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It’s not Black History Month anymore, but it’s always the right time to learn from talented up-and-coming Black creatives. There’s a fascinating new “Black History March” Twitter trend that is bringing black voices back to the forefront.
These innovative minds from various creative fields share 7 crucial tips for building a brand in any industry.
1) Believe in your worth.
Most creatives have to push through a bit of imposter syndrome when launching their careers, but it can be an extra struggle for creatives of color who face more intense pressures.
Head of Strategy Chiru Mondo Murage advises, “Don’t hold yourself back. From not jumping in the first place to convincing yourself ‘I’m not good enough,’ there are so many ways in which we can stall our own progress. While simultaneously navigating a world built to confine, control and constrict, the greatest disservice we could do is add our own voice to the chorus of doubt.
Whenever I find myself being pulled down by the weight of ‘I’m not good enough,’ I try and remember that the best way to honor an avalanche of ‘firsts’ is by turning it into a wave of ‘I can do it too.’”
Photographer, stylist, and art director Bukunmi Grace adds, “Don’t listen to naysayers even if that naysayer is yourself. Seek a balanced spiritual, emotional and physical life on your path to ascension, success and knowledge.”
2) Study your craft.
As social media and the internet at large democratize access to knowledge and an audience, it can be easy to forget that successful entrepreneurs and artists often spent years putting in unglamorous hours learning the basics and honing their work.
DJ Dominique Wells reminds hopefuls that “It’s critical to learn the fundamentals. With new technology, many make the mistake that it’s as simple as hitting a few buttons and playing the newest songs but, it’s a much more complex artistry than that. My first line of advice to new DJ’s or those interested, before investing into equipment (because you might buy the wrong thing), I recommend taking a class. Most major cities have DJ schools or classes. There are online schools as well.”
Noelle Chesnut Whitmore, Creator of More In Music, advises those working to build an online brand to take the time to do some foundational research on the different platforms advising, “Take time to understand the platform that you are using, not all content will resonate across all platforms. Understand your audience and who you are targeting.” Dominique Wells concurs, “Instagram is about pictures*. YouTube is about video*. Twitter is about conversation. Make sure you’re playing to the strength of each platform.”
3) Make your own experience.
In crowded industries, it’s not enough to cruise through school and count on landing a lucrative gig right after graduation. Those new to competitive industries have to find a way to make their own opportunities.
Noelle Chesnut Whitmore shares, “Gain as much experience as you can whether big or small. Volunteer at corporate events/concerts/community events and/or create your own opportunities. For those in college, get involved on campus, I strongly suggest joining Associated Students or Concert Committees and other organizations on campus. Volunteering and getting involved early on in your career will set you apart from other candidates and help you build your resume.”
4) Be yourself.
It’s a cliché for a reason. There are so many self-help books out there with this theme because it really does make the difference. Creatives of color may need to work extra hard to find a way to be themselves in an industry built for others, but the pay-offs are immense.
Publicity Manager Ariana White shares, “It might sound cliché, but be your TRUE self and be unapologetic about it. I often times second guess myself when dealing with authority figures in the office…a former boss hired me because during the interview I eventually snapped out of “interview mode,” giving him the chance to see who I truly was. He hoped I would continue to let my individuality shine through to everyone as I grew in the company, regardless of their title. So I’ll say it again — Be your true self.”
Hip Hop Editor Maxwell Adepoju adds, “My advice for black creatives would be to unequivocally be who you are online and in real life; the payoff is accomplishing everything you’ve ever imagined all while staying true to yourself.” Noelle Chesnut Whitmore goes even further than personal success when describing the benefits of authenticity saying, “There is so much beauty in the person you are and you can be an inspiration to someone that needs to hear your story.”
5) Build your village.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that rings true even if the child is your creative project. Creators working today are fortunate to have the option of building in-person networks or taking advantage of online resources, but the key takeaway is the same: our peers will help us thrive.
Chiru Mondo Murage elaborates saying, “The one lesson that has proven true time and time again is ‘it takes a village.’ It’s impossible to do something truly alone, and deciding how to tell your story to the world is no different. How fortunate we are to live in a time with tools that allow anyone to build communities that enable sharing, and most importantly, learning from our peers. Identifying and building those communities both online and IRL are the best ways to learn how to tell your story while at the same time creating a web of links that connect all of us with shared passion to change our world.”
Bukunmi Grace wisely notes that community-building can come from helping others reach their goals, as well, “It’s important to dive into your community offline as well as online. Figure out the needs, wants and desires of the community & how you can fulfill those requests without anyone having to ask…collaborate with your heroes and seek positive growth within those collaborations.”
Ariana White believes there’s power in supporting each other, “Instead of talking down about what someone is trying to do we should all find ways to work together and lend a helping hand because when one wins, we all win.”
6) Always show up prepared.
There’s no better way to move your career forward than showing up ready to work whenever you go places. Dominique Wells elaborates, “Showing the best version of yourself and your work is a primary way to positively build your brand IRL. Every performance, presentation, or submission of your work could lead to something greater. Showing up half-() isn’t an option if you don’t want to be passed over.”
Maxwell Adepoju advises creatives to always be looking for ways to move the genre you’re working in forward saying, “My advice for creatives of color looking to work in music would be to focus on producing great work on a consistent level; and look for those opportunities to move the genre/culture forward. Always forward.”
7) Be consistent, professional, and on time.
It seems simple, but being sloppy with your schedule or professionalism is the fastest way to lose credibility, even if your talent is on point. DJ Era advises, above all “Be professional. Learn your craft. Keep up with the ever-changing technology and social media platforms. Be on time. Helps to be a people person. Love what you’re doing.” Noelle Chesnut Whitmore sums it up with, “Be Prepared. Be Intentional. Be Consistent.”
Combining the foundation of research and experience, a village to support you, the belief in your abilities and authenticity, and the professionalism of preparation and consistency is a recipe for branding success. Chiru Mondo Murage also reminds above all, “Never forget the person you want versus need yourself to be, what you’re worth, and that loving yourself includes taking care of yourself.”
March 6, 2019 at 10:54AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs