Content creators who can build a stack of skills will increase their market value. If you’re a freelance creative who does graphic design, photography, UX, writing, or video and would like to expand to other mediums, here’s how you can pivot and position yourself as an overall brand storyteller.
Know What Story You Want to Tell
When expanding to other mediums, there will inevitably be a learning curve. To have the grit and dedication to close the skills gap, you’ll want to know what your “through-line” is.
In other words, what is the motivation behind your expansion to another storytelling medium? And what will be the connecting force? It may be that you want to learn new skills, avoid burnout, or offer more value to your existing clients. Or you may be yearning to find new ways to share your message, tell different stories, or bolster your personal brand and visibility.
Say you’re a writer who specializes in the intersection of tech and the auto industry. Podcasting may be a powerful way to not only connect to industry experts but to share their most personal, intimate stories, straight from the sources themselves. Or perhaps you’re a graphic designer who works in the healthcare space and you want to expand to share data culled from recent research through data visualization. In both these scenarios, expanding to another medium—whether podcasting or data visualization—potentially increases the power of your storytelling, your message, and your personal brand.
For content creators who aren’t ready to push a product out to the marketplace, consider getting valuable, constructive feedback from colleagues. It won’t be as scary as offering something to clients right away. Instead, you’ll have a safe space to share your work and make improvements.
Consider sharing your work with a mastermind group, or at a portfolio critique for creatives, such as Behance’s biannual portfolio reviews. Try to share your work with professionals who don’t know you personally, or don’t have a problem offering candid feedback.
Look for Proof of Concept
Getting validation that what you’re doing is working not only builds confidence but will help you know when it’s the right time to offer something new to your clients. You may get proof of concept from getting lots of views on your YouTube channel, or find that posts on your personal blog that have video are performing better than posts with just copy. To start, figure out what these checkpoints are.
Remember: You may not need to hit 100,000 subscribers on your YouTube channel or a million downloads on your podcast to know it’s commercially viable. You just need to be good enough to get paid and know you’re offering something interesting and valuable to the existing space.
Look to the “Adjacent Possible”
Sometimes expanding to a new medium is the solution to limitations you’re facing in your current one. This can be akin to what productivity and self-improvement author Cal Newport calls the “adjacent possible” in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Newport describes the “adjacent possible” as the cutting-edge space in your line of work. It’s this space where you can discover innovations, solutions, and a meaningful new direction for what you do. While you may not be on the quest to cure cancer, you may simply be feeling flummoxed at finding new ways to achieve what you want as a content creator.
Case in point: You’re a personal finance writer. And since talking about money can be a dry, boring topic, a more visual form of storytelling—such as photo essays, infographics, or video—can breathe new life into the subject. Or perhaps coming up with a silly on-camera persona to educate others on financial fitness may make it easier to produce more engaging, palatable, and useful content.
Be in Tune With Market Needs
Sometimes the market lets you know that it’s time to expand to another medium. Perhaps a client reaches out to you and asks if you offer, say, video, or have experience recording podcasts. What if you don’t feel like your skills are up to snuff? That’s perfectly OK. Sometimes you need to hush your harsh inner critic and produce content when a client is ready to pay. If a client knows you have finely honed skills as a storyteller in one medium, they trust you have what it takes to create compelling narratives in another.
Such was the case for freelance writer and video producer Kristin Wong. She knew the time was right when MSN, which was an existing writing client, asked her to produce a video web series. While she had experience creating video manuals from her previous job as a tech writer, she had never created a full-fledged web series for a major media outlet.
“To be honest, I never once felt like my videos were professional enough,” says Wong, who is the author of Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford. “But I got the courage to put myself out there when I asked for feedback from some professionals and they said I wasn’t terrible. Some even said I was good. While I didn’t agree with them, I thought maybe it doesn’t matter what I think. If someone is paying you for your skills, maybe it matters more what they think. And if they think you’re good and they’re willing to pay, then that’s all that really matters in terms of monetizing your skills.”
Image attribution: Aleks Dorohovich
Put It Out There Before You’re Ready
This may seem like a risky thing to do, but sell something, even before you feel fully ready, recommends digital publisher Oz Chen. “Even with a small audience, you can test out ideas by putting something up for pre-order without committing a ton of time to creating the product.”
By writing a mix of thought-provoking think pieces on his personal development blog and how-to articles on UX design on his site UX Beginner—and creating a course while he was still employed as a UX designer—Chen was able to try out the market before going full throttle. As a result, he could make tweaks and improve his product before transitioning to full-time digital publisher.
See Your Original Medium in a New Light
Sure, you’ve dabbled with making spur-of-the-moment videos on Instagram Stories. You realize creating content you’ll get paid for that’s up to a client’s standards is another beast. If you’ve previously dabbled in one medium, it may help you boost your game in your “original medium.”
For instance, let’s say you’re beefing up your skills as a photographer, and find yourself deleting the majority of your pics. That may help you be less precious in your work as a writer, making it easier to “murder your darlings” and cut bad sentences, redundant phrases, and so forth.
For content creators, expanding to new mediums can help us tell compelling stories and breathe new life into what we do. By doing so, we’ll stand out in a competitive marketplace and adapt to emerging trends.
For more stories like this, subscribe to the Content Standard newsletter.
Featured image attribution: Devin Justesen