Adversity; we’ve all been there — who hasn’t?

Sometimes it becomes tough to believe in anything positive. When feeling hopeless how can you possibly take that feeling and really Create Awesome?

Well, let’s talk about a few:

  1. Get around some positive people. Your surroundings mean so much when trying to Create Awesome, when you’re trying to get out of the funk, when you’re trying to get rolling again. Get around some people who will not just tell you that everything is okay but also be a support system for when you do have those ideas to act on.
  2. Go on a quiet walk. And more importantly, while on that walk bring along some positive affirmations. This takes effort! It will feel silly, but you must talk to yourself. Tell yourself: “I can do it!”, “I am worth it!”, “I am going to make it!”. Say it with conviction! Even if it’s fake at first keep doing it! Just keep doing it! Then, sit in silence. Whether you’re in a park or on a trial with the beautiful fall leaves & crisp air, just sit there and take in the beautiful surroundings. Take it in and know that everything is going to be alright! Because it will be alright.
  3. Just Create Awesome. Do something. Whether it’s for your own passions and ideas or for someone else. Doing tasks that propel you forward in the direction of your ambitions will make you feel amazing. Celebrate each and every success. Be happy about it, no matter how small, it is worth being joyous about. Create Awesome for others. Those moments will also make you feel good. To help others is to help yourself and to help yourself is to help others.

Create Awesome and adversity will soon become Awesome. Just keep the positive affirmations and the positive company and your life will become awesome again. Just dedicate yourself  to that which you care about the most and keep moving forward!

One of the things that many creatives who fly solo struggle with is meeting deadlines, even if this comes to their personal goals. Execution is important, but being timely is a real concern. 80% on time will always be better than 100% late. When you are freelancing, one of the pitfalls is a lack of accountability. You don’t have someone you are directly answerable to.

A way around this is to find Accountability Partners. These are others you can share your goals with, while not worrying about jeopardizing your business. Typically these will be close friends, family or colleagues.

Create Awesome Challenge #1

Find your Accountability Partners. Find people who you can trust and who will help you stay on task. They are not just supposed to give you reminders about your deadlines, but genuinely inquire as to the progress and help you move forward if you’re stuck. You also have to be willing and able to do the same for them in return.

Ideally you will want to have 3-4 Accountability partners, so that you can always be sure there will be someone to rake you over the coals if you drop the ball. This will help you stay focused and build more discipline if that is something you struggle with.

If there is something else you are struggling with, let me know in the comments section or feel free to twee at me @robertoblake.

Personal Branding is more important than it has ever been for your career, freelance business and your life. I don’t care if you want work for someone for the rest of eternity… you need a personal brand. The job market is isn’t exactly stable or reliable. A Personal Brand positions you for the next job, and can give you an income in between jobs, or let you quit a job you hate and do something you love.

You Think Personal Branding Won’t Help You?

You can’t sleep on this. You need to take action and build your Personal Brand if you intend to secure your future. You can ignore this advice, you can think that it doesn’t apply to you. But I want to tell you a bit of my own story… while many of my contemporaries are frustrated every morning when they wake up, I look forward to each and everyday. I work for a boss I love (me), I do work for amazing people, and I make a good living. You may think that 2 paychecks a month is stable and consistent income…

How about 10 or 20? I don’t say this to brag or toot my own horn.

I say this to overcome your resistance to the idea that this is too good to be true.

I’m not the most creative or talented person in my industry or in anything that I do. I’m not even a professional writer, nor do I have a degree in it. This year I will have made over $10K just from writing. With no degree in film or video production, I built a YouTube channel back in summer of 2013 that now has over 45,000 subscribers and has help established me as an authority and industry expert across multiple creative disciplines. It also has produced a substantial amount of revenue, between advertising, brand deals, merchandise and referral business for consulting and design clients.

My personal brand has brought me everything from paid sponsorships, to new clients, to speaking opportunities. It has also brought me some tremendous relationships and helped me build a community and make a difference in the lives of others.

I’m not holding back any secrets to success here. What may be natural to me, may be an intensive process or new information to you, and that is perfectly fine. We’re all here to learn together. If you feel that there is something that you need information on I encourage you to ask me about it. If you want to know what tools or resources I’m using to produce my results, I’m not keeping that a secret either, I spell it out in the resources section of this website, and I constantly advocate for those products and brands in social media since they helped me become successful.

I’ve gone so far as to give a Free 1 Hour Webinar with a 30 minute Q&A that covers point by point the importance of a Personal Brands as well actionable advice for how you can begin to develop yours and what resources you need.

Recommended Books on Personal Branding
Professional Presence: http://amzn.to/1Pa5BeT
Crush It (Gary Vaynerchuk) http://amzn.to/1DNyOvG
YOU INC http://amzn.to/1MqlOPr
The Brand Called You http://amzn.to/1ILdzcB
Conference Crushing http://amzn.to/1L9cxee

Creativity can be difficult for any graphic designer, but when you work exclusively in one industry it can be even more challenging. I’ve been working solely within the Pet Industry for over 20 months, and I’ve learned that I need to replenish my creative spirit frequently to stay engaged and creative. I love my niche graphic design business, but that doesn’t mean that your creative batteries can’t be drained by something you enjoy. So here are my top 5 tips for staying creative in your niche.

 

  1. Study Your Niche

 

Look at what’s popular or common for graphic design in your niche through searching online. This may sound counterintuitive since you want to be creative and not mimic others. But I find looking at current industry trends makes me think of how that concept could be better executed or a different concept that might communicate the same thing. Sometimes putting yourself in a box can make you far more creative in trying to work out of it.

 

  1. Experience Your Niche

 

Nothing beats real life experience in understanding your niche and staying inspired in it. Since my niche is the pet industry, I take time to play with my dog or do some other activity with him. Refreshing my mind with the experience and emotions of those activities reminds me what I’m trying to convey to my client’s target markets. If your niche was the food industry, go out to eat somewhere that you really enjoy the food, or try out a new place. If you can’t take that time, watch some videos on YouTube. Whatever industry, take some time to immerse yourself in it and write down your experience and feelings.

 

  1. Consume Things that Evoke Similar Emotions to Your Niche

 

I find this super helpful. For example, when I was working on a playful logo for a pet groomer I found a lot of inspiration from watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I’m not a huge fan of the show, but it’s animated well and conveys the messages that my client’s target market would respond to. No judgement. Inspiration can come from anywhere!

 

  1. Do Projects Outside Your Niche

 

No matter how much you love something, it can feel a bit stale after a while. By doing projects outside of your niche from time to time you can remember why you love the one you’re in. I try to regularly do things for my fellow designers as my outside of niche projects. I feel good helping others and it’s a productive break. After I spend a while thinking with my business person/niche graphic designer brain I love coming back to my “I love pets” brain.

 

  1.  Interact with People in Your Niche

 

Chatting with pet business owners, learning about their challenges and priorities gives me a clearer picture of their perspective. While we design for their target market, understanding the day in & day out of the businesses we work with gives us an additional dimension of understanding. This may not garner inspiration for everyone but the more I understand the types of businesses I work with, the easier it is to solve whatever problem they need fixing. To me design is one way of solving problems in business. One that can be quite effective if the problem is well understood.

 

I hope this tips will help you with staying creative in your niche. Still struggling or just want to chat? Feel free to reach out to me on my website or on my social media channels in the author description below. Talk to you soon, and remember it’s good to go niche!

Creativity is a lifestyle rather than just a matter of talent or skill. This is why no matter how talented or experienced you are you can experience burnout or creative blocks from time to time. Maintaining your Creative Lifestyle properly is important to take into consideration and make a priority. This is something even I struggle with from time to time.

Maintaining Creativity and Inspiration

Staying in a place where you can feel inspired and motivated to create is something that can be difficult if you’re not balancing your Creative Lifestyle properly. You have to consume creative content, whether this is books, music, movies or actual experiences and adventures.

You should also try to surround yourself with other creative people who you can collaborate with or use as a sounding board for your ideas.

Maintaining Physical Health

You have to maintain your health, bottom line. If you don’t you won’t be able to create things effectively and you won’t be happy with the work you’re doing because it is putting a strain on your body. Here are some of the ways creatives tend to neglect their health and abuse their bodies:

  • Working too long in front of a computer screen and straining their eyes
  • Not stretching and getting enough blood circulation
  • Neglecting to eat regular meals with proper nutrition
  • Not getting enough fresh air and sunlight
  • Failing to get enough rest each night, maybe 6-8 hours

You have to take care of yourself if you want to do your best work and not burn out. Stamina is important in the long run and you’ll need to keep your energy up, particularly if you’re going to work long hours.

Maintain Your Mental Health

Stress can have a negative impact on your work and even make you feel like quitting all together. Try to keep unhealthy stress to a minimum and identify people and situations that cause you unnecessary stress and anxiety. Adopt positive habits that allow you to maintain a happy state of mind. This can be upbeat and positive music, having interactions with positive people and doing things that you enjoy on a regular basis.

Challenge Yourself To Do New Things

Don’t limit your creative growth. Take on new things and learn new things as often as possible. Speaking of which, today’s Create Awesome Challenge is to tell me about the awesome thing you created this week, reach out and tell me about it via Twitter @robertoblake

CSAT Podcast 007: Should You Ever Work For Free?

Creatives like photographers, designers, writer and artists are approached sometimes to do free work or work in exchange for exposure.

This is a very important and controversial topic in the Creative Community. I feel that there are situations where it is appropriate, but I think that in most situations it should be the Creator who initiates it. I think that when companies ask for free work they are not valuing Creatives appropriately if they don’t find a meaningful way to compensate them.

When you’re just starting out as a creative you may be tempted to offer you work for free to get your feet wet, build your body of work and prove your value. The problem is that sometimes this leads to people taking advantages of you. Avoid clients who propose this when they engage you for services. It is one thing for you to offer your services for free, it is another for them to ask. Bartering, or trading is an exception to this as they are not asking for something in exchange for nothing…

When Is It Okay To Do Free Work?

If you are going to work for free, the first people you should offer this to are friends, family and people who have already invested in you and supported you. It is a great way to say thank you, know that they will appreciate what you’re doing and it is a good way to have a positive client experience and develop good/positive relationship habits.

Sometimes it’s okay to do it because you want to help someone that you know is going to do something positive in the world or you just want to make their day, especially a young person. I do this myself from time to time and I feel that it is a great way to invest in someone else. It was done for me at some point in my life, so I feel good paying it forward…

When Is It Not Okay To Do Free Work?

Many people have made the argument that if they want to do work for free and not charge people that is their right and their business. While on some level I can appreciate their argument… it’s a selfish argument. When people do that the are taking money and business away from people that actually need it.

If you love doing something as a hobby, don’t do give it to “clients” that someone else could be charging and appropriate fee to. Give it to a friend or family member or keep it to yourself if you don’t want to charge. You are literally hurting other people by giving it away.

This applies to active services and things that have a cost associated with them.

I give away free content and resources to create value for other people and from a marketing standpoint you could also do this to create interest in your paid offerings.  There is nothing wrong with a “Free Sample”.

You also shouldn’t let a client pressure you into doing work for free, or an employer if it is outside of the scope of your job duties or after hours. Many creatives make the mistake of doing side projects or extra work for free, giving up their own time or resources on the behalf of people who are not going to compensate them or appreciate them. Never allow yourself to be bullied in this way or taken advantage of.

Value yourself and respect your work enough to walk away from the situations. If you don’t feel you are in a position to do so, create a scenario where you are next time.

Recommended Reading for Creatives

Knowing how to handle yourself as a creative professional can be rough and while I try to put out as much content as I can, the truth is sometimes I don’t have all the answers… here is some recommended reading from bookshelf. There may be some information or advice in here that will make all the difference for you:

Freelancer’s Bible: http://amzn.to/1M28nne
Creative INC: http://amzn.to/1UV9id3
Show Your Work: http://amzn.to/1Hqtts8
Manage Your Day to Day: http://amzn.to/1UV9EAk
Make Your Mark: http://amzn.to/1SjyCW7

Create Awesome Challenge!

Create Value for Someone Without Them Asking You To! Find someone who you genuinely care about and want to invest in, someone who is doing something worthwhile that you think is Awesome! Offer them your time your talent and you sense of care and consideration. Take a look at the difference it makes in their life and the impact you had. See if you don’t feel more empowered and really think about how being able to have the luxury of making a difference for some made you feel. I honestly have had the experience of it making me appreciate the value of my abilities even more, and helped me be comfortable asking for what I truly believe I’m worth.

Create Something Awesome Today Podcast: 006 Breaking Through Creative Blocks. Creative blocks can challenge all of us whether we are writing, doing photography, art or design.

It’s important to feed your creativity and break out of habits that might end up holding you back.
Stretch your creative muscles and feed your creativity by trying new things and having new experiences.

CSAT Podcast: 005- Is Creativity Undervalued?

Is Creativity Undervalued? In many cases it is by the general public as well as clients/employers. Most of this has to do with not being educated about what Creative professionals do. Its very hard to value something you don’t understand. And in an age where people feel that tools and technology are more responsible for the results than the human beings behind the gadget, it is an uphill battle. But Creatives also have a responsibility to educated people appropriately.

On the other side of this, sometimes as creators we prioritize creativity and the expense of consistency or context. Sometimes a designer or photographer will worry more about getting something cool for the book, than what the client actually really needs from them. This can be a problem. I feel there is a way to balance your needs as a Creative, with doing what is best for the relationship and the project. I explore these ideas in today’s episode of the Create Something Awesome Today Podcast!

If you are looking to get new clients, then you need to really think about your search and discovery strategy. While a lot of this comes down to having a Website there are some other options available to you as well.

How many of you have portfolio on Behance? Does anyone have a blog? You really should be using these things to your advantage. Every platform is an opportunity to network with potential clients.

Also don’t underestimate getting out from behind the computer and putting yourself out there.

Something that has helped me personally as been my blog, and my YouTube channel and now the new Podcast. But I also go to events and network with people on a regular basis.

I turn every interaction into an opportunity. This doesn’t mean always pitching people, it means being interesting, not being afraid to generate a relationship out of thin air, and then giving them my business card.

When they can’t give me one back, have a micro conversation on how important they are and the fact they should really get one and use it to get people to their website after they meet them….

“But I don’t have a website…” You absolutely need one. Let’s meet up for coffee in a week, but give me a call tomorrow they are so much more affordable than people imagine and I’ll help you figure it out..

Do you see what happened there? Potential print work, possible logo design on the table and branding…. website pitch… all by being able to talk to a stranger.

Over the course of the year, helping someone build a visual brand from scratch can be a $2000-$5000 relationship.

That means generating 20-50 strong relationships a year puts you at being a 6 Figure designer…. something most people can’t imagine.

It boils down to empathy, hustle, guts and MATH.

You can’t always find those 20-50 relationships locally. That is why networking well online, traveling a bit, setting up not only on online presence but an infrastructure and strategy are so important.

I get 10+ projects a month. I don’t think I’m supremely talented as a designer, so that is not the reason. It’s that I’m very visible, and the funny thing about it is that is cost me next to $0.

I want everyone who reads this to comment below and tell me and the group how you plan to execute on this information over the next 30-90 days. If you’re struggling with clients and you actually do execute on this within that time frame, the struggle shouldn’t be as real anymore.

You would think someone who graduated 8 years ago with a Bachelor’s in Visual Communications (Graphic Design) would be well on their way to being an accomplished graphic designer working for a big agency, in-house designer for a Fortune 500 company or even running a successful freelance business. Well that is not the case for me and many others like me that came out of design school ready to make the world a more attractive place.

 

 Reality quickly set in for me when I discovered how darn competitive and saturated the graphic design industry was. I had no clue coming out of school it would be like this and from talking to my fellow school mates neither did they. To add salt to the wound the globalization and the emergence of crowdsourcing, contest sites and other online sweatshops, things are harder than ever.

 

 Like many graduates I felt overwhelmed with such limited opportunities and because the economy was going through a recession these jobs were really hard to come by. With no success I decided to explore other avenues outside of graphic design. I can’t blame everything on the economy or the job market I also lacked confidence needed to compete with the rest of these job seekers. I always told myself I would jump back on the horse as soon as the right opportunity came by but the only thing that came by was the years and the student loan bills.

 

 I continued to take on a few side projects a month to soothe my creative and artistic itch but the older I got the more uneasy I felt about the fact that I am was not doing what I love and that is what my graphic design mentor Roberto Blake coined “Create Awesome”.  Although my dream is to some day run my own design practice the important thing right now is to do what I love. It’s either continue to work towards my dream or possibly live a life of regret. I have children and I always tell them to follow their dreams and I no longer want to feel like a hypocrite so it is important that I lead by example. My advice to anyone pursuing a career in graphic design is only do it if you love it because this is no place for someone who just want’s to make a living doing pretty things.

 

 To be a successful graphic designer in this day in age means being a sales oriented creative and business-minded which are many of the things traditional graphic designers dread and why they decided to pursue a creative career in the first place.

 

It is important to keep working on your craft and don’t expect a degree to move you towards the front of the line because in this field those hiring graphic designers only care about your ability to produce results but there are many that can produce results as well so you have to differentiate yourself even further.

 

 If you want to stand out from other job seekers you better be dynamic and bring more to the table than just good design. With so many applying for these few graphic design openings it is only natural they’re going to hire the most versatile applicants.

 

 Graphic designers need to learn marketing not just to add this to their resume of skills and impress potential employers but to market themselves. Marketing for graphic designers is no longer just for freelancers and those that run their own practice but a way to stand out from the rest of the applicants. It shows employers that you are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and a go getter along with confidence and leadership.

 

 Resumes and even portfolios only give you a small look into what a person can do and who they are so companies, agencies and clients are looking for that edge and filter the mass amount of applicants. Naturally those that are more active in the field by using platforms like social media, youtube videos, blogs, podcasts, etc. will stand out more than the mysterious applicant on a piece of paper. This is the way the world is moving whether we like it or not, or whether we think it’s right or wrong. In a saturated field like graphic design you better stand out or be left behind.

 

 

 

CSAT Podcast: 003- Staying Motivated as a Creative

 

Finding and maintaining your motivation as a creative person can be challenging. It’s one of the more difficult things that designers, and other creatives had to deal with in their life and work. It’s important to take responsibility for this and position yourself to have the outcomes that you want. Start your day with things that will inspire and motivate you. Set goals that will allow you to create the great experiences you want to have that day. Intentions do matter. You have to set your intentions towards having an awesome day, and this could mean any number of things: It could be that you will consider the day a good day if you accomplish a specific thing, or you could promise yourself a rewarding experience later in the day if you meet certain conditions.

 

You have give yourself an incentive for being positive. It doesn’t matter whether you are the type of person that sees the glass half full or half empty, take the opportunity think of how you can fill up the glass. Fill that void, create that value for yourself and other people.

 

While it is great if you have people that motivate and inspire you, it is not their responsibility to do so, it’s yours. Granted they should want to do that, since it would be a way they could “Create Awesome” and there is the obvious upside of them getting more value from you as a result, but you can’t rely on or expect this to be the norm. You have to schedule time to consume inspiration and motivation for yourself and make it a priority and part of your process and habits.

CSAT Pocast 002: Finding a Mentor

Finding a mentor can be extremely important. Having someone to help you set goals and to represent what is possible can give you motivation and direction in your life and career. Mentoring is something that is unfortunately very rare within Creative Services, even within companies. Often a Creative will find themselves without someone in the company that represents their next step or their end game, particularly In-house Creatives who may not have an Art Director or Senior person supervising them, but instead some general mid-level manager.

 

But don’t despair, there is hope! Technology has made mentoring a scalable and virtual experience. By shadowing successful mentors online you have choice instead of just being limited to the best person you have physical access to. You can learn from the most successful people in your industry, or someone with a similar background or lifestyle. While this means you may not have direct access to them, it is no less valuable to be able to consume their content and adopt their mentality and approach to your own process.

 

Whether you want to be an entrepreneur, a photographer, filmmaker, writer or graphic designer; there are mentors putting out content that will be helpful to you and sharing their life journey. Many of them do interact with their followers through social media, such as Twitter and YouTube specifically.

 

Also, many Creatives fail to realize they have the opportunity to be a mentor to someone else. Whatever you feel you are lacking in experience, there is likely someone out there who can benefit from the knowledge you do have, so I would encourage you to share as much as possible and to pass on the value of what you have learned.

 

Who knows if that one piece of advice or content might change someone’s entire life?

Episode 001: Create Something Awesome Today!

Welcome the first every episode of the Create Something Awesome Today Podcast! Yes I know that title is a mouthful!

But I didn’t want to cheat you by not giving you that message as often and as clearly as possible. Creating Something Awesome Today, each and every single day can change your life sooner rather than later. Here is short list of the benefits of Creating Something of Value that you’re proud of each day:

 

Benefits of Creating Awesome Each Day

  • You can easily measure the value of your time via a meaningful result each day.
  • It makes breaking down large goals easier and can even help you achieve them more quickly.
  • If you are creating products this could mean that you are building up your inventory and revenue.
  • If you are creating content this can dramatically help you grow and audience or build a reputation.
  • When taking on large scale creative projects they can become less daunting.
  • It can encourage you in terms of feeling like the day wasn’t a total waste if you created something you care about.
  • When creating awesome experiences and relationships, this can have a deep and lasting impact on your life.
  • In terms of your skills, creating something each day could help you get faster at producing meaningful results.

 

Part of how I Create Awesome each and every day currently is through the content I put out on YouTube and also via social media platforms.

This allows me to Create Value for other people but also a meaningful result I care about, builds my reputation and body of work and allows me to become faster and more savvy across multiple skills such as SEO, Video Editing, Social Media and Content Marketing. Obviously there is also the benefit of passive income from the advertising associated with the content.

Creating Something Awesome can ultimately mean what you want it to mean. It could be creating great content, it could be creating great experiences for everyone you encounter or it could even be creating new relationships. The important thing here is to spend every day creating the value that you want to bring to the world and being satisfied with something you’ve done at the end of each day. This will help you stay encouraged and also allow you to quantify your progress, something that can really help your self esteem and sense of worth. It also will potentially build positive habits that will make you more productive and accountable.

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