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Reaching Creative Limitations & What To Do About It
Should you call in for backup when spearheading your own creative project, or not?
As a multifaceted creative, I love tackling huge projects single-handedly. Getting to the finish line usually means wearing dozens of different hats and flexing a wide range of skills. Maybe even learning new ones along the way!
Spearheading an independently led project can be a dream scenario for someone with boundless creative interests.
But even the most versatile among us will reach a point where we’re out of our depths.
Sometimes it’s easy to find a solution. Other times, it halts our progress.
Here’s what that experience looked like for me a little while ago – and what I did about it.
Filling in skills gaps
Once I decided to get started creating a fine jewelry collection and brand, things felt pretty nonstop – and I loved it! The appeal of this project was that I could tap back into my designer roots and lead the creative direction over something tangible from start to finish.
My motivation for the project was to beat the COVID boredom and have some fun. Plus I wanted to see if I could actually bring my vision to life.
I was able to draw on a wide range of different skills along the way:
Designing a cohesive collection
Sourcing materials including gemstones, recycled 14K gold, and custom eco-friendly packaging
Making technical spec sheets for each design
Creating a logo
Putting together an ecommerce website
Writing copy for the site and products
Photographing individual pieces
Creating social media content
Planning and providing creative direction for a photoshoot
Styling wardrobe looks for the shoot
As you can imagine, my inner Renaissance woman was delighted with this whole to-do list!
I spent countless nights staying up late to tinker with design ideas, tweak web page layouts, and toy around with photo editing tools.
But I reached a point (several times) where I knew I was at the edge of my skill set. And these limitations actually stood between me and the end of my project:
I could sketch out the designs and source the right materials, but I didn't have the ability to actually produce the pieces by hand.
I could take photos of products themselves, but I didn't have the resources, technical skill, or confidence to shoot my jewelry on a model.
So, I turned to experts to help fill in the gaps in my skill set.
I partnered with professionals for CAD renderings and wax mockups.
I worked with a casting house whose bench jewelers cast, assembled, and finished the pieces.
I partnered with a studio that provided photo, video, and modeling talent.
Although these parts of the process ended up in other hands, enlisting help from others meant I could keep moving forward.
Reaching a stopping point
One other limitation I ran into was the sales side of things. My lack of natural sales acumen – and, honestly, my total lack of interest in hustling – was the hardest to admit.
After all, selling doesn't exactly require fancy equipment. Isn't it something every creative or small business owner should just be inherently good at and enthusiastic about?
I guess not.
At any rate, I followed the same process and researched my options for outsourcing this part of the process.
Unfortunately, working with a sales rep would be cost-prohibitive. Even worse, one person I spoke with said it would typically require completely redoing the whole brand and collection to make sure it met market demands. Yuck.
My intention from the outset of this project was all about creative play and bringing a creative vision to life. The partnerships I relied on for CAD, goldsmithing, gem setting, and photography all supported that intention.
But the sales partnership opportunity didn’t. Not at all.
In the end, I decided not to pursue it. I also didn’t waste too much time and energy stressing myself out over hustling and hitting sales targets.
And I didn’t need to, because I’d already met my most important goals: bringing my vision to life and having fun along the way!
No matter what project I’m working on, I enjoy being a one-woman show. But I sometimes need to call in backup.
If you’re a fellow multifaceted creative, you may find yourself in the same boat at times. You have an abundance of talents and skills – and a passion for doing the best creative work you can. You’ll skillfully take on dozens of to-dos in stride.
But you’ll eventually hit that uncomfortable point of discovering your limitations. Slowly but surely, you may come to realize you’re lacking the time, resources, skills, or motivation to complete what you started.
It can feel frustrating – and even a little embarrassing – to hit that limit. But it's okay!
Keep these two things in mind once you reach that point:
1. Acknowledge your limits and get support where you truly need it
Calling in the reinforcements can actually make your finished product infinitely better than it could be otherwise.
If you’re stuck along the way, know that there are plenty of talented creatives out there who can pick up a project right where you left off.
2. Determine whether you can achieve your goal without backup
Filling in your skills gaps can be beneficial – but it can also be expensive, time intensive, and even meddlesome.
If you don’t have a certain skill, maybe it’s not that important after all. If you can achieve what you set out to achieve without it, consider passing. You may be able to reach even more personal satisfaction and success this way.
And as long as you’re working toward your definition of success, you’re on the right track!