Posted 13 December 2023
Written by Nicole Fan

The best creative advice from our 2023 Creative Lives

Amid the bustle of the festive season and the frenzy of final deadlines, it can be easy to let the last few weeks of the year slip away without much room for pause. Yet, it’s also an ideal time to reflect on what matters most. For us, it’s meant looking back on another wonderful year of Creative Lives interviews. Here, we’ve condensed the most essential advice we received, to provide a treasure trove of inspiration to catapult you into the year ahead.

Our Creative Lives interviews spotlight the real stories of real creatives, and they all end with two questions: “What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?” and “What advice would you give to someone looking to get into a similar role?” These provocations never fail to attract brilliant, no-nonsense insight.

When we revisited all the insight these questions attracted, they all seemed to cleanly sit within five main categories. Expect no blanket statements or trite clichés though – having entered the creative industries within the past few years, these emerging creatives are practising what they preach to thrive within their fields. Read on for tried and tested gems that will help you navigate today’s creative landscape, while affirming every stage of your journey.

💪 The art of just doing it

Be it a passion project, a job search, or an assignment for uni, taking the first step is often the hardest part, especially when you’re new to things. Here’s what our interviewees have to say about taking initiative, chasing after ambitions and going beyond your comfort zone.

  • Put goals down and hours in! Ask yourself: what do you want to achieve, when and how? It sounds simple but it’s effective and makes your workload digestible.”
    Cam Portland, Artist and Events Coordinator

  • “Take baby steps when completing a task, project or a general wider goal, and break things down so that you’re not overwhelmed.”
    Shilonite Simon-Mathurin, Digital Content Creator at The Photography Foundation

  • Get experience. It doesn’t matter where it is, what it is, if it’s not where you want to be right now, go out and get it.”
    Zac Haniff, Format Producer at PinkNews

  • “We all want to work on things we are passionate about, and if it means we need to create things ourselves because others won’t, then so be it: just start.”
    Tomas Araya Larrain, Television Researcher

Graham mask with customised denim jacket

Cam Portland

Graham mask with maj mask

  • “The best way to build up your experience is to practise those skills on your own. Don’t rely on an employer to give you an opportunity.
    Hassan Raja, Digital Communications Officer for the Mayor of London

  • Make it happen, one way or another. Your goals may seem far away but if you want to do it, you will – not by keeping it hidden in your head or putting it on a pedestal.”
    Jeng Au, Creative Art Director at Amazon

  • “You have to apply for and throw yourself at every opportunity, and no matter how many people say no, one will eventually come around.”
    Seth Daood, Researcher at BBC Natural History Unit

Hassan Raja’s workspace
  • You miss all the shots you don’t take, and the worst that’ll happen is rejection, which is minor.”
    Christopher Medford, Art Director at Wasserman

  • “Take every opportunity you are given and say yes to challenges to build your confidence.”
    Megan Georgia Smith, Artist and Youth Worker at The Agency

  • Dive in headfirst and don’t be scared to fail. Some days you’ll feel better and others worse, but push yourself to create work you want to create.”
    Charlie Ellis, Junior 3D Motion Designer at Bolder Creative

  • “Push your ideas and concepts as far as you can. Don’t settle on something because it ticks the boxes – question whether it can do more.”
    Alex Farquhar, Midweight Graphic Designer at StormBrands

🌍 Find power in community

Staying committed to your goals is important, but you’ll find that it’s much easier – and much more fun – when you embrace collaboration and community. Our interviewees tell us why having a network is crucial to both your creative process and wellbeing.

  • “Be your authentic self and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You will find your people and the right opportunities will come.”
    Heather Boa, Stylist, Fashion Designer and DJ

  • Be brave enough to start an initial conversation with someone. Most people are willing to help when they have the time, so never be afraid to reach out.”
    Dion Hesson, Assistant Producer at BBC Studios

  • “Getting a no from someone is usually the worst case scenario. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
    Gracie Hawkins, Junior Graphic Designer at Government Digital Service

  • Be visible! Go to events IRL – there are so many networking opportunities that are hosted in the creative industries that you can sign up for.”
    Riann Phillip, Editorial Assistant at gal-dem

Yangdzom Lama Artist Creative Livesin Progress 04

Yangdzom Lama at artist collective Hart Club

Riann Phillip editorial assistant creativelivesinprogress 03

Riann Phillip with her steel band

  • “Having support you can lean on is invaluable, whether that’s helping each other out, hyping each other up, or just having a vent.”
    Siam Hatzaw, Editorial Assistant at Hachette and Editor at Persephone’s Daughters

  • “Especially if you’re a young person of colour, find a community of like-minded creatives who uplift and celebrate the individuality of your perspective.”
    Christine Zhang, Digital Designer at Stink Studios

  • There’s nothing wrong with asking for help – no matter how simple the problem may be.”
    Saif Munawar, 3D Character Animator at Lucid Games Ltd.

  • Collaboration not competition! There’s no such thing as one magically talented, gifted, precious genius who does every single thing by themselves.”
    Yangdzom Lama, Freelance Artist

  • ”By reaching out and connecting with others who are on a similar journey and whose work you admire, you can ask questions and receive guidance.”
    Louisa Rechenbach, Documentary Producer and Director

  • If you can’t find a community, build one. It’s not as daunting as it sounds; it’s basically making friends with people whose work you love anyway.”
    Lu Williams, Artist and Founder of Grrrl Zine Fair

📣 Be your own cheerleader

Every person comes with unique skills, talents and experience. Yet, instead of celebrating our individuality, we often end up doubting our abilities and fretting over insecurities. We hear our community’s tips on hyping yourself up and believe in your worth.

  • “When you’re starting out – especially if you’re not a cis white male with confidence embedded in your veins – everything is going to feel out of your depth and terrifying. So feel the fear and do it anyway.”
    Anya Steel, Hairdresser at Cuttlefish

  • “Half of being a good fit for the role you want is being sure of your ability. Even if you’re projecting confidence, you’re halfway there.”
    Shane Sutherland, Creative Producer and Visual Artist

  • Never downplay your achievements. Your success is not just a result of luck, rather it's evidence of your skills and talent.”
    Mohammed Ubaidah, Motion Designer at Born Social

  • “Be proud of yourself, your background and everything you’ve done. All these things not only make you valuable but also bring a fresh perspective to the table.”
    Bhrena Marino, Junior Strategist at TBWA\London

  • “Nobody can take your skills and knowledge away from you.”
    Natalie Vest-Jones, Make-Up Artist and Creative Director

Noah Lei Underwood as Them Fatale
  • “Know your rights and what you’re entitled to, and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Try to unlearn the notion that you’re “lucky” to be offered a job or position.”
    Noah Lei Underwood, Multimedia Storyteller and Artist

  • “Ditch the “junior” label. I think I blocked myself from taking opportunities or leaps of faith because of it – now I know my value and my worth.”
    Carolyn McMurray, Freelance Copywriter and Founder of Word Tonic

  • “Believe in yourself and your work. Don’t be ashamed to speak about yourself and what you do.”
    Veronica Petukhov, Freelance Digital Artist and VJ

  • “Be self-sufficient and brave. Never let someone tell you what’s impossible for you.”
    Ant Belle, Freelance Camera and Lighting Trainee

Veronica Petukhov and Samm Anga as ‘mutomajor’

🧘 Trust your intuition

As valuable as advice and feedback are, you ultimately know yourself best. Many of our interviewees have learnt that the answers are already within them – so tap into your inner wisdom and listen to your intuition, because it’ll lead you to where you’re meant to be.

  • Create a spark list when making decisions. This would involve writing down all the things that spark joy but equally writing down all the things that don’t spark joy.”
    Mercy Abel, Cultural Insights and Content Lead at John Doe Group

  • “It’s okay to try new things or experiment with your style but don’t feel pressured to change who you are, your faith or your morals to fit in or get work.”
    Shana Marie, Junior Creative at Anyways

  • Trust your instincts on things. A lot of the time, we come up with amazing ideas but never have the guts to say them out loud. Be brave and have faith in your vision.”
    Marshall Lawrence, Multidisciplinary Artist and Events Curator

  • “Although feedback is helpful, sometimes there are too many cooks! So you need to decide whose opinion is staying in the kitchen, and whose you'll respectfully pass on.”
    Zera Mohamed and Lucy Cameron, Junior Creatives at Anomaly

Marshall Lawrence at a Lazy Oaf shoot
  • “Where you can, take on projects that are reflective of your values and creative vision. Don’t settle for less if you don’t have to.”
    Deye Sarr, Photographer, Junior Designer and Model

  • Don’t apply to every studio you see. Make sure that the style of work you produce matches with the style of the company.”
    Carol Mau, Junior 2D Animator at Blue Zoo

  • “Make what you want to make and have fun making it. Don’t let anything stop you from creating and sharing the stories you want to share.”
    Roni Niu and Patrick Bangit, Filmmakers at Bagel

Zoe Thompson at sweet-thang’s zine-making workshop
  • “Anything that costs you your peace is too expensive.”
    Zoe Thompson, Zine Maker at sweet-thang

  • “If you died tomorrow, your employer would replace you in a month. So do something you enjoy! Don’t allow any job to rob you of your happiness.”
    Shamila Sulaiman, UX Consultant at PA Consulting

  • “People know their situation much better than others will ever. So perhaps others may wish to look inwards for direction.“
    Ghafar Tajmohammad, Artist and Curatorial Assistant at Migration Museum

🚗 Focus on progress, not perfection

No one’s journey is entirely smooth-sailing. While it’s great to have an end goal in mind, setbacks are inevitable and can even accelerate your growth. Read on for some gems on the topic of embracing failure and staying resilient.

  • “Sometimes opportunities appear when and where you least expect it. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s a great learning experience. Either way, it’s a positive for you.”
    Ya’Qub Mir, Brand Designer at Studio Up North

  • Be patient, very patient. It’s not easy getting into the industry.”
    Munaiba Mahmood, Freelance Assistant VFX Editor

  • “I tried to make sure that I never stopped making work and focused on creating the conditions for myself to be able to create work.”
    Kumbirai Makumbe, New Media Artist

  • “Nothing good comes easy – we did so many tests and experiments before we got to where we are now.”
    Vince Ibay and Jessica Miller, 3D Artists at Fromm Studio

  • “Be persistent! Don’t be afraid of being annoying – people want to know that you are keen. It’s better to be a bit annoying than unknown.”
    Emma Lees, Student and Editor-in-Chief of Growing Pains

Daisy Mae Fry shot in character for her MA project
  • “Don’t rush, take your time to get it right. I have my idea – I just have to build it into something great.”
    Daisy Mae Fry, Soft Sculpture Artist and Social Media Manager

  • Hard work will be recognised at some point! If you’re having fun and consistently producing work you love, there will be people out there who appreciate it.”
    Poppy Lam, Freelance Illustrator

  • “There‘s always gonna be someone better – but my goal is to make the cool shit that got me into the game and learn from everyone to improve.”
    Abraham Egbobawaye, Junior Motion Designer at Buff Motion

  • Don’t give up. Alongside luck and time, there are lots of other things you can actively be doing – which in turn will give you your luck, and take up lots of your time!”
    Jack Williams, Video Editor at Hurricane Media

  • “No one has grown without making a few mistakes. As long as you are learning, you are not failing.
    Miyoshi Tamashiro, Account Executive at Aurora Agency

Emma Lees’ Growing Pain magazine

Written by Nicole Fan