Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. -Susan Scott

In this era of digital communication it’s easy to overlook, ignore and avoid the relationships in our lives that need work. If you have ever sent an email when you should have picked up the phone, purposely dodged someone’s cubicle, or sat in fuming silence during a frustrating meeting… you’re not alone.

Sometimes we avoid a difficult conversation because we don’t know what to say or we’re afraid of what we’ll hear in return. Other times, we convince ourselves that we don’t have the time to deal with it or we don’t want to hurt another’s feelings. Or, we may lack the courage to confront the issue directly.

Having a difficult conversation is hard work. Changing the trajectory of a poor relationship takes effort. But avoiding the obvious problem can lead to anger, frustration, exhaustion, and even depression. If you have a difficult relationship, think about how much time and energy it sucks from you. Think through the benefits to be gained by improving it and then dive in to ensure those benefits are realized.

1. Prepare what you want to say

Start with your goal. What do you want to get out of the conversation? It should never be about being hurtful or ‘winning’ an argument. If that’s your objective, quit while you’re ahead. Your goal should be around developing a better understanding, getting past a roadblock, resolving a specific issue, being more productive, and/or moving forward with a specific activity or objective. Clearly state your goal in terms that are specific to your situation.

Next, write down what you want to say and organize it into key points. It’s best to keep the information limited. No one likes having a laundry list of issues thrown at them. Prioritize your list and plan on focusing on only the 2-3 most important issues.

The person you’re talking to may need help understanding the issue so be prepared with examples. Also, be prepared to discuss the impact – on you, your team, the project, or the company. Your concerns will carry more weight if you can clearly explain why it’s important.

Make sure you can describe the issue in ways they will find compelling. Remember the adage that everyone is asking, WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Think about what motivates them and how they want to be perceived. How will their own goals be helped by improving their relationship with you? Weave this information into what you want to say.

2. Practice

Ask a friend to practice with you. Do a role play. Ask your friend to be objective and offer honest feedback on how you can improve what you’re saying. However, being prepared does not mean memorizing a script. Trying to remember exact wording could add to your nervousness and it doesn’t allow for the natural ebb and flow of conversations.

3. Prepare yourself

Start with how you’re thinking about the conversation. Labeling it as ‘difficult’ means you’re anticipating problems which will add to your jitters. Think about it as having a constructive conversation to move forward; an opportunity to develop new ideas, hear a different perspective, or identify alternatives. Anything to reset your thinking in a positive direction.

Before the meeting, take steps to calm and center yourself. Take a walk, practice a mindfulness exercise, have a cup of tea, focus on your breathing and take the time to collect your thoughts.

4. Deliver. Stop. Ask. Listen.

It’s often good to start by acknowledging the discomfort for you both. Explaining that you know this might not be an easy conversation for them shows empathy and can be the start of a productive dialogue. Also, be aware of your tone of voice. It’s often said that 10% of conflict is about the issue and 90% is about the tone of voice. Work to remain calm, patient and interested.

Explain that you’d like a chance to voice your concerns and that when you’re done, you want to hear their perspective. They will be less likely to interrupt if they know their turn is coming. Once you’re finished explaining your key points, pause. Stop. Give them a time to absorb what you said. Silence can be hard but is often needed to show respect for their feelings.

Ask for their perspective. Express a genuine interest in hearing their side of the story. Only by hearing one another out can you accomplish the goal you set in Step 1. When the other person explains their perspective, it’s important to truly listen with an open mind. Work towards finding common ground between you and determine your mutual goals.

Take ownership for your piece of the problem. Chances are that you both contributed to the relationship getting to the place it is. You will have more credibility; more influence in this situation if you acknowledge your role in creating it.

5. Work toward ‘next steps’

Make a commitment. Find something in your difficult conversation that you can commit to that will improve the relationship, even if it’s only a small step. Encourage them to do the same. If they’re open to something bigger, discuss making a larger commitment to one another or develop an action plan. One commitment that is often made is to discuss issues with one another on a more timely basis in the future, should they continue to arise.

Be patient. Unless the issue is simple you may not fully resolve it in the first conversation. If this is the case, schedule another conversation. Even if you can’t reach any other resolution, resolve to continue the dialogue and schedule it for a specific date.

Remember: the relationship won’t fix itself and it may get worse unless you step in. And what’s the worst that can happen? That you crash and burn? That you’re rejected? This would show that you tried which sure beats knowing you lacked the courage!

Robin Elledge is the founder of Janus, a coaching and consulting firm in Los Angeles. Robin’s greatest passion is working with people to improve their ability to effect change within their company, team, and themselves. She has over 30 years of experience supporting and coaching leaders at all levels, from CEOs to those who are just beginning their management journey.

One balmy day in March, I got a panicked call from a colleague. Turns out she had lost four good, retainer-paying clients since the start of year. Three of them left in the same month.

Needless to say, she was freaking out.

None of these clients left because her service was bad. The reasons varied: One brought her services in-house. One client was closing up shop. Another was pooling company talents after a merge and wanted to review again in six months.

Still, even if it’s not your fault, losing clients can make you panic. It’s never fun to begin with, plus there’s the added stress of things like, you know, paying the rent and whatnot.

That’s why I’m going to share a secret with you.

At least four times in my career, I have lost my best client. And when I say my best client, I mean a client who was spending more than the next three best clients combined.

I don’t panic about it now. Here’s why: Every year that I’ve been out on my own (save for one), I’ve always made more than previous years. And even the exception was within 5% of my peak.

In short, I’ve always managed to keep the opportunities rolling in. Whenever a “good” client left, there were always two to three more ready to step up and take their place. So I thanked those good clients for the time we spent together, made a note to check in with them in six months, and moved on.

I’m betting you would love to be that nonchalant. (OK, full honesty here, I do panic … but for all of three minutes. See below.) It’s hard work to be in a place where you can afford (literally) to be that carefree. Here’s what you have to do:

  • Always be working on your “funnel.” Always set aside some time each week to drum up new business. Even if this just means taking a referral partner to lunch or asking a current client for a recommendation. Getting new work takes time, so you need to start well before you lose any business.
  • Leverage the clients you have. This is technically part of working on your funnel, but it deserves its own bullet point. Can you sell more to existing clients? Can you get a warm introduction from them? Or maybe a testimonial? Always find ways to use your network to grow your business.
  • Don’t burn bridges. There have been plenty of times when someone I’ve worked with leaves for a new company. If we’ve left things on a good note, they will use me again. Be professional, and it will pay off.
  • Have a money buffer. I keep roughly two months of salary in my bank account with a big “DO NOT TOUCH” sign on it. (Not literally. What would that even mean?) There are always flush months and hungry months, and it’s good to know that you have the money saved to get you through the lean times.
  • Have a backup plan. No, don’t literally plan on bailing (not yet). This is strictly psychological: I’ve noticed that people tend to calm down and think through their tough times more rationally if they know, deep down, that they have a Plan B. So formulate your backup plan. Then tell yourself, “OK, if this doesn’t work out in three months, I know I can fall back on this!” You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to grow your business when you don’t have that “do-or-die” mentality holding you back.
  • Be positive, but take the emotion out. Really, all of the above points boil down to these two: Keep a positive attitude and don’t make rash decisions based on your emotions. Indeed, losing business means some extra time to reflect and make your business even better.

And if you lose that prime client, go ahead and panic, just a little. Complain to a friend. Crack open a bottle of wine and, in private, rant about the client. Cry about your future prospects. Wonder out loud if you’ve chosen the right career path.

After you’re done, you will have purged your system. You’ll feel better, and then you can get back to the work of rebuilding your book of business.

You can totally do it. I’ve done it four times and counting.

Brandon Towl is an experienced copywriter and content specialist living in St. Louis, MO. His main job is writing regular content for a number of industries and advising on all matters related to marketing; his passion, however, is providing workshops for writers and freelancers so they can grow their business. More information about these workshops and his company can be found at www.wordshaveimpact.com.

You’re preparing for an interview. You’ve poured over the job description identifying all the ways you’re PERFECT for this job. You’ve researched the company, the hiring manager and others you’ll be interviewing with. All good stuff. But what have you done to prepare for the interview itself?

Many interviewers use a technique known as behavioral interviewing. To learn what that is, contrast these two types of questions:

1. How would you approach an unexpected project that has a tight deadline?
2. Tell me about a time you got an unexpected project with a tight deadline. What did you do?

Both questions ask about your ability to work fast under pressure. The first asks what you would do and the second asks what you did do. Anytime you’re asked to describe what you did in a specific past situation (#2), you’ve gotten a behavioral interview question.

Why are behavioral questions used so much? When given general or hypothetical questions (like #1), most interviewees can figure out what the interviewer is looking for. And voilà – they say what the interviewer wants to hear whether it accurately describes them or not. By focusing on real situations from the past, interviewers know that the abilities we’ve used before will be used again. Behavioral questions are a better way to determine our skills and job fit.

So, what’s the best way to respond to behavioral questions? Use the S.T.A.R. technique!


There are four pieces to a S.T.A.R. response. For each, be succinct and specific.

S – Situation: Briefly describe the background or context. What issue, problem or opportunity did you face?
T – Task: Describe the specific task or activity you took on to address the situation. What was your job in the situation?
A – Action: Describe how you went about completing the task (your action, not the action taken by your team). What steps did you take to get it done?
R – Result: Describe the outcome. What did you accomplish? What were the results, including the impact on the company, your team, your client, etc.?

Example Question: Tell me about a time you got an unexpected project with a tight deadline. What did you do?

Example S.T.A.R. Answer: Two months ago, my team was preparing for a client presentation which was scheduled for the next day. The person who was developing it had an accident and couldn’t finish, so I was asked to pull it together. I hadn’t been involved up to that point so the first thing I did was to familiarize myself with the client. I talked to our team, researched them online, and then dove in. I solicited help to gather the information I needed, developed an outline and ran it by our client lead. He made a few tweaks, but less than I expected, and I stayed very late that night to make sure the information was accurate, clear, and that it looked great. And we won the business! Although I prefer to plan my work, I can work under tight deadlines when needed.


To use the S.T.A.R. technique effectively, have 3-5 good stories about your past work handy and ready to discuss. Pick ones that demonstrate your best skills and abilities. In the example above, this story shows initiative, collaboration, perseverance, drive, and a focus on quality results. Think beyond your technical skills when you develop your stories. The interviewer is looking for your fit with the culture as much as your ability to do the job. Prepare to describe your stories using the steps in S.T.A.R. Chances are you’ll be asked a couple of questions where one or more of these stories can be used.


Don’t shy away from telling interviewers about mistakes you’ve made in the past. In fact, sometimes they will ask you to describe a situation where things didn’t go well. When this happens be prepared to describe what you learned from the situation and what you would do (or have done) differently as a result of this learning. Honestly describing mistakes can demonstrate accountability, integrity, and your ability to grow.

Non-Work Situations

It’s ok to use stories from things you’ve accomplished outside of your work (e.g. volunteer activities, clubs, athletics, etc.), provided you can ie the skills or lessons learned back to how it would apply in a work situation. This is especially true if your career is just starting out.

Good luck in your interview!

Robin Elledge is the founder of Janus, a coaching and consulting firm in Los Angeles. Robin’s greatest passion is working with people to improve their ability to effect change within their company, team, and themselves. She has over 30 years of experience supporting and coaching leaders at all levels, from CEOs to those who are just beginning their management journey.

I love deadlines. I really do. As a freelance writer and editor and a lifelong procrastinator, I know that without firm deadlines, I’ll let my tasks drag on and on. I’ve noticed, however, that many creative freelancers like me are ripe for exploitation from demanding clients. We accept tight, unrealistic deadlines from clients who, whether they are aware of it or not, are taking advantage of a writer’s or designer’s fears of losing out on an assignment or the client altogether. But, freelancer, your fears are misplaced. I want to convince you that you’ll win when you refuse to accept unrealistic deadlines.

Crazy-short deadlines are not good for you

Research has demonstrated that overwork and its accompanying stress and exhaustion can interfere with making good judgment calls. “You’re simply more likely to make mistakes when you’re tired, and most of us tire more easily than we think we do,” said the Harvard Business Review’s executive editor Sarah Green Carmichael in “The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies.” “Keep overworking, and you’ll progressively work more stupidly on tasks that are increasingly meaningless.” Harsh words, but she drives home an important point: Overwork does not work.

Moreover, the health risks associated with overworking are real, and your impaired health does nothing to improve the client’s bottom line. Putting your client’s needs before your own reduces the leisure and relaxation that is key to de-stressing and appreciating your day-to-day life. Weekends/time off are for you, family, friends, outdoor activities and leisure. If you miss out on all that life enrichment, you’ll lose those special and rewarding moments, and even risk your personal life and important relationships.

Don’t make accepting unrealistic deadlines the norm

Sometimes your client may have a last-minute emergency where you want to step up and help out. Fair enough. When you routinely accept such deadlines, however, it isn’t good for you or your client. It’s normal to let our fears dictate our behavior from time to time, but if you get into a consistent pattern of jumping higher and higher at the client’s command, you will inevitably become exhausted and stressed out.

Don’t imagine that your clients will appreciate your going the extra mile or 10, or reward you for your sacrifices. In fact, your modus operandi simply trains your clients to demand faster and faster turnarounds. In the words of Meridian Health Plan CIO Tom Lauzon, quoted in “Don’t Always Aim to Meet Unrealistic Deadlines,” “When you finish a project with an unrealistic deadline, your reward is another project with another unrealistic deadline.” Overly demanding clients don’t empathize or understand what you require to deliver your assignment and will keep pushing you until you set limits.

So, how do you respectfully say no to unrealistic deadlines?

  • Be professional, clear and brief.
  • Do not get defensive, justify yourself or make excuses. You have a right to set limits that will improve your functioning as well as the quality of the work you produce, and to deliver to that client.
  • Stay calm and be positive. The person you’re addressing will appreciate it and mirror your low-key approach.
  • Be rational, but keep a sense of humor to reduce tension.
  • Remind clients of your achievements and successes on their behalf as you set limits.

And finally, practice what one of my mentors calls “the old ‘assume’ trick.” It really works: Begin by thanking clients in advance for their understanding of your need for more time to do the best job. When you seem to assume that clients will understand and say yes, it makes it a lot harder for them to say no.

What will happen if you set boundaries for an over-demanding client?

In the vast majority of cases, that client will have greater respect for you, and understand that you are a busy professional and not some dilettante artiste trying to shirk the hard work of creative writing or design. The worst that can happen? You lose the exhausting clients who drain your energy, and then you have the time and inner resources to replace them with better, more responsible people and businesses. We are all entitled to some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha Franklin famously put it. Saying no clears space for you to say yes to opportunities that will advance you professionally and reward you appropriately.

Julie is a Creative Circle candidate and experienced freelance writer, editor, and content creator in Santa Monica, California. A mentor and a career adviser, she cares about the community of freelancers who are finding new ways to work successfully in today’s gig economy. If you want to work with Julie, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.

Have you ever wished you knew more about getting through college than being told, “Congratulations, these are the best years of your life?” As much fun as college can be, it’s also meant to be your first step into a career and life as a professional adult. But that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult — or uncreative.

At Creative Circle, we’re all about attracting, retaining, and placing top talent, and that means starting your journey right. If you’re interested in a future as a creative or you’re just nervous about getting through your college years, we want to help!

These handy guides include insider tips, best practices, insights, and ideas to help you make the most of your college experience. Below, we’ve broken down four jam-packed years into four easy guides, year by year — give them a read and put this inside info to work for you! Pick your year and download our mini-guides for quick tips on getting from freshman to senior year and beyond!

Freshman Year Guide

Creative Circle + Orangenius – College Resource Guide - Freshman

Sophomore Year Guide

Creative Circle + Orangenius – College Resource Guide - Sophomore

Junior Year Guide

Creative Circle + Orangenius – College Resource Guide - Junior

Senior Year Guide

Creative Circle + Orangenius – College Resource Guide - Senior

Four-Year College Guide

If you want to plan your college experience from start to finish, download the guide below that includes freshman through senior year!
Creative Circle + Orangenius – College Resource Guide - Full

Want to keep learning?

Check out Artrepreneur by Orangenius and Our Notebook by Creative Circle, for articles on the job search, career development, and the creative lifestyle!

Ready to start?

Put your candidate application materials to the test! Check out Creative Circle’s other Career Resource Guides for tips and tricks on developing your resume, portfolio, or interview skills.
Then be sure to create your portfolio at Orangenius and register as a candidate with Creative Circle.

Your “Help Wanted” post ran on Monday, and by Thursday afternoon, you were buried keyboard-deep in resumes and CVs. Rather than wading through them all — at the cost of many man-hours, all your sanity, and the potential of missing out on a golden candidate , because you’re at the point where you just. can’t. even. — use our three-point resume test to assess a job seeker’s most important characteristics. Then head over to our Interactive Resume Experience for more tips on reviewing creative resumes.

1. Look at the general presentation of the resume.

Why it matters: Demonstrates the candidate’s overall level of professionalism
How: Let your eyes rest on the resume for a few seconds. Does it invite you to keep reading by providing a clear informational hierarchy, ample white space, bullet points that break up blocks of text, consistency and an understanding of presentation? Or is it a mishmash of colors, fonts, graphic elements, and tiny type that seems to pack more words than punch?

It’s true that there are many ways to format a resume and creative professionals will likely use a little more visual flourish. However, a disastrously designed resume that forgets its first objective — to capture and hold a reviewer’s attention — may be a red flag.

2. Look for a sense of the job seeker’s personal brand.

Why it matters: Good indicator of fit
How: Once you’ve made it past the first hurdle, look deeper at the design, graphic elements, and writing style to get a sense of the candidate’s personal brand. For example, if someone uses a meticulously designed, infographic-style resume with minimalist fonts and active language, this candidate is presenting the brand of an experienced, creative problem-solver who enjoys using both sides of their brain. They’d probably be thrilled to work at a startup, helping to shape all aspects of the brand, and probably wouldn’t flourish as much in a traditional corporate position.

You may also need to look in places other than the candidate’s resume to confirm that the branding is intentional. The candidate’s website, portfolio and business card are other opportunities to showcase their personal brand and can indicate whether they’re a match for your culture and work environment.

3. Look for a combination of keywords and descriptive language

Why it matters: Reveals if they can do the job
How: Scanning for keywords is important, but it’s increasingly common for candidates to stuff their resumes with specific words to pass a filtering program sniff test. Beyond keywords, look for descriptive, natural language that paints a meaningful picture of how the candidate can use their skills to solve problems for a company like yours.

For example:
Candidate A: Skills include UX, UI, After Effects, Google Keywords, written communication
Candidate B: Created all UI elements of a multimedia campaign that resulted in 380,000 impressions and a 4% increase in sales

Sure, Candidate A could probably do the job, but Candidate B gives you a concrete example of results-driven work. You’d be safe to move Candidate B to the top of the “YES!” pile.

Bonus: Review resumes like a champ

Finding the perfect fit will probably take more than three steps, which is why we created a cutting-edge, digital Interactive Resume Experience to help hiring managers (and candidates) critique the resumes of digital, creative and marketing professionals. With 12+ years of industry expertise and the savvy to review 2,000+ resumes a week, we’ve got it down to a science. It’s why companies from startups to Fortune 500s hire freelance and full-time resources from us. Give it a try and start reviewing resumes like we do: your next hire could be closer than you think!

Creative Circle Interactive Resume Experience

If there’s one good thing that came out of the 2016 election season, it’s that Twitter, as far as social media platforms go, is hotter than ever. I know you know the basics: the retweet, the favorite, the reply, etc. But do you know how to navigate a live Twitter Chat?

What’s a Twitter Chat, you ask?

At its core, it is a group of like-minded individuals coming together — on Twitter — using a specific hashtag at a set time and date, responding to a moderator’s questions, sharing thoughts and getting inspired about a certain subject.

Think of it as a book club, but with a topic instead of a book and with tweets instead of face-to-face conversations.

Why participate in a Twitter Chat?

First and foremost, participating gives you a chance to express your voice and thoughts to an audience of like-minded individuals. Second, you will learn something — or be reignited by something — you already knew. Third, being active in a Twitter Chat will expand your contacts within your industry (aka more followers). There’s nothing to lose!

Need a starting point?

You’ve come to the right place. @Creative_Circle just celebrated the anniversary of our Twitter Chat called #LiveCreativeChat. Recent chats have been on Summer Activities that Fuel Your Creativity and Portfolio 101: The Basics. Participate, expand your circle and gather tips on what it takes to run a Twitter Chat for a year. Oh, and don’t forget to use #LiveCreativeChat in your tweets!

Connor is a Creative Circle intern and college senior. Based in New York, Connor is working toward a public relations and advertising major with a minor in real estate and a dream of starting his own travel company. Outside of the classroom, he can be found trying out new restaurants or checking out a current art exhibit.

Happy birthday, #LiveCreativeChat!

It’s been a fun year of Twitter chats, so we wanted to ring in our first anniversary with a celebration. After all, what’s the good of working if you don’t give yourself the chance to step back and appreciate what you’ve done?

To help us impart the wisdom of a little self-love, we asked professional creative and host of the Creative Pep Talk podcast, Andy J. Miller (@andyjpizza), to join us.

Check out what it takes to feel accomplished in your work — and what you can do to keep feeling that way.

Question 1: Throughout the summer, which of your goals have you accomplished?

We’re proud to have made it to the one year anniversary of our Twitter Chat, which ended with the #LiveCreativeChat Summer Series! And as a company, every candidate placed is a goal accomplished. It’s why we love coming to work!


Question 2: What are your goals for the upcoming year?

We’d love to bring you more guest hosts like @andyjpizza and keep helping the creative community. We’re also launching new resource guides and a new section on Our Notebook! Stay tuned here, and be sure to check out our resource guides.


Q3: What are some of your most effective strategies to accomplishing your goals?

We put our goals on sticky notes and screensavers — the constant reminders keep us on track. We also like to set a goal date and build a timeline from there. It’s the only way to keep the Twitter Chat running!


Q4: How do you manage/keep track of your goals? What are good planning methods?

Break down your goals into parts and start chipping away — a little goes a long way! Keep in mind that achieving goals takes time. Making reasonable timelines and checklists helps you feel productive and keeps discouragement at bay.


Question 5: How do you involve your creativity when accomplishing everyday business tasks?

First things first: Know your brand. Generating creativity from there will be natural! The same is true for doing what you love. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing every step of the way, your creativity will find a way to express itself.


Question 6: What is a word of advice you would give to someone who is struggling to accomplish their allotted task?

You can always step away from your to-do list for a moment. Take a breath, collect yourself and get back to it! If things aren’t coming together, go out and seek inspiration. Blocks happen — check out Our Notebook for articles and resources that can help.

And so begins our second year of the #LiveCreativeChat. We’ve come a long way and we don’t plan on stopping.

If you can’t wait, check out our Resource Guides to improve your resume, portfolio, and interviewing skills.

Even for those who’ve freelanced for many years and appear successful, the lifestyle can be a constant juggling act. In between the meetings and the work, there’s invoicing, coordinating with vendors … and probably some degree of hustling to keep your clients happy and to find new ones.

If you’re one of the rare freelancers who has a stable full of well-paying, reliable clients who give you recurring and regularly scheduled projects, good for you. But for those who haven’t mastered the business side of freelancing, it can often feel fraught and unpredictable — sometimes to the point of having no idea how much money will come in from one month to the next. That can make it hard to focus on the work and also plan a life and career in the long term.

One way to achieve some financial stability is by having the right mix of clients, in terms of number, industry, and amount of work you do for them. If you’re experiencing dramatic peaks and valleys in your billings, how can you determine what kind of clients to go after?

Diversify your clients and revenue

Ideally, you shouldn’t depend on any one client for more than 50% of your income. Many freelancers have a “whale” client, or that one major company that gives them most of their business. The prospect of making all your money off a single client is appealing. Invoicing is easier, and you don’t have to run all over town to complete your assignments. Whale clients can help make your business easier to manage, and they also provide peace of mind.

While they’re efficient, a whale client can be trouble. In the short term, whales can leave you cash-strapped if you have to wait 60, or even 90, days to get paid for your work, which is typical with many big companies. And what if you’re relying on a single client for the bulk of your income and something happens … like your contact gets promoted and their replacement decides to bring in new vendors, or the business either cuts spending or starts bringing more work in-house? In short, relying on a whale is neither stable nor sustainable. If this sounds like you, it’s time to put your marketing hat on and get out there and sell yourself.

Look to develop relationships, as opposed to doing lots of “one-offs,” since return customers and recurring business leads will keep you more stable. Of course, short-term projects can eventually lead to regular gigs, but managing tons of projects from a dozen companies just isn’t an efficient use of your time.

Be willing and able to grow beyond your niche

Having experience in a highly specific or technical industry that requires specialized knowledge, such as medical/pharmaceutical, technology, financial or gaming, can work in your favor. There’s a smaller pool of competitors, you’ll be able to charge a higher rate than if you were working for more general clients, and often, clients will go out of their way to find you.

The downside to specializing is that shifts in your given industry or specialty can jeopardize your income. This is an extreme example, but look at how newspaper reporters have had to scramble as digital publishing has become a different medium.

At the other end of the spectrum is more general work. These gigs still require a high degree of skill and knowledge, but writing a B2B white paper or designing a catalog doesn’t necessitate niche skills or education. If you take a look at your favorite job board, be it Indeed, Glassdoor, Mediabistro, or even Craigslist, you’ll find dozens and dozens of such jobs. That means more potential clients, but the tradeoff is that there’s a lot of competition because there are so many people who can do them, so businesses can pay less.

The upside to being a generalist is that, if you’re willing to dig for jobs, you have a bigger pool of potential candidates, and you may be able to upsell yourself or get additional work from a client. For example, if you have a gig designing a new menu for a restaurant, you can always suggest designing some signage or even a new logo. This is opposed to, say, doing UX design for a tech company, where you wouldn’t necessarily design their manuals or marketing materials. And if you’re just starting out, taking on a variety of clients can help you focus on what you really enjoy.

Give yourself some next steps

No matter which boat you’re in, you will have to put yourself out there and diversify, especially if you want to achieve the type of stability that enables you to pursue your dream clients and not have to take every assignment that crosses your desk. Besides studying the marketplace for jobs seeking talent like yours, you may have to do some (a lot of) networking, and possibly acquire a few new skills. But that’s a small price to pay for the financial stability to maintain a career and life you love.

Lisa is a Creative Circle candidate and seasoned advertising copywriter who lives in Los Angeles. Her background includes both in-house and agency work on Fortune 500 and global accounts in the consumer and healthcare/pharmaceutical fields. She excels at words, fashion, and cats. If you want to work with Lisa, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.