I work primarily in film production. I imagine a good number of others do to and I am not the fount of all wisdom, but here are some thoughts.
In this post, I am particularly writing to you, freelancers and small production partnerships, although I imagine this applies to many competitive and creative work environments.
This is synthesised advice I was given, which I really appreciated. Thanks Dad, and Dan.
First: The Issue
In our field there is a high bar to survive and succeed; complex combinations of skill, creativity, talent, proficiency, and ingenuity.
Sometimes, especially as a 'small shop' or freelancer, reliability and consistency in your work will be enough to keep you going. You would be surprised how 'showing up' is the first step.
But how do you move beyond just getting work from people who already know and trust you? How do you build?
And still for every job you apply for there are hundreds of people vying for the role, bidding for the tender, trying to win the work and undercut the competition or prove their worth.
Style is a clear identifier, but we all have similar skills, to varying degrees of quality. We use variations of the same equipment, to differing levels of cost and complexity. We have seen the same films, and learned from a wide set of the same mistakes.
Sometimes it is experience... you know they won't hire you to film something you haven't proved you can film before. That is clear - go and film it on your own and do a great job.
But the question is clear.
Second: The Question
So how do we differentiate? How do we prove that we are the right candidate for the role? How do we show that we are the best people to develop that work?
Of course, skills can be learned and you should aim to become extremely proficient and expert in your work so you can do it without stress, hazard or mistake and in hard conditions.
Third: The Answer
Beyond that... the simple answer is that despite a large but limited set of skills across the human race, and the huge sets of the population that enact each skill professionally...
The only one who has your unique recipe of skills, talents, expertise and imagination is you.
Go and do something unique that only you can do.
What does that new age disney stuff mean?
Primarily it means nobody else has been exactly where you have been and done what you have done, so you need to highlight the things that make you special in your work. What else do you bring to the table besides the obvious.
Secondly it means your ability to think differently and create from your unique perspective will be your biggest asset beyond your skills or kit list, or even your client list (although that helps). Someone recently said to me 'concepts are money'. They are what the whole creative process is about.
If you have good ideas, then making them is just the functional part of the equation.
The real magic is in the idea and then the process of bringing it to reality is your craft.
The concept will vary on the needs of the project, the goal or idea that guides your imagination at the time, etc.
But most importantly your creativity is different than others and you should hone it, inspire it, and find what makes you unique.
I'll write on how to develop your creativity later, but for now, do some soul searching.
You are the only one of you and that has value, but it will require understanding who you are and growing in that confidence.
More on creativity, life and Vis.Comm later.