If you are a creative major in college, you probably want to take as few non-creative classes as possible because your grades in subjects like math and science in high school were somewhat of a disaster. Now you are in college and in complete control of your path, why bother with things that don’t interest you? While most universities have some kind of core requirements that everybody has to take before focusing on their majors, college students are at the liberty to pick and choose courses that satisfy their major requirements and electives that pique their interests. So what’s the problem?
As a seasoned creative professional, I felt fortunate that my college classes within my major helped me build a solid foundation of what I am doing now. On the other hand, I was surprised how the few non-creative classes I took helped me get ahead of my career way faster than the traditional “artist type” – creatives who are excellent at what they do but have no skills in other areas. I have artist friends who spent an extra 3 years earning a Masters of Fine Arts and ended up earning much less than I do. I have seen highly-talented creatives who struggle to find a job. And more importantly, I have witnessed the common dilemma that creative professionals make way less than they deserve even though they are extremely hard-working and talented. So how can you avoid becoming another “starving artist” after graduation? You start by taking these important non-creative classes as your electives.
It is no secret that a lot of artists and creative professionals have no idea how money works. It is not widely-taught in most schools, least of all art schools. It is a common misconceptions that if students get good grades for their classes, they will succeed in the job market. It cannot be further from the truth. While it is important to excel in your craft, that alone will not make you successful in your career as a creative professional. While finance and money may not be your primary interest, you need to understand how it works if you want to avoid earning less than what your work has value for.
Take a course in personal finance to understand how to budget, save, invest and build wealth for the sake of your financial security, which is the foundation of your life and career as a creative. Without this knowledge, you will find yourself going from paycheck to paycheck and having to split the rent with 5 roommates.
If there is a skill that every industry requires, it is public speaking. No matter what you do, if you can’t explain it, nobody will hire you. This goes hand in hand with interview skills because a good public speaker will not suck at interviews and being a good interviewee lands you jobs and gigs everywhere you go.
When I was in college, I took a public speaking class. Even though I did not consider myself shy, I was no extrovert. Having been a music student throughout my elementary and high school career, I was no stranger to being on stage. Yet I had no idea how bad I was at public speaking until I took the class. Our teacher recorded every speech so that we could re-watch it and reflect on our strength and weaknesses as a speaker. Needless to say, I was horrified by my poor delivery and awkward stage demeanor. It took many more practice sessions and years of being in the workplace to improve on this skill, and I am still learning, but I cannot stress the importance of taking this class no matter what you major in.
When you produce great artistic work, it needs to be promoted to the right audience to get your work seen and valued. The same goes for you as a creative professional. If you don’t know how to present your best talents to the world, you won’t get job offers, gigs and other opportunities. Yes, famous artists have a team of marketing professionals working for them to promote their work, but when you’re just starting out, you have to wear the marketing hat yourself. I cannot stress enough how many creatives with amazing talents have failed to work find work because they did not know how to market themselves.
Marketing is also essential if you want to become a creative entrepreneur or freelancer. If you are owning your own business, you are simultaneously a CEO, a creative director and a VP of Marketing. How do you get your work to be seen by millions of people? How do you make your work appealing to your target audience? How do you grow your fan base? These are skills not taught in your art classes but absolutely essential in helping you become successful as a creative professional.
That is why it’s important to take classes like Introduction to Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Digital Marketing etc. You don’t have to be a business person, but you have to be business-savvy. Below are a few highly-rated marketing courses you can take to to get the exposure you need in order to succeed as a creative in this competitive landscape.
While not a traditional college class, entrepreneurship is now becoming increasingly popular in many universities because more and more students are choosing to start their own business instead of getting traditional employment. Historically, entrepreneurship is a wisdom passed on from family members who has successfully run their own businesses or self-taught if a person is brave enough to experiment with this path own their own.
Now, universities have more data and resources to guide students on their path to entrepreneurship than just a decade ago. Courses in this category includes business, marketing, finances, economics, accounting etc. Not appealing to your creative brain? You are not alone, but it is something that you will thank yourself later if you take it now. If you ever dream of own your creative business, you need to learn to be a business person simultaneously. These courses will help you lay down the foundation without going too deep in each topic. There are experts that you can hire who will take care of the details of these areas, but you have to have the basic knowledge in each to manage them.
Of course, entrepreneurship is very broad topic that encompasses almost every industry. That’s why I have curated a list of courses specifically relevant to creative professionals.
Contrary to common belief, you do NOT need to learn coding to qualify for every job. There is a reason that developers and software engineers have jobs. So why am I still recommending coding classes here? While we don’t need to go deep into coding and try to become a developer, we can benefit from the basic knowledge of the modern programming languages, primarily HTML and CSS. It is more about developing technological literacy than being an expert at it. If you work in design, it is even more important to know basic programming languages because you will be working with developers to make your ideas happen beyond the mockup stage. Nowadays, you will find that a lot of jobs include basic coding knowledge as a requirement – even if you only know a little, you can qualify for these jobs without having to lie.
A lot of programming classes have sprung up in recent years – just another proof how popular this skillset has become. Here is a curated list of classes most relevant for creative professionals.