Get Your Foot in the Door

Creative Futures is UAL’s annual programme of industry-led events, talks and activities to help you get ahead in the creative industries and create your own future! Valentine del Giudice from SSSHAKE network shares her takeaways from our headline talk, ‘Get Your Foot in The Door.’ 

When entering an ecosystem where word-of-mouth and referrals prevail, 1/ competition can be intimidating; and 2/ to get the first step up the ladder seems to be the hardest part.

Creative Futures headline talk invited Michelle Owusu (Marketing Manager, Channel 4 and Director, SceneTV), Tolu Coker (Fashion Designer, Textile Designer and Illustrator) and Shannie Mears (Co-Founder, The Elephant Room) to share their top advice and inside knowledge of how to get your foot in the door of the creative industries.

When entering an ecosystem where word-of-mouth and referrals prevail to get the first step up the ladder seems to be the hardest part.

I was invited to attend and write about the talk so here are my key takeaways from this inspiring panel:

About networking

  • Value communities: As Shannie mentioned, collaboration is key and your network is everything. Understand the value of the communities you’re already part of (university, friends etc) and don’t hesitate to create your own around subjects that matter to you.
  • Tap into different networks: Curiosity is a great drive for creativity, be open to join different networks to meet new people and share what you do.
  • Pay-it-forward: As Tolu mentioned, exchanging skills, sharing your values and vision with other people will help you grow and teach you so much along the way— By the way, you can use the SSSHAKE app to connect with other creatives nearby.

About social media

  • Find your voice: Social media are powerful tools to spread messages. As Shannie does with her online publication GUAP, you can use social media to have a voice and inspire for change.
  • Ask for help: Don’t hesitate to leverage social media to ask for help and bring your project to life. Tolu gathered a team for her first video project by calling out on social media.
  • Understand its power: Social media gives you the power of reaching out to new audiences and getting new people to talk about your project. Vogue Italy contacted Tolu on Instagram to feature her video.

About side projects

  • Do projects on the side: Even with no budget you can get things started if you pitch your ideas and concepts well. Find people with complementary skills who share your vision and make your project happen by finding the right partners.
  • Keep an eye open: Regularly enter competitions as it can open many doors like Asos Fashion Discovery did for Tolu. Don’t hesitate to also try different things, such as submitting your works to publications and organisations you like.
  • Extend your practice: You don’t have to restrict yourself to one discipline. Don’t hesitate to extend your practice to new industries and new mediums. You got freedom of expression, make the most of it.

“You got freedom of expression, make the most of it!” — Tolu Coker, Fashion Designer, Textile Designer and Illustrator

About your next job

  • Start where you are: Just start with what you have and build learning and experience from there. Look around you, are you already working on exciting projects? Can you push them further?
  • Be proactive: Stop waiting, be proactive, approach people on LinkedIn or social media and don’t hesitate to ask for opportunities.
  • Be curious: Don’t keep yourself in the box of what you studied, feel free to apply to different jobs or undertake different opportunities and learn new skills.

About getting paid

  • Always negotiate: As Tolu mentioned, don’t be afraid to ask for more. Many people don’t value creativity as they have no idea about the amount of work, training and research it requires. Defend your rate by breaking down how much time you will spend on the project and always negotiate up.
  • Don’t undervalue yourself: Competition can be overwhelming but please don’t undervalue your work. Look up online the average salaries for the job you’re about to do and don’t price yourself under. It’s ok to work with small budget if you like a project but never accept a pay you don’t feel comfortable with.
  • Take a deposit: As a freelancer, the fear of getting paid late or worse not getting paid at all can keep you awake at night. As Tolu and Shannie do, take a deposit so you can start the project with peace of mind — At SSSHAKE, we are developing solutions to tackle these issues so feel free to get in touch with me if you need help managing your freelancing activities.

by Valentine del Giudice