4 Top Tips For a Creative Career

4 Top Tips For a Creative Career

This article first appeared at https://revolutioncreative.co.nz/tips/4-top-tips-for-a-creative-career/

Who feels like a spot of grim reading?!

If you haven’t already, crack open the the Creative New Zealand Profile of Creative Professionals 2019. Taking the results from a 2018 survey, the report says New Zealanders are a determined lot who juggle multiple jobs while maintaining our passion for a creative practice, which on average earns us a lowly $15k a year.

The awesome news is we’re also a bloody optimistic bunch, with over half of us believing there are still plenty of opportunities to sustain a creative career in New Zealand. We are SO in on that jam.

With plenty of possibilities available we recommend taking a deep breath and step back to get your brand and marketing strategy locked down before doing anything: time is precious, work smarter, not harder (or harder, in a smarter way).

When considering doing just this Tanker Creative has a range of tried and true advice we roll out to our creative clients – who include talented artists such as Flox and Michel Tuffery. As we‘re all on the road to creative success together here’s a selection of those recommendations, which we’ve grouped together in the aspirational and wildly dramatic phrase: Stop, Look, Listen and then BURN RUBBER!

1) Stop

Funny this one, you want to earn money? STOP WORKING FOR FREE! There is a value to what you, your peers, competitors and others in the creative industry, provide — so why shouldn’t we all be respected and compensated for it?

Competitions offering “free exposure” or minimal remuneration for creative solutions? All this does is provide a huge choice of free/low cost options for the organisation (and even government “cough flag cough”) running the competition. It devalues the skills of people working in your profession and reinforces the misconception that “anyone could do that”. Competitions are also bad karma in that they are a non-collaborative process that kicks off without a fully engaged client or comprehensive brief. This results in work that doesn’t reach the potential that it could if a more indepth method was used.

Speculative (or “spec”) work is also another one to keep a watch out for, especially in the design field. Alarm bells should be loudly ringing if you’re asked to create work which will only be paid for if the client approves it. You wouldn’t go to Gordan Ramsey and ask him prepare you a five course meal and then only pay if it tasted as you hoped it to.

If you ever do get propositioned for free work, there’s a great flow chart to help assess whether it’s a legit good idea. I have to say there are definitely occasions where you’re free to break these rules: like when your mum asks you to create a garage sale flyer, or that person who gave you their kidney needs a business card. Check it out www.shouldiworkforfree.com

2) Look

Have you got The Look? These days being visible is key! With social media it is easier than ever to connect with your audience and build your networks of global fan-dom.

Make no mistake, there is an audience out there that want to find you; they want to be inspired by your work — and as we see, so very, very often, they’re keen to splash the cash on what you provide.

Our micro-tips on making it easy for people to see you: Get thyself a website domain name—a matchy-matchy email address and social accounts—hook that domain up to an ecommerce website (check out the links below for some options for this) and make your site the central location for your practice. When you post to your socials make sure people can find a link to what you are providing. Create calls-to-action that inspire them into making that important move-of-the-mouse to contact/purchase/subscribe/fund/donate.

And remember that whatever content you create, you have on average 1-3 seconds to grab people’s attention, steer them away from everyone else’s content and towards fuller engagement with you… otherwise they are onto the next best thing.

3) Listen

Can you hear that? Out there is the whispering promise of future opportunities. Tuning into those soundwaves and discovering the people who can mentor, promote, exhibit, support or empower you is key to a successful career trajectory. Participating in communities and identifying strategic alliances will not only continue building your skills, knowledge and experience, it will also expand your profile and credibility. And for bonus points, it’ll generate a feel good factor by helping to foster your artistic field as a whole — plus there’s bound to be some epic freaking party invites you don‘t want to miss out on!

So take a step and initiate a wish list of people working in your field, businesses who might align with you and organisations that advocate and support. For starters you can dig deeper into places such as Creative New Zealand, the supremely kick ass Revolution Creative, the Arts Foundation, and The Big Idea.

4) Burn Rubber

Once you have got all of the above lined up it’s time to BURN RUBBER!

If you want to work full time as a creative you have to treat it as a career. Figure out your overall plan and break it down into SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, Time-Based.

Go for one, three and five year time frames, then from the one year goals create a monthly marketing promo calendar and suss out the specific content that will help you succeed.

Once you are in that mind-set prepare to put the pedal to the metal and go, go, go!

Hungry for more top tips? Sign up to the Tanker Creative bi-monthly newsletter here.


Sweet Links

Creative NZ Profile of Creative Professionals 2019



Creative New Zealand

Revolution Creative

The Big Idea

The Arts Foundation


eCommerce Platforms for Creatives (from simple to complex)







2019 Marketing Promo Planning Calendar

Tanker Creative



Nicola Devine has been involved in Aotearoa New Zealand’s fine arts and creative landscape since the early naughties when she was in the right place at the right time to take up an  opportunity to work with artists and galleries. Since then she has continued to both collaborate with creatives and collect contemporary local art and design with a prominent focus on female practitioners. These days, through her business Tanker Creative, Nicola and her team have joined forces with creative professionals such as Flox, Michel Tuffery, Kushana Bush, Simon Devitt and rising star Matt Payne to consult and manage their brands and online marketing channels.

Tanker’s Social and Web Manager Gemma Syme also contributed to this piece.

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