How have I progressed my career as a Creative Leader ? In the beginning I took EVERY opportunity. Light a dance recital ? DONE. Produce a black box improv show ? YES. Direct an experimental fashion show for a friend? SIGN ME UP.
As my career started, it was focused in theatrical things, and I welcomed every opportunity to practice. To Practice.
Whether it paid a little, or a lot, or not at all, I focused on using every creative opportunity to learn. I learned about circumstances, and risk, and business, and process. I learned from the people around me. TONS.
And I built experience.
But – I was a generalist. And being a generalist means a lot of competition. Generalists are found… generally.
As my career moved forward though, I came to embrace a new philosophy:
For me to do what I wanted to do, I would need to specialize for success.
The tools of the first phase of my career, work hard, and say yes to every opportunity now no longer served me. In fact they now stood in the way. I needed to work less on everything, so I could focus on the right work. I needed to start saying no, so that I could create space to say yes to the right things.
At this stage in my career I create substantial value for my clients. And I help them to comfortably engage in innovation and creativity. Both very uncomfortable things. How did that happen ?
I have learned that certain market niches have a greater need for that than others. Those needs become my business opportunity.
Finding these niches in the market, where there are new questions that need answering, and new opportunities right behind it, are where I need to focus.
So now, in business, I say no to many things. If an opportunity doesn’t directly speak to the core of my practice than I am better served in passing. I’m not going to bring great value to that collaboration.
The niches I focus my creative work on, are direction and design for experiential marketing environments, themed environments, and immersive architecture.
I relentlessly focus on business development in those niches.
I relentlessly focus on building continuing experience in those niches.
As I have specialized, I have become over time, an expert.
By being deeply knowledgeable about specific things, I am able to see patterns that aren’t apparent to others.
Expertise has enormous value. Clients are willing to pay generously for an expert. Innovation and creativity are risky endeavors. By specializing in this way I have increased my own value in business by helping to mitigate those risks.
So, when you begin, generalize. Do everything. Take every opportunity. As you develop and move forward find your niche. Find the place where you can bring great value. Where you are answering new and critical questions. Focus on THAT, creating that focus by saying no to distraction.
And specialize for success.