What are you waiting for?

I met with a long-time friend of mine this week — and it was interesting.

As both our children were on school holidays, we dropped them off at various holiday programs and met for breakfast at one our favourite local cafes.

Amongst other things, we discussed the changing landscape of both our businesses.

He owns a community newspaper, I own a creative agency.

For years, he and I have been bantering about the changing landscape of newspaper publishing, the demands on that business to innovate and the reliance on a business model that is as old as time can be (at least for newspapers).

The conversation today began with newspapers and how many are struggling to survive — making drastic changes to their business models and trying hard to innovate.

Naturally, we know that newspapers have been facing this tidal wave of change for a long time. It's front of mind for many a publisher — as it is for many a creative agency owner.

The newspaper industry is experiencing masses of people facing retrenchment, roles are evolving into something completely different to what business owners (and employees) had expected and there are more students than there are jobs. 

I haven't even mentioned the impact technology has had on his industry. One of my first ever jobs was in a newspaper and I can vouch for the enormous impact technology has had on this business. From bromides, to paste-ups, to desktop-publishing to super-fast, digital delivery of files — the newspaper game isn't the same game it was 30, 20, 15, 10 even 5 years ago.

Enter, the industry of creativity. The industry you, dear reader, are part of.

Our industry isn't changing. 

It changed a long time ago.

If you're new and only now entering this industry, you have a journey ahead of you to not only maintain your craft, your skill and your passion for what you do, but to stay relevant.

If you've been in it for a long time — possibly own your own business, I'm sure you're already thinking about how you can maintain a sustainable, profitable business in an age where the demands from clients are changing by the day.

Here are a handful of truths of my own when it comes to the changes the creative industry has faced in the last few years: 

  • Large organisations now have better capabilities inside their businesses than exist within most creative agencies.
  • Highly-skilled individuals are working 'in house' — some of these individuals are best in class.
  • The number of people seeking work (and currently in the education system) far outnumbers the number of jobs in our industry by a number I'm too frightened to find (if you have it, please send it to me)
  • The days are numbered for the Graphic Designer who can't design for screen, understand usability, map user experiences and solve human problems with a simple method.
  • Academia (ie. Design education) is scrambling to stay relevant and will change substantially in coming years.
  • Designers will seek learning from other Designers.
  • The days are numbered for the Solopreneur who doesn't understand sales.
  • We're going to see a rise in great products being made by people who simple gave up trying to find 'that job' and found other opportunities.

For Students and Graduates

You've probably been fed some of the following status-quo:

  • There are jobs
  • There are businesses looking to hire you
  • You're now ready to go out into the industry
  • You're ready to face the world

If I were a student who graduated from education this year and was entering the in the coming months, I'd make sure I was a step ahead:

  1. Develop a roadmap of future learning for yourself — what are you going to teach yourself in the next year? The next three years?
  2. Connect with as many people as you can, who are doing the work you want to be doing
  3. Build something. Execute fast and execute often.
  4. Learn about the world you're supposedly ready to face.

Just because your tertiary education is over doesn't mean you're now ready to stop learning. If you were sitting opposite me in a job interview scenario, I'd be very interested in the learning you have planned for yourself in the coming years — because believe me, businesses will invest in you, if you are already investing in yourself.

I'd also be asking you about your mentors — who are they? what are you learning from them and how balanced your network is?

And if we can't banter about the impact that the changing business model of the creative agency is having on the employability of young talent then you should probably read up on what I'm yapping on about.

For Owners

As a business owner myself, I've been thinking about the changing business model of my business for quite some time and I'm sure other business owners have too.

AdAge recently reported that large management/strategy consultancies were buying up creative and other specialised agencies. Both AdAge and Forbes have been reporting for some time now that the creative agency business has to think differently about what it does, why it does it and who it does it for.

I've made some changes in the past few years in my businesses and there are more to come:

  • Less reliance on clients for revenue and diversification of revenue streams
  • A leaner, more profitable business model
  • Less reliance on permanent employees in favour of long term collaborations
  • And other changes which I'll roll out over the next year

For Freelancers and Solopreneurs

I know a lot of people who work for themselves. Call them Freelancers, or Solopreneurs — whichever way you look at it, the person who has their own destiny in their own hands, is in an interesting situation when it comes to this ever-evolving landscape that is our industry.

If you're a recent graduate, you'll no doubt have heard from many a recruiter that you aren't welcome until you have some experience. In September 2016, I imagined an ideal recruiter for you.

As far as I'm concerned, until you find that first job you're so desperately looking for, you should be ready for anything. 

And if you're a 'seasoned' Freelancer you should have a strong handle on 'change' because more is coming.

  • Start an online business
  • Write a blog about the journey to find your first job (first year students will thank you)
  • Mentor someone
  • Find mentors. Lots of them.
  • Invest in yourself. Learn something new.
  • Connect with other freelancers / graduates and make something together.
  • Take people out for coffee and ask them lots of questions.
  • Build a product and take it to market. Tomorrow.

So what are you waiting for?