3 Ways I positioned creative talent to win the big projects (and how you can too)

In my days as an agent for art directors, copywriters, graphic designers and illustrators, I would get a lead on a new project and get to work calling in portfolios (I know, old school!) from all great independent creative talent I worked with.

Some portfolios came in great shape, ready to go and win the job, while others didn’t do justice to the creative mind and hand behind it.

I’d been in the offices of creative directors who were hiring talent for a project, and seen the 20 or 30 identical black portfolios lined up against their wall for review. I knew ours had to stand out.

So, I went to work. Re-arranging and editing the work, creating title and intro pages, writing bios, creating sections, writing descriptions for the projects, ending with a thank you and call to action. Only when I felt it had a chance of standing out and winning the project, would I send it out.

I realize now, that what I learned to do on the job was a version of what I help my creative clients do now, which is:

  • Identify how they are unique and stand out from the sea of other creative talent
  • Create a clear and compelling presentation and narrative
  • Inspire the prospective client to take the next action (e.g. call you in for a meeting or request a proposal).

While the method of presenting your mad skills to prospective clients have changed (thank goodness, those portfolios were heavy to lug around!), the sheer amount of work and content out there have only upped the ante on needing to make a great impression, and quickly.

If you feel your presentation and digital presence do not do you justice, and may even be costing you clients or a promotion, I’m here to help! Read on for 3 ways to create a clear, compelling, consistent presentation that makes you stand out and helps you land those gigs.

1. Go beyond labels and titles

How many of you have your name and role e.g. Joe Smith, Art Director, as the sole copy on your home page?  This pretty much says, “Here I am. Take it or leave it.”

Featured Image for: 3 Ways I positioned creative talent to win the big projects (and how you can too)

By adding a little positioning language, you help your prospective client quickly understand they’re in the right place and that you are a very real solution to the problem they need to solve.

To give you an example, here are the first few lines of copy you see on my home page:

Justine Clay (who I am)

👋 Hey! Have you heard about Bloom? Their all-new FREE invoice generator is the quickest way to create and send invoices to clients. Give it a try and get paid faster.

Speaker and Business coach for Creative Entrepreneurs and Freelancers (what I do and for whom. Note that it’s just the things I want and like to do, not all the things I COULD do)

You have a unique creative gift, let me help you share it with the world (my philosophy and approach which helps build emotional connection)

As a business coach, I help creative entrepreneurs and freelancers build purpose-driven and profitable creative businesses (reiteration of what I do, who I do it for, and the desired outcome my clients seek)

Now, there’s more copy on the page, but what people see first will either entice them to read more, or help them identify it’s not what they’re looking for (which is OK too)

Your work: Create your description and positioning copy. You will use this (or a variation of it) on your home page, in your email introductions, your resume, social media profiles etc.

If distilling what you do down to a few lines feels intimidating, check out people and brands you admire and see how they describe what they do.  Modeling those who are doing something well is good practice, just make sure to make it your own.

2. Identify how you want your prospects to see you

What is the experience you want prospective clients to have when they visit your website, LinkedIn profile, or come across you on social media?  How do you want them to see you?

For example, I want my prospects to see me as a mindset, marketing, and business educator within the creative community.

Now it’s your turn. Here are some examples to get you thinking:

  • an educator
  • a thought-leader
  • a disruptor
  • a creative visionary
  • a wordsmith
  • a manager
  • a producer
  • a leader
  • a solid executor

[Tweet “Knowing what you are uniquely equipped to offer, and how that matters to your prospects, will help you frame everything else.”]

Knowing what you are uniquely equipped to offer, and how that matters to your prospects, will help you frame everything else; from your message, portfolio of work and services, to the content you create or share and networking events you attend.

Your work: Based upon what you are uniquely equipped to do, and your vision for the career or business you want to have, identify how you want other to see you.

Now take it one step further and describe why it’s important to you to be perceived that way. Will it give you more freedom? Enable you to command higher fees? Allow you to reach more people and have a greater impact?

Write down as many reasons as you can think of (don’t worry, you don’t need to show it to anyone!) When we attach deep and meaningful reasons to a goal, it makes us much more likely to keep working through the, often uncomfortable, things we need to do to make it a reality.

3. Sketch it out

Let’s review; you have now described what you are uniquely equipped to do, who you do it for, and how you’d like that person to see you. Now it’s time to figure out how your presentation and message dovetail with that positioning.

[Tweet “Your portfolio, services, shared content, and method of sharing should all be aligned.”]

Here are the key areas you’ll want to ensure are aligned.

  • Your portfolio of work
  • The services you offer
  • The content you create and share
  • The method by which you share it (video, writing, talks, etc.)

Now, there’s a good chance there’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be, so you’ll probably have to re-frame what you have, so it works within your positioning.

For example, if your wish is to be perceived as a creative visionary, but the work you show is straight-up graphic design execution, there’s a disconnect.

One solution could be to include your personal projects that really show the breadth and depth of your creativity. Another might be to offer to work on a project that would be great in your portfolio, maybe for a friend or start-up, at a discounted rate.

I don’t recommend this as an on-going practice, but when you’re getting started and need the work to support your vision, it makes sense.

Your work:

Go through each of the bullet points above and figure out how you can frame what you already have. Write down what you’d need to do, or get to fill in the gaps, and start going to work figuring out who or what you need to make that happen.

Now, I know I’ve included A LOT in this article, and I appreciate you might need more support thinking it through and making it happen. If that’s the case, I’d love to chat. Leave me a comment where you can share your challenges, ask questions, and we can talk about solutions.

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Millo Articles by Justine Clay

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Through a series of clear, actionable steps, Justine will teach you how to identify what makes you stand out from the crowd, create a marketing message that resonates with your ideal clients, and build a successful and fulfilling creative business or career. Sign up for Justine’s free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth and start making monumental changes in your creative business or career today.
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  1. Hi, I have a question, but first things first, thank you for such a thoughtful article.
    I am, let’s say, a graphic artist: i draw and paint, creating collections, centered in specific topics. It’s been about 4 months since I decided that I was going to (wildly) transition from being a full time esl teacher to being fully committed to creating childish visual content with a twist. However, I’m having a hard time targeting an audience, and it may have to do with a) my lack of social media skills, b) some potentially unspecified targeting (not intentional, I sometimes feel I have too many ideas, so I just go with what I think could ). What, in your opinion, could I do?
    (I don’t want this to turn into self promotion, but my main site right now is my ig account @fourtoeight.artwork in case it’s useful)
    Thanks again 🙂

    1. justine clay says:

      Thanks for the great question and congratulations on turning your creative passion into a career!

      I think what you’re describing is definitely a clear sense of who your ideal clients are, rather than a social media skills one.

      To that point, one of the first things I noted was your description of what you do “creating childish visual content with a twist”, which feels a little unclear. The listener or reader might be confused about whether you’re creating art for children, or businesses that target kids and their parents. I’m guessing the latter, in which case, a good next step would be to get specific in who those clients are e.g. children’s books, textiles, prints, toys etc. and how you would envision them using your work.

      The next step would be to look at who else is doing what you want to be doing and explore how you’re different (and you are!). Being able to articulate that to a prospective client in such a way that aligns with their goals is key.

      Don’t worry about your social media skills, they will come with practice. Where I would put your area of focus (and this applies to us all) is communicating what you do, for whom, how, the results they will get from working with you, and what they need to do next. I hope that helps! Good luck.

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