What Employers REALLY Look For In Creative Professionals

If you’re a creative professional (a writer, a filmmaker, a photographer) you’ve probably been in the position of looking and searching for a job, right?

As a freelancer (well, almost) filmmaker, I’ve been there too.

I’ve started my career on UpWork, looking and working for a lot of different clients, trying to make a living and earn the money to pay my bills.

Some might call it luck and others might call it action, but I’ve been quite successful in the short time I was on UpWork, managing to get some high paying clients and a lot of different gigs.

I’m not saying it do brag, but to show you that I was not doing what everyone was doing at UpWork and it works, when we switch positions and act as if we were the employer.

Do Technical Skills Really Matter?

When I see creative professionals applying for job, the main concern they show about a new job is if they are going to be able to perform the job in terms of technical skills. They are afraid if their skills will match the requirements of the job.

And don’t get me wrong here… Technical skills are definitely important, and you shouldn’t expect to go anywhere if you’re a graphic designer using Paint…

HOWEVER…

Technical Skills are NOT the only thing that matter when looking for a new job. Don’t try to earn the job by showcasing ONLY your technical skills.

I once worked for a company that, well, let’s say, produced a LOT of tasteless videos. We would constantly go into battle between the creative direction of the videos and… The boss always won lol

Despite the tasteless videos, they always managed to get clients… Not only clients, but high paying clients, who would pay big money for their services. And while at the beginning I couldn’t understand how it was possible, as time went by, I started to really understand it.

So… What Matters Then?

One of the biggest influencers in my life, John Sonmez, likes to call “Mommy Skills” the skills you should own in order to succeed as an employee.

But what the hell are “Mommy Skills”?

Mommy Skills are the skills you don’t learn at online courses or anything near the technical skills most people teach you. Mommy Skills are the skills that build your character and that most professionals tend to neglect.

Yes, employers are definitely concerned about what you have to offer in terms of quality of your work, but this is not the most important thing for them. The shifting in my view occurred after being on both sides of the hiring spectrum: as an employer and as an employee.

I would consider these 5 skills the most important skills that employers look for when hiring a new creative professional:

1- Reliability
2- Communication Skills
3- Proactivity
4- Problem Solving Skills
5- Deadline Meeting

Reliability

I consider myself being a very reliable person and I’ve even talked about it with some friends, on how easily people trust me and share things that happen on their lives with me.

When it comes to working for a new employer on a new job, it is not different.

Your employer must trust, at least, 98% on you.

Picture yourself in the position of your employer. Would you design a position in your company if you didn’t trust that someone?

Companies are like machines, it doesn’t matter its size. Every engine of the machine must be running at its perfect timing and, if possible, at its full velocity.

When a new employee enters that machine, it must fit as well as possible and make the machine run as smoothly and more powerful than before. Said that, it must do its job even if there is no one looking.

Trust is definitely a key player in that process.

Imagine if, you were not trustable as an employee and your boss (or managers) had to keep a constant eye on you. Timing and productivity would decrease exponentially.

Being a reliable employee means being trustable so that this trust can translate into productivity and making the engines run even better.

Communication Skills

This is where most people believe that they don’t fit in.

“I won’t deal with people in my job, I don’t need to have good communication skills”.

Unless you will be working completely isolated from the world, maybe creating a new weapon for mass destruction, you NEED to have good communication skills.

Communication skills just fits in basically everything you do as a creative professional: whether you’re a freelancer and you need to prospect to new clients or just a photographer trying to understand the needs of your client.

Bottom line is: communication skills are more important than most creative professionals think.

Make your intentions and standards clear, communicate your deadlines, communicate your ideas… Communicate!

One of the biggest problems I usually hear from employers and contractors lies exactly in lack of communicating everything both sides need to know about the job or gig you’ve been hired for.

Don’t be economic in words here.

Problem Solving Skills

The same applies here in terms of making the machine run and making the engines fit each other.

Your employer is not looking to hire you so that he can give you money.

I see a lot of creative professionals making this mistake over and over again. You should not beg for a job but show them how they cannot live without you on that job.

One of the main reasons your employer is looking for a new person to fit in some position is that he can have more free time, to focus on more important things. Besides that, of course, it must, of course, rely on the technical skills only you have so that you can do the job no one else can.

One of the most important skills you need to learn as a creative professionals is “problem solving skills”.

What do I mean by problem solving skills? It means that you are able to solve any problems that appear, without having to call for help of your boss or managers.

Usually, the best thing at this point, is to leave it all accorded at the beginning, of what you should do on your own and what you need to take to your managers and boss.

The thing here is to realize that you must be able to solve as many problems as you can, without making your managers and boss waste time on it.

The time you’ll save for them will definitely be valuable and, the more you do it, the more valuable as an employee you will become.

Proactivity

I don’t mean to be just another person writing about one more blog post about proactivity and the importance of being proactive, but I couldn’t get this item out of this list.

Being proactive is of extreme importance for every position you might get hired for.

Just like we’ve talked about on the problem-solving skills item, being proactive follows the same logic here.

Your boss and contractors are hiring you with a few things in mind:

1- So that you can do the job (duh)
2- So that they can save their time with more important things
3- Earn more money

With that in mind, how can you make your contractor’s life easier by making these 3 statements come to reality?

The more proactive you are, the more you’ll solve problems that can be easily solved by you without taking it to them. As I’ve said before, you’ll become a valuable employee/freelancer as soon as you start doing that.

The more an employee is able to scale its work, the more valuable it becomes.

Keep that in mind.

Deadline Meeting

One of the biggest problems an employer can face is missing a deadline due to his employee.

What you have to understand is that your work is just a process in a much bigger production workflow. Sometimes you’re in the middle, sometimes you’re more at the end, but you’re never alone.

Your piece of work will much likely be distributed and if you mess up with your part, the whole chain starts to get out of control.

Sometimes the damage can be reversed, but when it comes to bigger CLIENT$ (yeah, more money involved) you can’t think about delaying the completion of a project.

Make sure to always give your clients and bosses realistic deadlines.

When predicting deadlines, always balance the “cost x benefit” of the project. What I mean by that is: what is the best you can do under the desired deadline?

Sometimes you’ll need to find other quicker alternatives in detriment of the quality of your work… Being a perfectionist, in that case, is out of consideration. The job needs to be done.

So… Will I Get The Job?

Frankly, I don’t know.

What I can assure you is that showing your employers that you have these skills will definitely put you in the top 5 of candidates.

Most creative professionals are not aware that these skills matter and they’re only concerned about showcasing their portfolio, when there are a lot more things that matter when it comes to getting the job.

Keep that in mind and make sure to highlight it in your next proposals.

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