What Creatives Can Teach Us At Work (5 min read)

I’m always intrigued by how one succeeds in industries outside of finance. Take the creative sector, it is filled with photographers, designers, artists and directors, surely they need a different ethos to us desk-bound numbers-obsessed financiers. It turns out the fundamentals could be more similar than one would think. I came across a set interviews of “creatives” in a publication produced by “Lecture in Progress”. These interviews were aimed at giving advice to other creatives, but they could just easily work for any industry:

Getting clients to notice you

“Don’t stop working until you get what you want. This may be the most important of all. A lot of people want work to come to them. This doesn’t actually happen. If you want to do what you love for a living, you have to work your very hard. Ninety percent of my workload is emails and keeping myself in the front of my clients’ and future clients’ brains. This means keeping in touch, writing emails, sending newsletters, posting on Instagram, going to openings and events, plus supporting your friends and peers. Half of staying busy is reminding people you exist” (Cait Opperman, photographer)

“I’ve made the mistake of being too pushy in the past. I can now see that everything happens when it’s meant to and you have to wait for the right opportunity to come along. It’s not worth investing the time in trying to convince the wrong people that you’re right for a project” (Pali Palavathanan, graphic designer)

Impressing clients

“Show up early. This is big and it’s also easy. First impressions are everything and showing up late is an easy way to sabotage a good thing. Plan ahead and be the first to a meeting, it’s the easiest way to not upset someone” (Cait Oppermann, photographer)

“I think, above anything else, a designer has to have empathy . Bob Gill [legendary designer] always says if you’re doing something for a launderette, go and actually sit in the launderette. You have to understand your client, what they do or what their audience is, does, or needs” (Craig Oldham, creative director)


“I’m not a believer in the group brainstorm. I think a lot of the best creative work gets done in isolation.  Having said that, it is incredibly important to get together at regular intervals and share work, have it critiqued and make sure it’s heading in the right direction. We all have something new to bring to each other’s ideas “ (Oliver Tyrrell, Design Director)

“We all brainstorm individually and then bring our ideas to the table. The most important thing when working as a team is to be able to push your ego to the side- it allows for the best ideas to flourish”Moth (London Animation studio)


“I make mistakes on an hourly basis, but I encourage that. Mistakes are stigmatised as being unprofessional…but being creative is about experimenting and doing stuff to see what happens. It’s falling off your bike and getting up again” (Craig Oldham, creative director)

“I started my first job before I left university – a book cover for Random House. I remember a graduate telling me that everyone hates the work they produce on their first job. They were right and it was not a success. But despite it technically being a failure I don’t regret it at all, because I realised that the world does not end if you make bad work” (Sarah Maycock, illustrator)

“[In my job] you become very good at not getting attached to one idea, as it will often change a hundred times before a production is signed off” (Laura Galligan, creative producer for photography)


“Perfectionism is crippling so remember you’ll learn more by finishing a job on time than by overworking or abandoning it. Deadlines are the perfect antidote to perfectionism. Don’t expect things to happen right away, it takes time and lots of work to get good” (Andrew Rae, illustrator)

“Have a belief in what you do, the confidence to back that up, and the work ethic to get things out there. I think bravery is so much rarer than talent. Talent is everywhere, but not everyone is prepared to push and apply it” (Craig Oldham, creative director)

“[My biggest challenge has been] confidence. No amount of self-education, hours of practice or effort can make up for an underlying belief in your own ability. Much of what we aim for in  good design comes from a place of intuition that can be hard to fully articulate. Not everything can be explained with logic and confidence goes hand in hand with intuition. It took me a long time to figure this out.”(Oliver Tyrrell, design director)

“Aim high –  once you have a well-respected company or brand on your CV, it will open doors. Trust me” (Roxy Rafter, project manager)

“Get experience and put in the graft. Don’t try and do everything yourself. Work with people better than you. Get comfortable with presenting and steering meetings. On my travels I came across a brilliant quote  ‘your ego is not your amigo’ and I think that’s good advice to live by “(Pali Palavathanan, graphic designer)

 Working with others

“Be gracious to all your suppliers and freelancers. These relationships are vital to project management. Keep them on side.” (Roxy Rafter, project manager)

“Find people that can help or inspire you, whether a group of friends, a community, or someone in the industry” (Abbie Stephens, Film Director)

“When we’re recruiting, the main criteria for us is that someone shares our interest and care for the work, and above all, that they are a nice person to be around.” Moth (London Animation studio)

“Don’t be afraid to ask lots of people for their advice” (Roshini Goyate, copywriter)

“Be nice and grateful to people but don’t let them step on you. Don’t be arrogant, it might take you somewhere momentarily but not for long” (Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, illustrator)

“[Advice to a young creative wanting to become a production designer] Be a really good assistant, prove yourself invaluable and save up to buy a car” (Anna Rhodes, Production Designer)

Getting clients to pay

“Be grateful but get paid. Creatives are often taken advantage of and time after time, people try to sway freelancers to work for free with meaningless words like ‘exposure’ and ‘opportunity’. You don’t ask your lawyer to work for free or the person who does your taxes. Your job is a real job” (Cait Oppermann, photographer)

“[Our biggest challenge is] dealing with difficult clients. Often people want a lot out of you without realising the cost implications, or they let you down and refuse to compensate for the time you have worked. Unfortunately these scenarios will always play out, no matter how big or small you are. What you learn is how to protect yourself, so that when it happens you are less affected by it. You also learn to take things less personally “(Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, animator)

Play as well work

“I have learnt that you need to allow yourself recharge time. When you’re running on empty, it’s easy to make bad decisions. Another thing is to trust your gut instinct, it’s always right” (Laura Galligan, creative producer for photography)

“Leave work at 7pm and do something fun. Things you do outside of work feed your work and your ideas. Always take holidays” (Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, animator)

 And finally, even creatives have this problem…

“Collating receipts is my absolute pet hate” (Laura Galligan, creative producer for Photography)


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