1. Live With NO PLAN B
Decide on your goal and stick to it no matter what. Come hell or high water you stick to it and figure out a solution. No matter what bills are late, no matter who hates what you do, no matter how far away your destination may seem. If you give yourself room to fail, chances are, you’ll fail.
2. Work 10 Times Harder Than Your Peers
I’ve been steadily building my client base and portfolio as a freelancer for almost a decade, and I’ve seen the same thing happen again and again: someone with the dream of being a business guru watches hours of YouTube videos and Googles a few articles. Then he struggles for a few months (or a few years) handing out business cards and promoting his “specialty,” until he finally gives up, blaming others for his failures.
Talent and a quick Internet search aren’t always enough to succeed. Googling Adobe Illustrator tutorials can help an aspiring graphic designer learn how to use the software, but it can’t give them the patience and confidence to cold call and email 300 potential clients a day. Wikipedia can’t give an up-and-coming freelancer the stamina to work 20 hours a day on his or her craft or give a producer the guts to move to LA to hustle beats.
My advice to anyone looking to create a company or freelance for a living is to bring back the art of hard work. When you think you’ve read enough articles, read 100 more. Branch outside of your comfort zone and put in those extra hours. Don’t be afraid of trial and error; it’s a fundamental part of growth. Say yes to every opportunity that gives you a chance to learn something new, even if you’re not sure how it will end up. Do not give up; giving up is a sure way to guarantee that you’ll never succeed.
The most important thing is to be honest with yourself and with everyone around you. Your goal is to grow your company, and you can’t do that unless you tell people that this is new for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; more people will be supportive if you’re open about your progress. Remember, most people are here to help you, not to judge you. You’ll face the harshest critics if you pretend to be something that you’re not.
3. Your Originality Matters
Today, most of the content creators I come across believe they should copy another winning players formula. The idea for many is, for example, by copying Beyonce’s surprise album releases, or duplicating Carly Bybel’s YouTube playlist, or modeling Vice media’s immersive journalism style, they’ll achieve a level of similar success. They come into my studio excited and anxious to begin carrying out this supposed award-winning strategy that to them is an obvious “no brainer.” I see them working and posting online, diligent and loyal to their marketing strategy. However, about a month or two into the process I start to see things slow down and they’re no longer posting as much, their YouTube views aren’t growing fast enough and their website isn’t getting hits. They speak to me again, months later; their optimism and idealism have been replaced with an overwhelming cynicism and pessimism. What went wrong?
Most up and coming brands tend to judge their success or failure around our generations obsession with overnight celebrity. This causes them to set unrealistic goals of achievement for themselves based on this idea of instant fame. Our culture is less worried about originality because in our minds the end justifies the means. Copying someone else’s brand, ideas, or style is no longer off limits as long as it helps you to gain tons of followers. The rewards are faster because you have to do less convincing for people to like what you do. The logic is that the market already exists. You’re probably already a fan and so are your friends and a million other people. Think Desiigner, a million fashion bloggers, and a whole host of Instagram MUAs(makeup artists) for example.
Most of us can think of a bunch of successful copycats off the top of our head, however, most people fail to realize they’re the exception NOT the rule. For every Desiigner their are 1,000 or more other Future copycats with no hit records. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the slowest path to long-lasting success. Gucci, Fendi and YSL are notable for their originality in the fashion world. You can copy their handbag down to the zipper, you might even make a couple bucks from people who like it, but you’ll never top those companys’ success. Not without your own original ideas.
The path to success is paved with failures. The key to success is in building a conversation around your passion and original ideas. The issue with this for many people is that it takes a long time and a lot of work to build your fan base. The reason it takes longer is because you actually have to work at convincing people to like your new and original brand. They’ve never seen anything like it so people don’t know whether they like it or not. It’s not a simple and clear cut path.
But don’t look at it like an impossible achievement. This is your chance to carve out your new niche audience. As the saying goes “the riches are in the niches.” This is your chance to be meaningful and make your brand stand out among an over saturated market of copycats all selling the same thing. Think of it like this, it’s easier to notice the guy in the red shirt if everyone around him is wearing blue. You and your new idea are like the guy in the red shirt. At first people will think it’s weird wearing red but it helps to create a conversation. Occasionally, a few people will step up to you interested in your choice of fashion and that’s your chance to sell them on why red is a better alternative. Your originality is your way of creating a conversation around your passion and leaving a valuable legacy others will be stuck trying to imitate for years to come.