Following Dalí’s example
Salvador Dalí created classic paintings of the 20th Century but he also designed furniture, ties, magazine covers and even the Chupa Chups wrapper.
It is an example general manager for Network Ten and former ad-man Russell Howcroft drew on recently when he promoted the idea of the commercialisation of creative skills at a Wheeler Centre event.
‚[Dalí’s Chupa Chups design] confirmed in my mind that the arts community ought to be attaching themselves to commercial enterprise and commercial enterprise ought to attach itself to the arts.
‘In commerce you need people who are genius at the arts because they are the ones who will create a difference because of their skills.’
While convincing corporates to buy into creative can be difficult, Howcroft was adamant about its value. ‘That’s the x-factor around creativity, it sort of sells the unsellable really.’
But even if you are convinced that your creative skills are valuable, how can they actually translate into tangible job outcomes?
It’s a crowded market. Writers, arts administration workers, visual artists, event programmers and more, a legion of arts-trained individuals are promoting themselves as ‘creative consultants’ and connecting with brands, councils, and corporates to offer their specialised skills.
In a competitive creative economy, Entrepreneur described creative consultantsas those able to ‘define problems, recognize opportunities, and develop new products and services by finding out-of-the-box solutions to produce innovation.
‘While some use the term creativity consultant to describe specific services such as copywriting, presentation development and design work that ranges from information to interiors and products, creativity consultants often provide a combination of project consulting and training to client companies and organizations,’ wrote Paul and Sarah Edwards.
Madeleine Grummet founded creative consultancy Do Re Me Creative after traversing across public relations, journalism, marketing and creative development throughout her career.
‘Being a creative consultant has allowed me to capture all of these things,’ said Grummet.
Working across government and corporate sectors, she develops concepts around a specific brief, creating public programs, workshops, community engagement projects, brand activations, events, and content.
‘You’ve got to have an understanding of the marketing or messaging of what a brand is trying to do and work within that language to create something that fits the culture and community that you are attempting to reach.’
Undervaluing our transferable skills
To embrace a career as a creative consultant, we first have to stop diminishing the often hidden but invaluable transferable skills arts workers develop.
Project management, administration, and communication are often overlooked skills in the arts, but can set the foundations for a career as a creative consultant.
Bec Mackey of Brightside Creatives finds it difficult to define what she does. Her work spans writing, coaching, projects, grand editing and more. ‘It just depends on the context so I like that creative consultant covers off the whole broad spectrum of what I do.’
Mackey realised she had creative skills that were valuable when people kept coming to her with questions. ‘I started to realise it was something that I had in my skill set that was not really something I’d been valuing, but was certainly very valuable for other creatives.’
Undervaluing our skills and training is quite common in the arts, particularly in regard to our day jobs.
‘We tend to think of our day job and then the creative project we are trying to get going on the side as separate and you don’t value what comes out of your day job in terms of skills. Yet for your creative peers, those skills that you are gaining are invaluable.’
Taking the leap to creative consultant
Getting paid to be creative seems like a dream scenario, but what steps do you take in order to become a creative consultant?
Grummet said for her it was not a giant leap, but a ‘series of gradual steps forward, backwards and sideways.’
She also recommends being a generalist. Often we are led to believe that having in an interest in many things can mean not being good at anything, but for a creative consultant, being multi-passionate is a requirement of the role.
‘You have to be interested in lots of things because it informs your learning and it pushes you constantly so you don’t stagnate.’
Becoming a generalist requires risk taking and continued learning. ‘You really just need to do it, just try something. Keep saying yes to experiences. Be a generalist not a specialist,’ said Grummet.
John Stafford from visual arts based consultancy CreativeMOVE describes his work as using ‘creative thinking and design thinking’ to provide strategic advice and deliver outcomes for the arts, built environment and government sectors.
Increasingly Stafford is seeing a need for creative skills to be utilised in the government and corporate sectors. ‘Organisations of any kind need to be dynamic, innovative and transformative… people from the creative sector can apply and deliver those skills and thinking.’
A creative consultant can also take the form of board member. ‘Creative people have a lot to offer at a board level and a decision making level and that is underutilised in this country and I’m hoping that will change,’ said Stafford.
The skills of a creative consultant
You must also have a strong ability to collaborate, not only to successfully execute projects but develop new skills.
Grummet skills herself up to prepare for workshops, or invites artists such as Emily Green or Madeleine Stammer to teach their skills.
Strong communication skills and a background in writing is also recommended. This allows you to foster strategic partnerships, tap into an organisations key messaging and drive community engagement.
‘Having a sound knowledge of media timelines, process and practice allows you to work as a media liaison where required,’ said Grummet.
There is also skill in being able to harness your creative talents and apply them accordingly to a project, cause or brand.
Flexibility is also key, with Grummet pointing to developing ‘ability to work inhouse, or on short and long-form project-based initiatives.’
Stafford agreed: ‘You need to adapt and adapt quickly and think in a global context. We need to allow both our creative and business sector to operate in that way.’
Like any profession, finding a mentor can also be a fantastic way to help illuminate the path to become a creative consultant.
‘Take that first step. See if you can be mentored by someone who will help you see things, help you gain access to the industry, and help you do things.’
The appeal of being a creative consultant is that it is boundless in terms of the work you do and the revenue streams you can create.
Mackey has created an online resource to complement her consultancy work. ‘I was working with a lot of individuals who couldn’t spend a lot of money on one-on-one consultancy so I thought, why don’t I look at the business model a bit better and create a resource and eventually a small income stream.’
Confidence in your creative worth
Ultimately, having confidence about the skills you can offer is a key skill as a creative consultant.
‘Put your hand up, that is the basic thing,’ said Stafford. ‘For individuals I think they have to take some initiative and say, “This is my training, and these are my skills, and this is how can I contribute to your company”. ‘Have a bit of confidence and faith in yourself and believe in what it is your think you can contribute and do your best to be persuasive about what that contribution is. Build rapport with people, be it individuals or companies around that idea of creativity, innovation, and risk.
‘At the end of the day, all business and government success is about relationships.’
Confidence comes from being prepared. ‘I think you need to be really clear about who your potential clients are so you can market yourself to them,’ said Mackey. ‘You’ve just got to show them that you have something that is extremely valuable.’
‘I think you do need to have the confidence in yourself to market yourself as the expert that you are in whatever consulting field and people will follow suit,’ said Mackey.
If feeling unsure or struck by imposter syndrome, taking stock of your achievements can help you consolidate your skills.
‘We have all worked through our careers thinking about the next step and we don’t often sit down and recognise that the combination of skills and our talents can combine to offer quite a lot.
‘Take stock of your experiences and have faith in your own abilities and confidence in yourself to do it, that you can do it, and then just go for it and see if there is a need for what it is you have to offer,’ concluded Mackey.