What are you meant to do?
What’s holding you back from making your dreams a reality? There’s one thing that I know for sure: If you continually make excuses, there’s always going to be something that’s holding you back because life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. The best way to learn is to take chances, challenge yourself (and to learn from your mistakes).
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want the next steps for my business to be. Looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t wait to get started. I began developing the beginnings of my brand back in high school — my alias back then was slightly different but the color schemes and message had started to take shape. If I’d had more access to the internet and known other designers back in the late 90s, it probably would have moved along much faster and I probably wouldn’t have second-guessed myself so much. Kids these days have a much more defined view of the world! I began taking the idea of running my own business more seriously when I presented Nubbytwiglet.com as my senior project in college. I made a mini business plan, included mock-ups of products I wanted to develop and mood boards of graphics I wanted to create (I actually found this while cleaning out my office the other night!)
How do you get started on your desired path?
This is tricky because everyone defines success differently and there’s no surefire formula to hit your goals. It’s important to make learning your mission. Buy books and read blogs on your chosen subject. Find a mentor and make contact with like-minded folks. Apply to as many internships as possible and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most professionals were in your position once and will hopefully be flattered that you’re seeking their advice. I’m lucky that so many people were willing to give me a chance early on and offer guidance.
One of the most common mistakes people make when they consider branching out on their own is telling themselves that there’s just too much competition. They convince themselves that the market is too flooded with their specific talent. If you embrace this mentality, you’ll always feel stuck. One of the points I make to students when I give my Freelance 101 presentation is to embrace what makes you unique; you should never be afraid to show your true self. The design world is becoming increasingly competitive and though there’s always going to be someone that’s more skilled than you, it’s important to increase your value by adding your own unique spin. For example, when I first launched this blog in 2007, I was afraid that sharing my outfit posts and content that was not directly related to design would mean that I’d be taken less seriously as a designer. But what I soon realized though is that by leaving these elements out, I was hiding a huge part of who I was. Because I opened up and shared my interest in fashion, I was able to gain many clients that wanted a more style-driven look including Forever 21 and Nike.
I’m noticing that interns these days are having to work harder than ever. A weak economy and a flood of fresh graduates shouldn’t be a deterrent though. When I applied for my first internship, it took me two whole months of emails and phone calls to even get an interview. I only had one year of community college completed and let’s face it — I knew the basics and that was it. I still did anything and everything I possibly could to be of value and that attitude paid off. You have to want what you’re after badly enough and in the process, you will be tested and stretched to your limits but this is how you learn and grow. Seek out as many internships as possible; they’re a low pressure way to learn the ropes and to decide if the day-to-day reality of your profession is a good fit.
What are you waiting for?
The bottom line is that there’s always going to be someone that’s more skilled, better connected and in possession of a fancier portfolio and website but I promise you that this isn’t everything. If you embrace what makes you unique, have a positive, can-do attitude and are determined to do whatever it takes to break into your chosen industry, chances are that you will go far. Stay positive, stay strong and lastly, start your journey now. DON’T WAIT. Do what you’re meant to do.