Featured News, Marketing Advice, Opinion Pieces

How to get experience when you don’t have credentials

June 11, 2011
get passed the credentials with advice from a creative coach like me

I wouldn’t have ended up working as a creative coach or writing strategy if I had followed a linear career path. One of the most amazing things about this day and age is how fluid we can be with our careers. The internet gives us the ability to create a platform for our work, services and ideas. The amount of information and opportunity is unprecedented with online study of all kinds. We can also tap into a vast array of opportunities- including create our own.

You can find a new way to reinvent your working life. I know I have. As someone who works as a creative coach with a lot of different creatives, freelancers, startups and small business owners, I also know it can be tough to know where to go to get your start. That’s why this blog exists.

Here are a few ways I’ve experienced and advised others to do as a creative coach to expand your skills and get closer to the kind of career you want 

Volunteering for the win

get passed the credentials with advice from a creative coach like me

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Volunteering is a very funny one because there will be people out there that will ask why you are doing something if you aren’t getting paid, talk of whoever you are assisting as using you and several other conspiracy theories behind why volunteering in the arts exists. Hell, I have even heard individuals launch tirades against creative arts bodies running modern day volunteer sweatshops- all be it from people I suspect have never volunteered in their life.

The reality is what you gain from volunteering in the arts, not for profit or within the community sectors are practical on the job experience, credibility through being able to reference it on a CV or as testimonials and contacts which will probably prove extremely helpful in the future.

The beauty of some volunteering programs can even be classed as Vocational and Educational Training (VET) approved training and go towards additional study you undertake later. I know this through undertaking crisis supporter training with Lifeline and it helping with counselling studies later on. Also, the practical experience I received as a crisis supporter has been invaluable to me transitioning as a creative coach.

Also, as much as we like to think our cities in Australia are huge, communities is pretty close knit. That means it’s a sensational way to meet people in the field, demonstrate your worth and get high off the good you are doing in the process.

In short, doing a good job as a volunteer may very well get your name into the shell pink ear of a potential future employer. And it’s a great way to pick up practical skills others may not have coming from a training-based background.

When you are choosing to apply for a volunteer position, keep an eye on the websites of organisations that interest you. Places like Arts Hub, Ethical Jobs, Go Volunteer and SEEK Volunteer all have a wealth of opportunity you can tap into.

Your attitude matters 

This goes beyond volunteering to state that the whole tortured artist, angry genius and jerk who knows best days are numbered. Thank goodness for that too. Dealing with someone who wants you to work twice as hard for the privilege of having you around, volunteer or not, is exhausting.

Flip your head and think of it as an exchange. You give labour but skill you will gain is invaluable. Don’t be the person who refuses to do admin or whinges about not doing enough of what you want to do because let’s face it there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t have to perform some tasks within their working career they’d prefer not to. Volunteers are no different and to be honest, the last thing someone who has engaged a volunteer wants to do is listen to them gripe about how what they are doing sucks all day or how to do things “better” by someone who has just walked in the door.

Think about the kind of skills you want to have at the end of your stint in volunteering and make it happen! Be kind, applied and curious. It’s enjoyable for all concerned when you do.

Make your website your reinvention machine

I’ve had about a dozen different websites in my time to demonstrate each stage of my journey. It helps you build authority, make a statement and gives you a platform to explore. Learn by doing and have an opinion. Stand out by bringing together your skills and ideas in a place where you own the territory.

In this day and age of WordPress and cheaper than cheap hosting and domain registration, there is no excuse for even the most non-technically minded person not to have a website. You can set one up for as little as $250 through purchasing a domain, hosting and making use of many of the countless free WordPress templates out there.

It doesn’t have to be amazing when you first start out, either. You can get by until you work out what direction you are going in. In fact, you are far better off not being one of those people who spends thousands of dollars on trying out your new business, creative or freelance vision. I say this because I know I would never have seen myself as a creative coach when I started out. And I also know through a multitude of products built in times gone by and with helping my freelance clients, you learn as you go. Your capability grows as your knowledge does. Treat the venture as the opportunity to explore where this new found interest and/or career will take you. Be nimble enough to follow that path without feeling like you regret spending big bucks on something you grow out of in the first 12 – 24 months.

Just make sure the website you have is something you feel like you want to use.

From there, you can use your website to show case your work, express your opinions on creative elements, blog about your creative journey, stream content related to completed creative projects and find others to do creative work with.

If you are seriously that much of a Luddite you cannot create a WordPress site, look for someone who can do it for you in exchange for creative barter. Or sign up for the courses that teach you how to build your website in a day. It is important.

Make use of social media 

If your website is your self invention machine, your social media accounts are your distribution centres. They are the first vital ports of call for interaction and information with you and should be respected as such.

I know people give social media  hard time for making us vain, angry and silly. Yes, there is some of that. But with creative coach hat firmly on, I can also tell you the world of social media is also creative, supportive, beautiful and varied. You can find the people that create from a place of compassion and admire purpose-driven projects and people.

You simply have to look for them. And also echo the same sentiments in yourself.

Make sure you use social media to its best advantage. Find the social media that works for you to support your aims. Have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube if it works for you.

Consider less well known places to help you gain community support such as Anchor.fm if you like podcasting, See.Me for artists or if you are musical, host your work on places like Bandcamp. There are a lot of places around outside the major social media platforms you know.

And with social media, please make it fun, authentic and interesting.

Be playful, controversial, share things not just about your creative journey but also about other creative practitioners you admire. Add a bit of spice to what you are doing and watch the reward come in. Be the creative coach in your niche that is vulnerable enough to share their story to inspire others.

There are also countless free sites where you can upload your own opinions and comments on creative subjects. Positioning yourself as an expert in all things creative or business is not vulgar, it’s smart. As long as you’ve got the interest and skill to back it up, of course!

Produce your own projects

Admittedly, with the cost of living in Sydney, it’s bloody hard to save up to do creative projects and crazy business ideas but you need to take the opportunity to think smarter in light of this.

You may have a big motion picture you wish to do or amazing new national startup you want to launch but you have to be realistic. Find ways to work on things which can lead you up to that big ambition.

There is nothing to say you cannot follow some other creative endeavours in the meantime and you should- because contrary to popular belief, it isn’t usually the first big project that gets you noticed in this country. And it is really, really tiresome listening to creative practitioners who bemoan the system that keeps them down from doing their opus, especially when there are so many people out there who are quietly and effectively chipping away at their chosen art.

We get it. It’s tough. It’s even tougher if all you contribute is complaints.

Think about where your business idea or creative project fits into the scheme of things.

Business and creative projects can come out of a few places- 

  • A desire for you to showcase your talents
  • You’ve identified a problem that needs solving- and the solution
  • A movement needs reinvention or re-invigoration
  • It’s time to make a long-lasting change and find a new way of doing things
  • Your personal circumstances are such that you have to make a change (e.g. life impacts like children, chronic illness, disability etc changing what and how you can operate)
  • The industry you are currently in is changing to the point where reinvention is required (e.g. you’ve been made redundant as a journalist and have decided to reinvent yourself as a content creator)

So how can you produce your own projects?

Apart from looking at the scale and assessing what is achievable it’s about looking for the right resources, monetary or otherwise, to make your project shine.

This means finding people to help you who are willing to volunteer, choosing to pass the art shop by and go to re-use/recycle places such as Reverse Garbage for materials, making use of spaces such as pubs, clubs and cafes as alternative spaces to exhibit or for photo and film-shoots, go the funding route, approach community radio, TV or street press as a vehicle for your works or modify your aim so that you can self produce online.

Or it might mean saving up money and transitioning from full-time with a project on the side to give it full attention.

As much as people will try and tell you “this is how you do it”, what works for them might not work for you.

Use the same creativity and passion you have for your idea to create your own production opportunities. Engage me as your creative coach and get some tailored advice on how that might work for you. Read a lot. Disregard a lot.

It’s a choose your own adventure in a lot of respects.

Funding is also available from countless government, state and other NFP bodies. Or if you are not really into sweating your heart out over 20 page applications or find you cannot find something to suit, you can look for two types of growing types of funding in angel investing and crowdfunding.

Angel investing is about building enough of your idea to attract corporations or individuals who are willing to take a punt on your idea who will invest in what you are doing. Angel investing has worked for online start-ups, films, TV programmes, gaming and generally unless you are super doper lucky, requires your project to have some kind of commercial value to those who invest that is paid back over a period of time once your project starts making money.

Still, if you are aiming to make a living from a sustainable arts business, making money will be part of the equation anyway, and sharing a bit of profit in the long term is a small price to pay for realising your dream in the first place.

Crowdfunding is about putting your best foot forward with your project and appealing to audiences anywhere and everywhere to help raise funds for part or all of your creative endeavours production. This is an amazing way to raise funds because it means that you can allow friends, family and those who take an interest in your creative project the opportunity to fund its production.

This has been successful with many and varied projects out there through American portal www.kickstarter.com and Australian portal www.pozible.com that have already helped hundreds of projects see the light of day through audience donation and crowdfunding.

It doesn’t have to be a one off campaign for support, either. These days, I run a Patreon to help me keep the Freelance Jungle up and running when I realised the side project was starting to demand more attention. As a creative coach, I know I needed to dedicated time to keep the project running smoothly. Patreon gave me the opportunity to pay for it.

Not only that but you can use such platforms to show to Angel investors or a wider audience such as a record company or government funding body that there is indeed support, interest and a desire to see your project succeed which can in turn raise you more money and your project’s profile.

AND your project is automatically a part of a wider creative community that wants to break through with their own ideas. How sweet is that?


Learn to take rejection

Look, you know you kick arse, but sometimes it may not be the right time for what you are doing and a little self evaluation and taking the knock backs in your stride is part of being creative.

We all fail. We all have to decide what to do with that failure. It’s often a defining moment in our desire to produce ideas.

What you do with that rejection can be quite useful too.

So what does a smart reject do?

  • Reviews the work and also asks non-biased, helpful people to do the same. Not your mum or significant other- they generally have other reasons for telling you your shit is whack. Find someone who will be honest and give constructive criticism.
  • Does the research and choose your targets wisely. A lot of rejection can be saved if you match the pitch to the person.
  • Answer ‘what’s in it for you’ with your approach. People don’t want extra work, extra worries and someone else’s idea. What they want is something that they can connect with, they see value in, they can put their stamp on and/or makes their life easier, not harder. I tell my creative coaching clients all the time- if you make it all about you, you leave no room for the customer.
  • Reads the feedback given during rejection and takes it on board. You may not agree in the end, but if you are willing to listen to feedback and criticism, you can learn a lot about your project and what you are trying to do which can help you in the long run. Even if it’s to get a sense of the place you approached for future reference.
  • Doesn’t give up, hurl things, stick their bottom lip out or put the boot into those that reject the idea. Word gets around- a lot. Don’t impede your chances of success by acting like a brat who was the last pick for afternoon school sports because it really, really isn’t a good look.
  • Gives up that stupid notion that “failure” is bad. If everyone succeeded every time, there would be no one to manufacturer your undies or interesting life stories to read. Learning to fail is probably the best lesson a creative person can learn because you will do it a lot during your creative career and there is a lot to learn from going through a failure. All you can and should do is take your lumps, learn from them, regroup and get the hell on with it.

get experience in creative arts

Keep doing it as long as you need to

“You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em

Know when to walk away, know when to run
You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done.”


Kenny Rogers wasn’t talking just about gambling, this is about life. What are you good at? What do you suck at? Are you selling yourself short or thinking you’re all that and a bag of chips when really, you’re over-reaching your abilities? It’s important to keep a real world perspective about your abilities and keep both your own belief in your own value positive as well as realistic.

You need persistence, patience and to keep looking at your goals and changing them to suit the changes that occur in technology, audience interest and within yourself.

Be smart, true to yourself and your own creative best friend. Be your ally and creative coach in one. It will help you run the marathon you will need to run in order to get to where you creatively want to be. If you know how you fit into the scheme of things, you will be better able to guide others on how they can make use of you in the best possible way.

The bottom line on those pesky credentials 

You don’t need a creative coach to know that if you show you are passionate and continue to work towards capturing someone’s eye, you will eventually. You will gain the attention of those you look up to, or even become something others want to emulate and follow.

If you truly believe what you do is unique, special and viable, you will find a way to make it work for you, credentials or not. Just be as creative in your approach to your demonstrating your creativity as you are to your creations and it will come together in the end.

Need a creative coach to help make that happen? Get in touch. 

You Might Also Like