This past week I had the enormous privilege to return to Columbus, GA for my second Creative South! While the weather and Delta airlines gave us a bit of a hard time getting there (in varying degrees), it was well worth the haul to reunite with my creative family and connect with lots of new friends too!
Came as Friends
Beyond the awesome workshops and incredibly inspiring speakers, there's something so magical about connecting in person with other creative souls that really understand the struggles and victories we deal with on a daily basis, and to finally meet those friends from the internet.
Speaking of speakers, the line-up was killer and so full of insight, passion, and vulnerability. For those of you who didn't attend (and even those who did and just want to take a trip down memory lane), I thought I'd share my favorite quotes and takeaways from the talks this year.
“Your WHO is more important than your DO.”
Alicja is one of my very best friends, an amazing photographer, incredible human, and actually the reason I had such a life-changing experience during my first year at Creative South in 2016. So when I found out she'd be speaking, I couldn't wait to see what she had in store for us.
This lady did not disappoint! “Hustle” is a bit of a buzzword these days in the creative industry and it's so easy for us to start defining our own worth by our work and how well it's received. Alicja reminded us all that who we are is much more important than what we do for a living, and that essence should not only lead how we prioritize our time, but how we live our lives.
“Compare yourself to yourself.”
Adé is an incredibly talented letterer (flourishes for days) and wonderful guy who shared his own journey with honing his skills and crushing his own self-doubt.
It's so easy to look at the pros when you're just starting out and let intimidation paralyze you. Much like the “don't compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” (a personal favorite), Adé reminded us that we should celebrate the skills of others and the only person we should compare ourselves to is ourselves.
“Seek believers. You can't serve everyone.”
Jason's talk was a great change of pace, talking pricing and the secrets to a successful onboarding process. The key, he said, is to stop trying to convert the wrong clients and instead seek out the right ones.
Some people won't be the right fit for you and vice versa, and that's okay. Find the folks that are willing to trust in you to let you do your job, make incredible things and lead them to magic.
“The best clients are made, not found.”
Charles reminded us all that a good client relationship is like any other. It can't be built in a day. It will require some effort and education, but with time and consistent quality work we can build the kind of trusting and collaborative partnership that produces consistently amazing results for years to come.
“A career path is never a straight line.”
As someone who has a million ideas and excitement to spare, I really identified with this one. Dominique shared the twisty turny trajectory of her own career, and pointed out that even if you feel you're blindly running in circles from passion to passion, some day you'll look back and it will all align.
We're weaving an elaborate quilt square by square, day by day. It's hard to make out now when we're so close to it, but slowly the design will reveal itself and eventually you'll find the common thread behind it all.
“We should be design explorers.”
I took Steve's workshop on creating logos that last—a subject very close to my heart. Besides sharing some stellar fundamentals, he reminded us to not get stuck looking to our peers for inspiration. This breeds work that can all start to look the same without some fresh perspective.
Instead, Steve encouraged us to seek inspiration where others may not be looking—vintage packaging, old design books, the great outdoors, and anything else that you find inspiring. Don't stay stuck in the same old work habits. Expand your horizon and be a design explorer.
“I can... but I need help.”
Bob's talk took us on a tour of his career, guided by his contagious love of his family and the drive to lift others up in the community by sharing their work rather than getting jealous or competing with them.
He shared a story about his daughter saying she couldn't do something and helping her to turn that negativity on its head to become “I can... but I need help.” I think we all need to hear that every so often. It's easy for life to become overwhelming and our struggles to feel like they're crushing us, but just remember. You may not be able to do it alone, but that doesn't mean you can't do it at all. Together we can accomplish anything.
“Seeing is believing.”
Great advice from podcaster Mark Brickey, he pointed out that while you might be passionate and talented, no one will know that unless you show them. Back in his days as a designer, he wanted to work with Disney so he created some work in the style he could imagine Disney using and because they could see themselves in what he created, they eventually hired him to do some work for them.
If there's a certain type of work you want to do or client you want to work with, create whatever you can imagine for them yourself so those clients can see what you're capable of and become a believer in you and what you can do for them.
“Failure isn't fatal.”
This one hit me right in the heart. We all have small and not-so small failures, and it's so easy to let those drag us down and discourage us from trying again. Fortunately, Erik was there to remind us that “failure is an event, not a person” and that we shouldn't compare the sum of our failures to the sum of someone else's successes.
Sure, you may fail from time to time, but that doesn't mean you're a failure. It means you're growing and getting ever closer to something amazing. So get up and keep going.
Left as Family
Since I hit the one year mark of being in business, things were starting to feel like they were losing their luster and the burnout was beginning to set in.
This conference was exactly what I needed—to connect with others experiencing the same struggles, recognize that we all have our doubts and hard days, be inspired by all those who push forward anyway, and watch in amazement as our community and creative family grows. Creative South is truly an experience like no other, and let's just say I already bought my ticket for next year. 💖