THE BLOG
15/02/2016 08:59 GMT | Updated 13/02/2017 05:12 GMT

How To Get Ahead In What You Love

I'm not a huge fan motivational talks - you know those YouTube videos that actually make you feel worse at the end of it? Yes, I know we all have the same 24 hours in a day but that doesn't help me get off the internet and make something happen! Motivational talks are often too vague, too patronising and too obvious (and ironically too difficult to action) for me to take notice of let alone find useful. I'm often asked for advice from emerging artists and entrepreneurs so here's the top things I have taken away from my mentors and personal experience to get ahead in what you love:

Think like an entrepreneur.  Don't be afraid that being commercially aware will overtake your passion (often a misconception I encounter from emerging artists) - it's actually what will enable you to do more of what you love. Thinking smart and working strategically will ultimately mean you can stay in control of how you work and who with.

Think like a creative. Creativity doesn't stop at the end of a poem or when you've finished an event, be creative in how you present yourself physically and online, be bold in how market yourself, and live what you love! Your passion will be the best-seller for you - wear it proud and wear it often.

Know when to say no. There's a huge culture of 'doing it for exposure' particularly in arts and in the emergent phenomenon of 'youth enterprise' that you just would not encounter in other industries. I am a huge believer in volunteering and getting experience (when it's well-structured and pitched correctly) but to get ahead, know when to say no thank you (be polite!).

Build a community. I resisted saying network because it sounds too clinical, or more accurately, too transport-y. Build a community around you and your values. People you can draw on for advice, support and to be challenged. Connect people and be generous in your connections; it will always come back in abundance. As the old adage says "to get there fast go alone, to get further, go together". Who you know, and who they know, and who they know (you get the picture) can be instrumental in getting your new show commissioned or getting backing for a big idea.

Get a mentor. Get a mentor, get a mentor, get a mentor. I can't stress this enough - why would you start again from scratch when there are millions of people out there who have already been there and done it?! Find someone who wants you to fast-track and benefit from their learning and experience. How? Find someone you admire and ask them. Most importantly, keep an open mind and draw mentoring down from all conversations, not just your 'official' mentors. 

Get social savvy. I'm not the best at Twitter (I basically forget I have it, get totally excited again, and tweet 10 times in a row and so the cycle continues...) but I make sure I maintain a presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. The platform you use will depend on your audience so if you're a musician, get active on SoundCloud. When I'm producing a show or festival and I want to find artists, I'm straight on YouTube. Or if someone emails me to meet to collaborate, I'm on their LinkedIn page. If you're not on there (or equivalent), where are you? Make it super easy for people to find your talent and fall in love with it.

Plan for the short term, dream for the long term. I'm weary of 5 year plans - I think it's too far away to predict who you'll be and what the world will be like. I encourage dreaming - what will your life feel like? Who might be in it? How will you know you're in a great place? On the flipside, short, realistic, tangible goals are incredibly important to ensure you're on track and can measure your progress. I suggest a 12 month plan and a 5 year dream.

Have a go. Apply for as much as you can, go to as much as you can, speak to as many people as you can! Don't knock yourself out of the running before you've even had a go. A no is better than a 'will never know'.

Open source your secret sauce. This is a little contentious as of course, IP is a very complex subject. But I fully embrace the principle and spirit of the open source movement. Be as open as you can about your process and your work - yes, people will always imitate but they'll also know the real deal from the copies. I believe being transparent, collaborative and generous will always get you further longterm.

Be prepared to share. Have a solid portfolio of work or some testimonials and references you can draw on who will give a thorough account of your character and work. Have a good bio. It can be scary to commit to but you need a succinct way of talking about yourself and your work. Have an edited version in 300 words, 150 words and 50 words to always be prepared.

Finally, remember why you love it. If you can hold this front of mind in every conversation, dark morning commute or knockback, your resilience will make you unstoppable. Be brilliant. Unapologetically so.