed to provide himself. He stopped talking to Lara and failed to finish the project. Apparently, he left Germany and settled in Asia to sip cocktails. Ben, Ben.

Obviously, my friend Lara was furious and filed an action against him. If Ben ever returns to Germany, he’ll have to lawyer up.

The point of the story: the guy wasn’t a stranger. Everyone in the entrepreneur group knew him. Some even recommended him. Ben was tech-savvy and up-to-date, but for some reason, he decided to screw Lara over and destroyed his trust and accountability. Everyone in the group spread the bad news about his disastrous client attitude.

So, when you’re adding secondary skills to your set while learning about future trends, always remember the core values.

Tell me how you plan to stay up-to-date.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

Original illustration by the author.

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