posted on Jun 27, 2018

Tips and Advice for Creatives

Tips and Advice for Creatives

by John Katehis |


Whether the main focus is building yourself as a freelance artist or working in a small scale studio environment, the primary goals are to deliver immersive experiences, strong messages, solve design problems, bring life or meaning to ideas and conceptualize, but the approach on each task will determine the final results, and at the end of the day we are in this field because we love what we do, so enjoy every second of it. Especially the challenging projects, as those will give you more experience, expand your abilities, and make you grow extensively as an artist. Building trust in a team is not an easy aspect, particularly when you have a deadline to deliver and the pressure is kicking in, while clients trust you and your vision for the deliverables. You must know your worth, and get compensated for it and your time. The bigger the responsibility, the more valuable you are, and representing yourself with confidence, will always send the right message.

Know Your Clients

Do the work, do the research, and find out what they are looking for exactly. If need be, study the competitors also. A lot of factors can be found in both successful and unsuccessful marketing campaigns and ads. Knowing what other competitors are doing in the field will indicate what they are not, these resources can contribute to a more unique approach that sets new boundaries.

We are in the year 2018, where the ideology of marketing propaganda has changed since the 60’s coca-cola campaigns. We are slowly humanizing the presence of companies, while we now have to take into consideration elements such as company values. Blasting brainwashing product ads are becoming a concept of the past, while we are replacing products with stories, and great stories are the ones people or consumers feel strongly attached to and can connect with.


As an art director, I am always on the lookout seeking for talent to fulfill creative positions. There are many great freelance hire online portals out there, but you must know the abilities of your team, from real life working experience. Having reliable talent is a must, but also placing them in the right position and project is critical. This can make or break an assignment. If you are looking for impressive results, it is necessary and a key to hire the right talent.

Online communities, festivals, and meet-ups are all vastly great ways to link with others. But the most reliable contacts will come from your colleagues. Being referenced by others, and the “old school” word of mouth approach, to this day is the best advertisement as well as most valuable, primarily when it comes from respected artist in the field. Be bold, don’t hesitate, reach out, however, try to avoid too much online interaction, rather meet in person. Above all, we are all human beings, with so much depth in our personalities, unique yet diverse experiences. You will end up spending endless hours on projects with demanding deadlines. You need artists you can connect with, but are also divergent, with the right roster in the team there is no reason to not be successful when artists enjoy their work they go above and beyond, it’s that simple.

Know your rights

At the end of the day, it's your art, your ideas, you are the main role player to deliver unique pieces that will be used in the means of communication. Always have copyright release agreements ready to grant rights to another party and I quote, do not give out full rights, even if it is work for hire. Keep as much ownership as possible. In this line of competitive business, especially the music industry, unfortunately, ethics become less important and a copyright release agreement is the only legal representation that can protect you to any undisputed case. If in any case, you have to grant the client full rights, make sure you have settled for a price range that you will not be regretting or doubting in the long run. A tip of advice, have the clients sign the copyright release agreement at the last step or stage of the project, this will force them into securing and acquiring you that last paycheck.

Last thoughts

I would advise anyone interested in the creative fields, to get into the habit of learning on your own. There are tons of amazing tools online, tutorials, books, communities, and courses but the biggest teacher of all, experience and failures! The tools are there, but you must experiment, on your own paste and time. An art director will certainly look for reliable artists, but those willing to take it a step further without hesitating will stand out from other creatives.

Personally, I went from working with local music artists and bands from Boston fourteen years ago to working with the legendary hip-hop duo known as Mobb Deep, Alchemist, The Game, and landing projects, to the king of Trance genre, Armin Van Buuren’s own label imprint Armada Music. Having done CG & visual effects work to projects ranging from over 60 million youtube views, to top billboard charting projects while having various placements and awards, VMAs and landing ads on ESPN & Bloomberg Business.

It all dates back and resonates with my wonder trying to understand the cover art to Michael Jacksons’ “Dangerous” back in 1995. That discovery and fascination still grows under my skin, and I remain hungry. It all links to that piece of art from Mark Ryden that inspired me, which I can now understand and analyze, but still remain a student of art regarding timeless pieces of depth.

At some point in your career there will be work you are profoundly proud of, but it will be a long way, a hard way, where you must put in the time and be willing to adapt to technology and new techniques, trends, absurd clients and insane deadlines with a lot of failures. Embrace the mistakes and embrace the chaos. Experience and confidence speak a ton, networking and collaborating with friends along the way, will hold-up while make situations and projects more exciting, also critical lifesavers at times. Be consistent, be more about the art, and less on the ego, and you will attract like-minded people in the field, and nothing can get in the way of a focused team with a goal.


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