Do you sometimes feel inferior to the leading creatives in your niche?
Does your work look weak compared to theirs?
Is your brand not as strong as theirs?
Do you wish your skills were as amazing as theirs? That your work was as recognizable as theirs?
Here is why you shouldn't:
They have been honing their skills for years now. It has taken them years of creating crap to start creating amazing things!
And you must go through the same process.
The world doesn't really care what you create. It sounds harsh, but it's actually a good thing! You don't want the world noticing your amateur work, you want the world to notice your amazing stuff. While you're unknown, you can experiment with different styles and ideas. You can figure out what works for you and what doesn't. You can create the things you want to create, when you want to create them.
Because you don't have a reputation to uphold, employees to pay, taxes to pay, or (many) clients to please.
This time of obscurity is one that won't last very long, so make the most of it. Take this time to find your signature style; find the style you're going to be known for in years to come.
So it takes years to actually find your signature style? To hone your skills?
Yes, my friend. Designers, writers, developers, painters... we all start at an amateur stage where everything we create a little 'off'. But that is to be expected.
As Ira Glass said, 'All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.'
I know that honing your skills and finding your signature style is a lot easier said than done so I'm going to leave you with a few tips!
5 ways you can find your signature style
1. Experiment, experiment, experiment! The only way you're going to find your signature style is by experimenting with lots of different styles. Find the styles you don't like, and the styles that feel like 'you'.
For example, a copy writer may have just started her business. But she feels stuck; she wants to have a signature writing style that people can read and recognize as hers. But she doesn't know how to find that style. The way to find out? Spend 6 months taking on projects in all sorts of styles and for all sorts of clients- writing for children, teenagers, adults, or writing in the third person, in a formal tone, in a really casual tone... Spend 6 months trying all kinds of writing styles. Then, at the end of the six months, evaluate which styles you enjoyed writing the most.
Business is one big experiment. All big-time creatives have experimented with various work styles at some point or another. Don't be afraid to try lots of styles in order the find the style that is truly, authentically you.
2. Create a secret board on Pinterest. Pin every image that makes you think 'I want to make something like that!' So, for example, if you're a graphic designer you could pin the work of your favorite designers. Soon you'll have a board full of the kind of work you want to create; work that truly tugs are your heart.
Take a look at the board I made below:
Notice any similarities between the designs I pinned? Each design is bright, colorful and cheerful. They are all happy, feminine designs for creative businesses. So what does that show me? It shows that my signature style is bright, colorful and feminine. It shows me that I should practice designs of this style, and I should try booking clients who want designs in this style.
3. Look in your closet. When I look inside my closet, I see lots of bight colors, soft fabrics, feminine clothes and clean cuts.
Believe it or not, your closet is the perfect representation of your unique style. Try and incorporate that style into your work and your brand. And when you get an urge to create something that doesn't align with your closet style, stop yourself.
4. Evaluate your style. Your signature style doesn't just stretch across your work, it should also be reflected in your brand. When I'm designing a brand or website for my clients, I ask them these questions:
- If your brand was a cocktail, what would it be?
- If your brand was a city, which city would it be?
- What 3 words would you like people to use when they are describing your style?
- If your brand was an outfit, what would it be?
When I answered these questions about my own brand, each of my answers was feminine, light, clean and cheerful. It showed me exactly what my design style should be like and what my brand should reflect.
5. Find your Style Words. Every brand should have style words- words that summarize their brand style and their work. My brand words are bright, happy and cheerful. By sticking those words up in my office, I know that every design I create and everything that has my brand name on it should reflect these words.
When you've found your unique brand style, it's important you make sure your brand is cohesive across all areas of the print and web. To make sure it, download and use my cheatsheet!