“Trust me, I’m creative” isn’t going to cut it.

Some advice for 'aspiring creatives'.

“Trust me, I’m creative” isn’t going to cut it.

This one is for the juniors and, as much as I dislike the term, ‘aspiring creatives’ out there. Although, I’m sure there’ll be something here for everybody.

I’ll add a caveat before I go into it, this has nothing to do whatsoever with any particular person or interaction, but is more so an accumulation of a decade worth of interactions with young creatives throughout my working career and involvement with AWARD School, Copy School, universities, etc…

Every year, ‘aspiring creatives’ contact me asking for work, advice, or both, and one of the first things I’ll ask is ‘can you show me some of your work?’

It’s common for the response to be ‘I don’t really have anything yet’ or ‘I haven’t made a website’ or ‘No one will give me a chance’, or something of the like, followed by a spiel about how creative they are.

The reason I dislike the term ‘aspiring creative’ is because there’s no such thing. Either you are or you aren’t. Creative people make stuff. That’s what makes us creative. We take a nothing and turn it into something. That’s our special skill.

You don’t need permission to be creative. You don’t need a job, or a client, or a brief, or a degree, you just NEED TO CREATE.

We live in a time where almost anyone, ANYONE, on the face of the Earth, with little to no technical background or formal qualifications, can pick up a device, make something, and put it in front of millions of people.

A junior creative’s website/book/folio doesn’t have to be just ads. Make a meme page. Make a short film. Make a podcast. Make a magazine. Make a Twitch channel. The act of showing that you can come up with a idea and then have the industriousness to go out and make it is worth more than some shitty web banners you made in your first year, or a bunch of scamps from folio school.

‘That’s easier said than done’ is sometimes the attitude that follows, and to that I simply have to say - bullshit.

I’ve spoken about this before, but I have no qualifications to work in advertising, or be a writer, or a creative, or whatever you want to call it. I got into a creative department by writing a viral ad about a BBQ. It cost me zero dollars and 15 minutes of writing. You can get a glimpse of the story here.

Here’s a list of other stuff I’ve done and how I did it.

GovGoogles - Back in 2015, the Australian Govt declared they were going to store every Australian’s metadata for ‘security purposes’. So, as a joke, I created a twitter account that claimed it had access to the government’s Google search history and was releasing it. It eventually hit 60k followers and became part of Australian political discourse for many years. It was regularly quoted in the media. People printed the tweets out and took them to protests. All this took was a Twitter account.

TrumpGoogles - Naturally, when Trump was elected, a spin off emerged. This went completely ballistic viral and you can read about it here. I ran this on my phone with Instagram and an image editor.

Lena Dunham Apologizes - In 2017, after having to make a long string of insane apologies, I had the thought that Lena Dunham needed an apology writer. So I decided to make a bot to do it for her. Only I had no idea how to code. At all. I found a Twitter user, @NoraReed, who’d made some funny bots and got in touch. She kindly showed me some basics, and gave me the loose framework for one of her bots. I was able to figure out how I could build my own within the parameters of her code. It went viral and I ended up being interviewed by Rolling Stone.

Do Not Visit Victoria - In July 2020, Melbourne was going into lockdown again after being hit by a second wave of COVID-19. The state was rife with stories of Melburnians ignoring medical advice and breaking the lockdown by fleeing to regional Victoria. In response, regional communities were suffering significant distress as they did not have the infrastructure to cope with an outbreak. The serious message of ‘stay home’ wasn’t getting through, so myself and Guillermo Carvajal decided to make a series of regional postcards kindly asking Melburnians to ‘stay the f*ck away’. And, oh boy, did people start paying attention. So much so, that the work has now been acquired by both the Melbourne Museum and State Library of Victoria. 

I shit you not, we knocked the first release of these together in 2-3 hours and just posted them on our personal Facebook and Insta pages. Zero media spend.

NFTweets - This is a bit of a weird story, but a couple of years ago I ended up in a crypto group chat with dudes in heavy metal bands. I told you it was a weird story. Joel Birch, vocalist of The Amity Affliction, is also a prolific visual artist and was playing with selling his art as NFTs. I was curious as to how this all worked and he showed me how to create a contract on the blockchain, connect it to artwork, and then sell it on an exchange. Armed with this newfound knowledge, I decided to run an experiment. I created a series of NFTs that basically said that NFTs were shit and then tried to sell them as NFTs. And sell, they did.

Like the bot, I fucked this up horribly a dozen times before figuring out how to make it work. I have no coding knowledge. I can’t even use bloody Excel. If I can program a bot and create a contract on the blockchain, then anybody can.

Just one of the above ideas will put you head and shoulders above some other junior creative meandering around town with a book of drawings or uni briefs. I had no reason to make any of them myself other than the innate need to create. If you’re still trying to get in the door, you have much more reason than I.

I am no savant. I have no creative degrees, I didn’t go to art or writing school, I don’t know how to code or program anything, the only ‘qualification’ I have to be creative is ‘have idea, make thing’.

That’s it.

So if you’re trying to break into the industry, or break out of a shit junior role into something better, you’re gonna have to kick the door down yourself.

No one is going to hand it to you. “Trust me, I’m creative” isn’t going to cut it.

Show how you think, show you can see an idea through, and keep doing it until you can no longer be ignored.


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