Jack of All Trades, Master of None
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I’ve noticed this in most creative industries I’ve been able to poke my head into. The graphic designers are feeling it, and have been for longer than the filmmakers have. Print work is shifting into web work, and suddenly CMYK just isn’t enough. With the democratization of technology comes the the division of labor, which in this case has a trickle down effect in the creative industry. With it also comes a feeling of empowerment, inherent in the awesome knowledge that we have access to amazing tools to create with, which would have been astronomically expensive or simply didn’t exist in most cases just a decade ago. As a result, there has been a shake-up in the industry. Distribution channels are being rethought as new ones appear overnight, and all the while the amount of content being created is increasing almost at the speed it’s being consumed. A viral video is dead within the month, an infograph within a few days, and all of a sudden “everyone knows Photoshop.”
Because of this, the creative industries have developed a tendency to ask for one to do the jobs of many, and we as a whole have complied. After all, why wouldn’t we? It means more work, more experience, a better knowledge of the entire process, etc. One of the most neglected reasons is that it devalues whatever job market you’re poaching. Perhaps a reason that will resonate more is that it devalues your own abilities. The more time you spend on a craft outside of your chosen one, the less time you have to spend on what you really enjoy doing. Besides, most creative industries are dependent on collaboration, and the eyes of many versus the weary eyes of a few. These are the contributing factors.
This may be more prevalent in the film world, but I’m “on the wrong coast.” That’s starting to change a bit with certain tax incentives, but it still leads to a tepid work climate in comparison to places like LA. It also leads to work that may not be as exciting to work on as a tent-pole Hollywood flick. So as a result of the relative lack of work, it’s very difficult for most to do just one thing in my industry. The gaffers also edit, and the DP’s occasionally grip. This will only change as more work comes to the area, or if people start creating work for themselves.
Did you go to school for ______? No? Good luck with that pool of contacts that you’re joining the industry without. The greatest assets my peers seem to have as a result of following education in whatever creative field they’re entering is the network of individuals all jumping into the same work force at the same time, often in the same area. The positive repercussions of this should be immediately obvious. Besides the alumni factor, you’re also going to be on a larger number of projects just starting out because you already know a ton of people trying to do the same thing as you.
When you spread yourself too thin, and don’t ever make it into that “expert level” of work in one specific part of your work, you will have a hard time getting the jobs (and as a result, the pay) of people that have attained that level of craftsmanship. As terrifying as it might sound, and as hard as it is for me to listen to my own advice, you may be better served finding out what you’re best at, what you enjoy doing the most, and what people appreciate the most then focusing all of your time on that. Develop the skill set, and only take jobs that allow you to utilize your talent in that particular subset of work.
The less experience you have doing something, the fewer people you will be in contact with that know you do that something for a living. Most jobs will come in from word of mouth, and if you don’t work the jobs doing exactly what you want to do, you won’t get any jobs doing what you want do. It’s a bitch.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. “Yes, this is what I do. This is what I can do for you, and this is how much it will cost.” Put your foot down, don’t haggle on prices, actively promote yourself and do not devalue your skill set.