It’s no secret that breaking into a creative industry is tough — from its highly demanding workload to the amount of competition out there. So, how can we get our foot in the door? We asked seven experts to share their first creative job to look back and learn from their triumphs as well as their mistakes.

1. Jillian Rhein, Creative Services Manager, Tandem Interactive

First job: Digital Marketing / Graphic Design

“You know how they say, ‘it’s all about who you know?’ Well, it couldn’t be truer in this day and age. I acquired my first paid design project through my former 3rd-grade teacher creating promotional marketing materials for an elementary school. So, you never know how past connections can come around in your professional realm later on.”

Challenges

“Some of the challenges I initially faced as a graphic designer starting out was figuring out pricing for my work/designs and invoicing accordingly for every aspect involved in the project like editing and revisions. The in-between tasks that help get you to the final product take time, and time is money”.

“A lesson I learned from the experience was that you need to figure in how much time the project needs and price accordingly. Plus, allow for cushion time because there will be edits or revisions the client will have throughout the process/timeline of the project. Time equals money, and you have to think like a business owner in that sense.”

My best piece of advice

“Stay relevant and abreast of trends because industries and technologies are updating/changing at a new accelerated speed, so you don’t want to get lost in the mix of it all. Do your research and stay inspired. Follow podcasts, read blogs by industry leaders, or join an organization.”

2. Jason Klamm, CEO, StolenDress Entertainment

First job: Video Editing

Signature Video Group Employee

“My alternative high school was kind enough to send me to a computer animation class once a week at a nearby vocational school.  We also learned a bit about video editing. And eventually, when I was 19, shortly after graduation, my video editing teacher recommended me to put together a video about grant writing for a local business.”

Challenges

“I felt in over my head immediately.  I was going from making sketch comedy videos in my barn back home to making a video for a small corporation.  I had to play it by ear, especially when the microphone stopped working, or when running into smaller obstacles.  I had to get over the idea that I wasn’t qualified and realize that every opportunity to create is an opportunity to learn. Realizing that meant that I concentrated on the positives of the immediacy of the whole thing.”

My best piece of advice

“This might be second nature for most people now, but keep making stuff.  When I was getting started, making a video for the web was difficult. The shooting took as long as it does now, but editing was slower and the software was terrible. Uploading took forever, and getting it to a lot of people was hard to do. When it did spread, it was usually by word of mouth because there was no YouTube.  Still, I continued to make videos and comedy albums and took on different roles each time, so that I could learn my strengths, weaknesses, and interests better. Continuing to create gives you greater focus.”

3. Cassie McBlane, Head of Content, Digital Eagles

First job: Creative Copywriter

Signature Video Group Employee

“I did a number of internships throughout university. This got me into my junior job as a creative copywriter at WME Group back in 2014. From there, I progressed to be Head of Content and then moved into Editor in Chief at Newsmodo. From there, I created my own company and now work as a consultant for a number of digital agencies as well.”

Challenges

“The challenges are endless. But these allow you to learn. Learn from those around you who may not be as creative-minded, and are typically technical in nature. You have to compete with your own thoughts and balance client objectives at the same time. The challenges are all centered around pushing yourself to learn and upskill more and more because this industry DOES NOT STOP growing or evolving. Nothing is the same from one day to the next.”

My best piece of advice

“Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Just because something is new, doesn’t mean you have to leave it untouched. Wake up in the morning and learn something you didn’t know yesterday. In the creative field, there’s nothing more important. Even more than that, get your thoughts out on paper before you go to bed — you’ll have a lot of them, and they will keep you up otherwise.”

4. Samuel Tang, Designer and Gemologist, Joy Creations

First job: Custom Jewelry Designer

Stephan

“The client was looking for something very unique and wanted to use old pieces she had as materials because of their sentimental value. She asked a few other companies, but they either don’t want to work with existing materials or the cost was too high for her. She put the project aside for a long time until one day she just happened to walk into our shop.”

Challenges

“Finalizing the design was a challenge, especially as we had a very tight timeline for this. She had to travel somewhere else in two weeks and she had difficulty deciding which direction she would like to go with the design. Luckily with technology, we were able to come up with 3D renderings and print for her to review.”

My best piece of advice

“Don’t be afraid of ‘doing the work and not getting much in return.’ I understand it is hard to do this, especially for small businesses. The first job we did for her didn’t make us much money since she supplied most of the materials, and we spent quite a bit of time with her. However, we gained a customer for life and became her trusted jeweler for everything else she needs. Of course, this might not always happen since some people just need that one job done. But, I always believe in doing the work first and showing people what we can do, then the jobs will keep coming.

Another advice would be to find tools that can help your clients visualize the designs. This is always a challenge since if they are not sure what they will be getting in the end, it is less likely for them to trust you completely.”

5. Ren Wu, Co-Founder, Maniology

First job: Entrepreneurship — selling Hawaiian jewelry on eBay

“I graduated from college and at that time, I was intrigued by the entrepreneur aspect of working for myself.  That’s how I began buying Hawaiian jewelry locally and selling them on eBay.”

Challenges

“I had to learn so much at that time, but it was really fun.  I had no experience at all with the internet other than playing online video games. As you might guess, I was not the only person selling Hawaiian jewelry on eBay.  Therefore, I needed to get creative with how I can take better pictures and write more enticing descriptions than my competitors. “

My best piece of advice

“Find an area that fuels your creativity and also that you can be really good at.  The general rule is that you want to be #1 in your own category. After all, when you get very proficient at something, you will attract positive energy. This will also increase your marketability and demands for your goods or services.“

6. Jakub Kliszczak, Marketing Specialist, CrazyCall

First job: Marketing

“I found the job offer on the web and decided to chase it, even though I had little experience at all.”

Challenges

“I had to learn everything along the way. Even though I got a theoretical knowledge from my own research and learning, every tool that I had to use in practice was a first-timer for me.”

My best piece of advice

“Chase what you love and never think of your job/career as a ‘must-do.’ Also, never chase the bigger paycheque as that’s never going to make you happy (unless you’re in the lowest income bracket). If you master the things you love doing, you’ll become unstoppable.”

7. Davide Ferrari, Actor/Model

First job: Acting

Signature Video Group Employee

“After quitting my job as a lawyer to be an actor, I started auditioning immediately. I went to one of my first auditions with no headshot or resume, despite the casting notice requiring actors to bring both. When the director asked me why I did not have either, I said that I just quit my job, didn’t know any photographers, didn’t have any credits to put on a resume, but that I knew I was talented. The director laughed and said he would let me audition out of pity. I ended up getting the part.”

Challenges

“I had to learn everything along the way. Even though I got a theoretical knowledge from my own research and learning, every tool that I had to use in practice was a first-timer for me.”

My best piece of advice

“Chase what you love and never think of your job/career as a ‘must-do.’ Also, never chase the bigger paycheque as that’s never going to make you happy (unless you’re in the lowest income bracket). If you master the things you love doing, you’ll become unstoppable.”

A creative mind needs to be challenged daily and constantly improving — we can’t settle on a mundane office job that drains our ambitions away. Although it can be an uphill battle at first, it’s important to keep searching to find the right path for you. It’s been done before and it can be done again.

Madelaine Sawyers

Author Madelaine Sawyers

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