Most jobs require a certain amount of continued education to make sure you stay relevant in your field. But what if you work as a writer or blogger? What if you’re one of those people who is often referred to as a “creative?” Then you need to find some professional development for creatives to keep your skills sharp and up-to-date.

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a coffee mug next to a laptop surrounded by fairy lights and the text "Professional Development for Creatives"

Now, if we’re being honest, I don’t know a single creative person who isn’t constantly doing some form of professional development. Though, I’d argue, a lot of them don’t realize they’re doing it.

Most of the time they’re picking up skills so they can use a new software or start a multimedia project. Also, if you’re a creative person born after 1970, there’s a non-zero chance that you’ve never been able to find a job without picking up random skills to support your coworkers who claim to be too old to learn to do stuff.

So, you’re doing professional development all the time. But why should you make it a regular part of your life?

Career Success for Creative Introverts

I won’t list out the best certifications for creatives, mostly because I don’t know any. Also, for what it’s worth, I think the majority of certifications are money-making schemes. If they can make you feel like you’re lacking, they can make you pay absurd amounts for a piece of paper that says you can do a thing.

Know that I say that with the caveat that if your employer will pay for it, go ahead and get that certification. There’s nothing non-creative people love more than certifications as a way to prove you’re a valid and viable piece of human capital. And it could very well result in a raise.

There’s no shortage of training for creatives, and I’ve got some options listed down below of where you can find your next learning experience.

The Reality of Working for Someone Else

It’s been a while since I’ve worked for someone else in a standard office environment, and for what it’s worth, I could absolutely never go back. (For more on why, read this self-employment story corporate doesn’t want you to read.)

Here’s one thing to keep in mind as a creative person in the office: Your creative skills are good. In fact, I would argue that you’re doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting shit done in the office. The things that are holding you back are what is often perceived as your lack of professionalism.

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It’s not that you aren’t professional. You just aren’t a dick the same way as most “professional” people are. And if you want to move up within your company, some creative management training wouldn’t hurt. Though, be forewarned. Don’t expect that training to get you a new position.

Companies love to hire managers for creative departments with no creative training whatsoever. Because they believe creativity is easy, and well, hell. The CEO’s nephew knows Photoshop, so we’ll put him as the director of the design department. And you know what? We all learned to write in elementary school, so the writers don’t need a special supervisor because everyone knows how to write so this guy with a background in accounting is fine.

It goes on and on and on. And then they never realize why all the people who actually make the stuff the company sells leave.

Professional Development for Creatives

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. When I talk about professional development for creatives, I’m talking mostly about the things you can do to make yourself better at your job. Sometimes this is an actual skill. Sometimes, it’s about keeping your brain healthy. Here’s a list of creative professional development options you might want to check out:

001: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I love working through The Artist’s Way, and I recommend every creative do it at some time or another. I’m due for a re-work myself.

While you read the book, you do morning pages and artist dates, as well as the weekly homework from the book itself.

If you’re planning on taking the dive into The Artist’s Way this year, check out these super chill ideas for artist dates.

002: Skillshare

I’ve used Skillshare for years and it’s still one of my favorite places to learn about new stuff.

The cool thing is that you can learn about pretty much anything on Skillshare. There are classes on painting and knitting and guitar, but there are also classes on how to use different softwares. And there are tons of creative mindset classes as well.

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I recommend it for everyone.

003: Following Your Curiosity

Sometimes you know what you want to learn. And other times you don’t. That’s totally cool. You don’t have to sign up for a class, per se.

But you can always let the rabbit holes present themselves. If you find there’s a moment in the day where you have a question, let that question guide you.

Admittedly, this isn’t always quantifiable learning, nor does it always result in a new learning path. But it can be a fun way to find out what you’d like to learn when you aren’t sure what your next steps should be.

004: On the Job

Every job I have been hired for has been a wild-ass ride. I have always been hired to do one thing and wound up doing another. Or, I had to learn something new on the fly and under immense pressure.

So, chances are that your life experience is quite similar. Next time you encounter something that needs to be done at your company but no one knows how to do it, take it upon yourself to learn. Tell your boss and send them a list of resources you’d like them to purchase for you so you can learn it.

Sometimes employers like this kind of initiative. Sometimes, they’ll tell you not to worry about it and then come to you a year later and ask what you’ve learned on the topic they told you to stop learning about. LEADERSHIP!

005: Conferences

There’s a conference for just about everything. And if you’re wondering how do you become an artist, attend a conference and listen to the stories of others.

I love one-day events where people share about what they’re working on and how they do what they do.

I also love week-long conferences and getting to network with new people.

I’ve learned a lot at events like these and have spoken at a few as well. There’s always an atmosphere of excitement, and I always learn something new.

006: Books and Reading Groups

I am notorious for buying a book about a thing the minute I think I may enjoy learning about it. But I know I’m the sort of person who can learn a lot from reading.

I also know I learn more from hearing someone talk about it, so that’s why I prefer conferences. But a good book is always good for reference.

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If you have a particular topic you’re interested in, search for that topic + books. You’re bound to find tons of recommendations. (I mean, if you search this blog you’ll find tons of books on writing, creativity, intuition, and tarot.)

And if you need the accountability of a book club, then search for a bookclub around your topic. There are online groups devoted to getting through books together, and they double as a networking option.

007: Creative Mornings

I love Creative Mornings. It’s an international organization with local chapters all over the place. They meet on the third Friday of every month, and each local chapter has a speaker to talk on a specific theme.

It’s a great way to meet other local creatives, feel inspired, and get a free breakfast.

Admittedly, most of the talks aren’t full of actionable advice. But if you want some help on how to stop psyching yourself out, reminders that it doesn’t have to be perfect, or a talk that feels like a letter for your dear creative self, then join your local creative mornings chapter.

008: Lifelong Learning Classes

Every idle interest I have has been undergirded with an adult education class. Sewing, photography, blogging, fiction writing…the list goes on and on.

And if this seems like something you’d be into, check out your local art museums, libraries, votech centers, and so on. They always have a list of upcoming workshops and classes. Some are more expensive than others, and not every instructor is great. But it is fun to learn something new.

Other Ways to Improve Creatively

Sometimes, a class or book isn’t what you’re looking for. Sometimes you need some space to be creative.

That’s why I created my every damn day list for writers. And I think you should create one too.

But if that still isn’t working for you, give yourself a day off. Let your mind wander and do the stuff it needs to do. You’re creative. Not an assembly line. Let yourself daydream.

I created an idea board for all the various creative professional development activities I can do. Some are super chill, and others are more learning intensive. You can check it out in this vlog:

If you want to see how my idea board evolves, make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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