Image licensed via Adobe Stock
Happy birthday to us! It’s Creative Boom’s 13th anniversary this weekend, and to celebrate, we’re sharing 13 brilliant tips from our community on creative progress.
Where has the time gone? It’s now an astonishing 13 years since Creative Boom first launched, back in the heady days of 2009. And we’ll be honest; it’s been a bumpy ride. Back then, we were completely bootstrapped and made plenty of mistakes along the way.
Sometimes we did too much; sometimes, we did too little. We tried a lot of different things, and many of them failed. But fast-forward to 2022, and we’re still going strong. And we’re still doing what we love: supporting creatives everywhere, particularly the underrepresented.
If you’re at the start of your career, though, you’ll have a lot in common with us in the early days, when we weren’t quite yet steady on our feet and were still working out what we wanted to do and how to achieve it.
To help, we asked our community for their best advice on creative progress, and we share their top tips below. Disclaimer: you never stop learning or growing – that’s part of the fun, so don’t worry if you’re already well into your career and still figuring things out: that’s normal. But we hope the following advice is helpful and reassuring.
1. Be honest
When you’re struggling to achieve success, it’s tempting to try and project an image of infallibility. But in reality, it’s normal to make mistakes. And web designer and photographer
“When you make a monumental fuck up, as we all do from time to time, be 100% open about it with your client while explaining how you’ll fix it,” he advises. They will respect your honesty. Some of my best clients are a result of this very moment.”
2. Be patient with clients
As well as honesty, clients will appreciate your patience. Yes, it’s natural to want to dive into the creative process and start producing work. But sometimes, that’s premature, and it’s important to wait until you’ve truly nailed the concept and got everybody on board.
“When you get into a feedback loop with a client, which feels like pedantic pixel pushing, it’s often because they feel that something isn’t right, but they can’t articulate why,” explains Nick Ellis, creative partner and founder of
3. Get a mentor
When you’re starting out, everyone will tell you to stick to your goals, get your head down, and focus on your dreams. But it’s also good to check in with others along the way.
“I think my biggest mistake was to run in the wrong direction at full speed without even knowing!” says artist and designer
4. Find your niche
As humans, it’s natural to want to please others. But trying to be all things to all people can lead you away from your true passions and ultimately damage your prospects for career success.
That’s a lesson that award-winning conceptual illustrator
5. Stay open to change
Finding a niche, though, doesn’t mean you have to stick to it forever. A creative career is about evolving, so stay open to new ideas.
In the words of textile artist and illustrator
6. Surround yourself with positivity
The creative community is generally an upbeat group of people, but not universally so. So make sure others aren’t holding you back. “The single biggest lesson I’ve learnt since going solo with my consultancy,
Head adds that real progress comes when you stop comparing yourself to others and lean into your individual strengths. “Take time to learn what you enjoy creatively and how you thrive,” Ben says. “And then be willing to say ‘no’ to work that isn’t a good fit for you.”
7. Make lots of mistakes
Positivity, though, isn’t the same as perfection. While others might want to project images of perfect lives and careers on Instagram, we all know there’s no such thing in reality. And anyway, whenever you talk to the most famed and successful creatives, they’ll all tell you that making mistakes is an essential part of growing as a creative.
Take Ian Anderson, founder of
Graphic designer and type enthusiast
8. Take breaks
Working hard is essential for success as a creative. But that doesn’t mean all the time! Make sure you set aside time for breaks and holidays, or you’ll burn yourself out.
As illustrator and artist
9. Think big
Some of the most creative solutions come from limitations: as the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. So as award-winning writer
“Go large: even on a small budget, you can think big. Use open spaces to create the work and pick out discarded stuff to create the biggest version of an idea. There’s joy in a big vision.”
10. Be yourself
The best thing about being a creative is that there are a near-infinite number of ways to approach your career. And yet ironically, if you spend too much time on social media, you can get pulled into a stifling conformism.
“For the longest time, I was trying to be ‘the right kind’ of designer,” recalls art director and designer
11. Focus on the work
Just in case you haven’t got the message yet, the best way to progress your creative career is to focus on the work rather than what other people are doing, saying or (supposedly) thinking. Scandinavian interiors blogger
12. Turn negatives into positives
Even if you follow all of this advice, you’ll still encounter challenges, failures and a lot of negativity in your career. But when life gives you lemons, you can still make lemonade.
As visual artist
13. Be proactive
In some careers, you can sometimes be lucky enough for success to land in your lap. In a creative career, though, that’s never going to happen: you have to make your own luck.
As graphic designer