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8 Things I Would Tell Myself If I Was Starting Out As A Designer Today

I’ve been working in the creative industry for some time now and when I look back I realise I’ve had many opportunities to learn new things and really grow as a person. I love my job, I love what I do and love the people I do it with. It brings me a huge sense of happiness to be creative every day and I have to try very hard to not be such smug prick about it. But it hasn’t always been an easy, happy-happy fun time. Along with the high-highs I’ve had, I’ve gone through some darker patches wrought with anxiety, heartache, and depression. My choice for a creative career has cost me in certain ways and had I known some of the things I know now, a few of those blows that hit me might have been softened a little (or not affected me nearly as much as they did). This is why I wrote this post. In a way it’s to myself, to take stock of the journey I’ve traveled so far and re-learn what I now know. Hopefully, others can learn from my fumbles and mistakes too. 1) Take Advice Given Online With A Pinch Of Salt

Some advice will be helpful, some will be inspiring but some, without the author realising (trying to excuse myself here), will be harmful. Never take any and all advice at its word and always remember that everyone has had different experiences of the industry which will colour their perception of what new designers should be doing. Sometimes you have to try something to know whether it has any validity. 2) Keep Learning, And Learn To Step Away Sometimes

Never stop learning in your career and life. Learn at work, take the time to practice and try new things at home, hone your craft, but it's also just as important to know when to rest and take some time pursuing other interests. Don’t sacrifice sleep or throw out maintaining a healthy social life in order to stay up late every night doing another tutorial. There is a world out there and getting out and seeing it will make your work better as opposed to crunching eighteen hours a day in a vacuum. 3) When You Do Get Your Shot, You Won’t Realise It’s A Shot

Some projects will lead to nowhere, some will be lucrative for a little while, but it takes just one project to send you on your way in the right direction. You won’t know which one will be that one so treat every opportunity with openness, professionalism, and always try to do your best. A project you do now may serve you five years down the line in ways you didn’t expect. Be very, very wary of clients not willing to sign contracts and the ones not willing to discuss budgets with you, and work for free only at your own risk. You can't pay your bills with 'exposure.' 4) Protect Your Own IPs

Some of your own personal projects might become viable products one day which is why it is a good idea to take steps in protecting them. There are people who will want what you have created and use it for their own gain so knowing about intellectual copyright is a good thing. If your potential product needs another person to help get it up and running, you have to be careful with whom you choose to collaborate and share it with. Don’t be sold on a potential collaborator’s enthusiasm alone and only sign away what you’re willing to lose. If you work for a big company already, check in your contract where their reach of ownership for Intellectual Property begins and ends. It is a matter of legal integrity, respect, and professionalism to do this with your employer before undergoing a venture outside of hours. In my experience though, big companies generally aren't interested in stealing your ideas as they have their own products and IPs they make money from, but what is legally theirs is theirs. 5) Save Money

There will be times where work will be slow, or clients will be slow paying or, worse case, you get made redundant or fired. To prevent these times becoming more stressful than they already are, make sure to have a buffer in your bank account. A general rule of thumb is to have six month’s worth of bills, rent and living expenses to hand but, if you can stockpile more, all the better. If you have to dip into it, replenish it the moment you can and use this stash only for this purpose. 6) Getting Fired Fucking Sucks And Will Really Hurt… But It’s Not The End

Assuming that you haven’t been let go for misconduct, these things can happen and can seemingly come from nowhere. When and if they do, it can really hurt. If this is the case, after you have left the company take some time to heal and process what has happened. Learn what you can from it and move on. Find a company who will appreciate you for what you’re good at and one that will treat you with respect. It will take some time to feel that getting fired is a good thing for your career, but when you come to that realisation, the sense of relief it will bring you is immense. 7) Always Own Your Mistakes

Face up to your blunders if they are brought to light, and then apologise if they inconvenience your colleagues or others. If you know that you have made a mistake somewhere, and can fix it before it moves to the next person in the production pipeline, fix it. People respect you more if you are honest and do this. People don’t respect excuses or trying to pass the blame onto others. If you own up to an error, generally it can be sorted and corrected very quickly anyway and things can keep moving forward. Hidden errors have a way of surfacing on their own anyway so it's best to just face them and learn from them. 8) Never Be Too Proud To Ask For Help

What stops you from asking for help when you’re stuck? Ego. There is no shame in saying “hey, I’m stuck, please help me.” The times I have stopped and asked for help have always seen my work take a massive leap forward after a little bit of insight from a fresh pair of eyes. Even if you’re years into your career there will still come a time when you need a helping hand. There is an old Chinese proverb that goes: He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. Ask for help. Learn from others. Always be open to suggestions but also, learn not to take on too many suggestions at once. Find some people you trust and ask them instead of trying to look to a crowd for wisdom. Thanks for reading. If you have any career lessons you'd like to share, please do so in the comments below. Lloyd Harvey

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