In my 16 years as a creative professional, I’ve learned to spot the types of people who are on track towards their goals (professionals) and what types… have a long way to go (amateurs). I myself have been through the transition process, and in some ways, I’m still going through it. Here are some of the differences I’ve noticed:
Professionals are tenacious and play the long game. Amateurs expect quick wins and results. As part of a branding project, I once tried to help someone form a marketing plan for their new business. They said, “Once this marketing stuff is over, I’ll be able to focus on the stuff I really want to do!” They failed to understand that marketing consists of everyday tasks–from creating sales funnels to daily, consistent social media posts. …Needless to say, their business didn’t exactly take off the way they thought it would.
Professionals ask for what they want. Amateurs watch from the sidelines and hope things happen for them. Amateurs, at least in creative industries, will often talk about waiting for their “big break” and complain when “it hasn’t happened yet.” They use passive language: ”It hasn’t happened yet.” Active language takes responsibility: “I haven’t done it yet” or “I don’t know how to do this.” And then the shift towards professionalism happens when you ask directly for what you want (assuming you’ve nurtured a relationship with who you’re asking):
“You’re good at networking. Can you show me how it’s done?”
“Here’s what I’m trying to do. How would you approach this problem?”
“I think my product will solve your problem. Can I tell you more about it?”
Professionals take messy, imperfect, daily ACTION. Amateurs wait til they feel ready, polished, and “inspired” before doing anything. A case study: I’ve built a large chunk of my network and follower base simply by consistent social media posts. I sometimes have typos. I’m not as educated or eloquent as I’d like to be. There are clumsy mistakes in my illustrations. But I post consistently. This has resulted in opportunities and professional connections I never would’ve thought were possible a year ago.
My amateur friends think this “happens” to people because they’re “special.” (But that’s just a way to shirk off responsibility!) As a professional, I’m telling you that I’m not special, I’m consistent. I use free social media platforms to interact every single day with people in my chosen industries. (E.g., the publishing industry LIVES on Twitter.) Over time, the relationships I’ve built on these platforms result in opportunities and connections.
I have so many other points to add to the professionals vs. amateurs list, and maybe I’ll write other posts about it. But I hope someone finds this insightful. Here are two people I look up to whose podcasts and other resources have helped me grow as a creative professional: