Diversify your Creative Circle

by Von Glitschka

Whether you’re a solopreneur (freelancer), or just a one person incorporated design firm, it can be too easy to get in the habit of thinking you can pull off anything your client may need on your own.

And what you don’t know, well you can just learn as you go, because after all you’re a “Jack of all Trades.” This mindset however can lead to consistent marginal solutions rather than continued improvement and expanded creativity.

The design industry now more than ever before has become a microcosm of specialized skill sets and creative competencies. As a design professional we need to be honest with our own limitations, and be willing to leverage the creative expertise of others in order to provide work at the highest level possible for our clients. In other words you need to collaborate, because there is strength in numbers.

Creative Network
Building a ever-expanding list of talented creative sub-contractors you can call on when you have creative projects that exceed your own skill sets is what being a smart creative director is all about. It does no good however, if the network of creatives you build is at a lower level than your own design aesthetic. The whole purpose of doing this is to facilitate the highest level of work for your client, so a good rule of thumb is to only put those who you feel are better than yourself on the list. Along the way your network will expand, and your knowledge base will grow, and it’ll help you build your design business as well. Choose poorly however and the creative side-effects will be self evident.

Creative Potential
A common mistake that often happens with those using outside creative talent on their own client projects is merely expecting them to be an extension of their arm. You can’t draw something so you just need them to draw it for you, or you can’t code something so you just need them to code it for you etc. It’s best to first tap their creative thinking, and let them audit the work requested first because they may see another creative direction or approach to the problem that’ll work even better than what you thought the solution should be. This is how you’ll be able to exceed your own creative potential and move into new territory with your body of work and expand your creative vision in the process. But never forget that moving into new areas is always a risk, but if approached wisely offers more potential for benefit than it does harm. Be fearless.

Compensation & Credit
Before creative work can begin you need to establish a foundation based on a mutually agreed upon budget and creative strategy in order to properly hedge expectations on both sides through out the creative process. This type of pre-project communication is essential, so you know who is taking the lead, who the client communicates with, who is responsible for each aspect of the work needing to be done, and an understanding that both parties will use the final work created to promote their collaborative efforts.



As Designers we need to be aware of our own limitations. Find creatives that you respect and trust to leverage your own creative expertise and diversify your creative circle.

Image courtesy of Von Glitschka


Quick Tips!
1. Be Honest With Yourself: You don’t know everything. You don’t need to know everything. And some of the stuff you think you already know well may be wrong or just marginal at best. Suggestion: Ask someone you respect to audit your skill sets and honestly critique where you may be coming up short. Wounds from a friend can be trusted.

2. Draft Mode: When you come across a talented creative person make sure to get their contact information. Approach them about being a creative resource you could team up with or farm work to. Their strengths can bolster your offerings and what you bring to the table will more than likely expand theirs as well.

3. Open Source Thinking: Creative ideas bloom in an environment that embraces possibilities. So let your collaborators take ownership with you on the conceptual end of a project whenever possible. Dream together, grow together and prosper together.


Dig Deeper!
1. We all bounce ideas and designs off other colleagues. Dribbble.com allows us do so with a global audience.

2. Read Idea Spotting by Sam Harrison. The title says it all—the importance of creatives being instinctively tuned to harvesting their inspiration and putting it to use.

3. Check out Sam Harrison’s other book Zing!. A profoundly simple, but simply profound book on how to think as a designer and capitalize on ideas.


2 thoughts on “Diversify your Creative Circle

  1. Doug C.

    Ken, this is all so true. I started doing this with my own work a couple months ago when I realized that I was trying to be the “jack-of-all-trades”. Thankfully some people pointed out that I should be focusing on what my particular talent is instead of trying to be everything to everybody.

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