Okay, so you’re good at what you do. You know you’re talented and are confident in your craft. But when you rely solely on your skills it’s easy to fall into the role of the order-taker who is exchanging talent or time for money. Whereas, when you are an expert you are hired and paid for your experience, knowledge, and ideas. How do you go from selling what you do to getting hired for what you know? There isn’t a super clear path or step-by-step formula to level-up your game. But I’d like to share a few ideas to make the transition from talented doer to an expert with purpose.
GET SPECIFIC ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT
There is probably a broad label for what you actually do – like photography, graphic design, interior decorating, coding, writing, yoga, or cooking. But can you get really specific about what makes you a great designer, photographer, writer, developer, or cook? Maybe it’s your use of color or typography. Maybe it’s your knack at capturing light or blending really interesting flavor combinations.
What you’re good at – your craft and your style – is typically what you’re being hired for. And getting really great at what you do is a good place to start. If you’re fresh out of school or new to your creative field it’s not a bad idea to focus on getting really good at your craft.
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR “HIGHER PURPOSE”
Your skills are really important but it still puts you in the position of being an order-taker if you’re not clear on your expertise. Plus, calling yourself an expert can feel funny if you don’t well… feel like an expert. So instead try thinking of your expertise as your higher purpose. A higher purpose doesn’t have to be super-woo-woo, or super-ambitious. It simply means why you do what you do.
When I first started down my path as a graphic designer I just wanted to be a rockstar at my craft – like Stefan Sagmeister or Jessica Hische. But when I started blogging about life as a freelance graphic designer I quickly realized my higher purpose was to be who I am 100% of the time in work and life. This purpose pours into what I consider my expertise, and that’s not design alone, but helping others blend that same 100% being who they are into their own personal brand. Design is just one tool to help me with the doing. You have similar talents or tools as a doer, too. Don’t stop using them, but try seeing the higher purpose they’re helping you reach over time.
USE YOUR SKILLS (THE STUFF YOU’RE GOOD AT) TO SHARE YOUR PURPOSE
My skills are in graphic design and as a freelance designer I was being hired to design brand identities, logos, and websites. But I also started using my skills in color, typography, and imagery to tell my own story and share my ideas on my blog. I never felt like an expert until over time, by consistently pairing design and idea-sharing on my blog, I began to attract a tribe of creative comrades and clients who felt inspired and encouraged by what I was putting out there. You don’t necessarily need a blog to share your expertise – it can happen over social media, with a podcast or youtube channel, at conferences and workshops, or in face-to-face conversations.
THEN JUST GET ON WITH IT! (HINT: IT TAKES TIME)
I wish I had a silver bullet that would instantly make every creative feel more confident and skilled at what they do. But the hard truth is that it takes time. I think it was Malcolm Gladwell who said in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at what you do. And in a less cerebral coffee table book about the rise and fame of Lady Gaga she said that she worked hard and kept her head down – then one day someone tapped her on the shoulder, she looked up, and she was number one.
In that first hour you are going to feel like anything but an expert and that’s okay – you have to begin somewhere. But it’s the one tried and true way I’ve seen hundreds of creatives who work for themselves make that real transition into not only feeling like an expert, but looking up over their shoulder, and finally realizing they are being seen as one. And heck yeah, it feels good to consider myself as one of them. It’s a humble “heck yeah” of course, with 10,000 hours behind me, and yet another 10,000+ and counting still in front. But all the work I do in those future hours won’t be as “hired talent,” but as an expert.