It’s a known fact that job adverts ask for outrageous amounts of experience. When I was younger, I looked at a retail job at a clothes shop that asked for TWO years of retail experience to even be considered. On Reddit, a user commented that they’ve seen job postings asking for 15 years experience in the coding language Visual C # 2015…A programme that hasn’t even been out for fifteen years (and no experience in older versions didn’t count!) In today’s job market, experience is often seen as the be-all and end-all. Yet often, these people know less about the work than the people they’re looking to hire and this is especially true with creatives. Freelance creatives are constantly at risk from clients with unrealistically high expectations regarding experience. So what are you supposed to do? Sometimes, you’ve just got to fake it ’till you make it.
Before we start, a small caveat. ‘Faking it’ doesn’t mean making totally outrageous claims to combat those of your potential client. For instance, claiming 30 years experience in the graphic design industry at the ripe old age of 23 probably isn’t going to cut it. Equally, outright lies about your achievements are a big no no – if you claim to have made it to the top 10 list of illustrators on one list or another, it’s very easy to check. And definitely don’t be the guy who says they’ve got a Nobel Prize in their CV…
No, what faking it really means is identifying where a ‘gap’ in your skills (according to the job description) is actually a chance to develop them further. If you only apply for jobs you’re 100% qualified for (with 10 years experience in that field to boot), you’re never really going to progress. As a freelancer, working with clients is the best way to get new skills and boost your career.
So how exactly do you act on this one? Here’s an example. A client might ask for previous experience using certain software. You haven’t used it before, but you’ve looked into it and done your research and have used similar programmes before. You’re 100% confident that you can pick it up and provide high quality work. (P.S: In this example you should also make sure you can afford the software in the first place!) What’s more, the best way for you to do this is take the job and work through the project. It gives you the motivation to develop a skill you might not have bothered to learn otherwise, as you’ve got the pressure of a deadline. Tobias van Schenider shares some wise words on the subject:
“I believe that whatever we want to learn, a little promise to someone else might be the kick in the ass we need, because then we have to deliver. There are no options other than rocking it.”
What’s more, you’re learning through practical experience, which is far better than just reading ‘How to’ guides or watching YouTube tutorials. In fact, these job postings that demand vast troves of experience rarely accept theory as an acceptable alternative anyway. You can add it to your CV and next time a similar job comes round you’ll be able to apply with confidence. With more skills, you can pitch on more jobs and increase your rates – it’s a win-win situation!
But again – just to reiterate – only do this when you’re certain you can learn something on the job and fulfil the requirements. Let’s face it – if you’ve never programmed a line of code in your life, it’s not something you’re going to learn how to do professionally in a month. People study for years to get to that level. This strategy is more of a step sideways and eventually upwards rather than a massive leap into the freelancing stratosphere. It’s applying the skills you do have to another area – whether it’s a different type of project, or using different tools – and learning new skills by doing so. It’s about being ambitious, but not ridiculous. Most importantly – if you make a promise, deliver on it.