The work of a creative professional starts with a signature

What does a creative professional do, exactly?

Do they show up to a marketing firm with a bunch of coloring books and crayons?

Do they throw paint everywhere and make a bunch of abstract art and then try to sell it to advertising agencies?

Do they run B2B slam poetry gatherings over Zoom?

That stuff is cool, but the creative professional likes to get paid.

So what do they do to get paid?

They look at your organization’s copywriting, marketing assets, leftover zoom videos, blog posts and articles, and they make something useful. The creative professional takes a bunch of disparate stuff, stuff that sort of has a coherent message, and they find the signal in the noise.

The creative professional connects the dots using their signature.

Mark Woollen & Associates, the team behind my favorite movie trailer, has a signature. I get goosebumps every time I watch their brilliant piece for The Social Network.

The late Toonami had a signature. Their nighttime commercials on Cartoon Network created a generation of lifelong fans. For the Toonami faithful, exciting commercials are synonymous with the (sadly, now defunct) Toonami brand.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find your signature right away. But if you’re like all the others, it’ll take you a very long time to find it.

So what’s the payoff of spending months, maybe years, looking for your signature?

Liberation. You’ll no longer be oppressed by the temptation of the cliched and popular. You’ll start writing about your weekly hiking trips. You’ll start recording podcasts about black coffee and flannel hoodies. You’ll no longer bore yourself with what you make. And the people who work with you won’t be bored, either.

It’s the creative professional’s job to rid the world of boring stuff. And the only way to do that is to start developing a signature. If you don’t, you’ll end up making stuff that’s like all the other stuff out there.

Your signature is a currency that increases in value the more you spend it. The more you use your signature, the better you’ll be at using it. A stronger signature will lead you to bigger and better projects. Bigger and better projects means bigger and better pay, which leads to more opportunities…you can see where this is going.

And sure, people can counterfeit your signature. But like a fake dollar bill, the forgery will be obvious once you hold it under the light.

The point of creativity is to solve problems in interesting ways. The creative professional gets to show up, armed with a pen in hand, prepared to do something that might blow up in their face. But the risk isn’t as big as it seems. There’s always a silver lining in every failed project.

For the creative professional, the world is like a giant contract. They go out and sign their name here, here, and here.

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