You Don’t Need to Go Back to School

09-Aug-2013

After 2 years of working with 100+ creative entrepreneurs I’ve noticed that each one of them feels some sort of need to go back to school. 

I don’t want to downplay education but the fact of the matter is you probably don’t need to go back to school. If you’re a designer but want to start your own business you don’t need to go to business school to learn about spreadsheets and management information systems. You simply need to start your business – by building it from the ground up, the way you see it, you’ll gain invaluable experience (and an income!) without going in debt for an irrelevant degree. 

Maybe it’s the nostalgia of school supplies and shifting seasons that lures creatives into the idea of going back to school, but I believe this need to go back to school stems from insecurity, uncertainty, a fear to begin, and a need for structure. I’ve been there too. More recently I was feeling overwhelmed and thought “Maybe I should move to Burlington, Vermont and get my masters in creative writing.” It’s a lovely bucolic fantasy but in reality, if I want to write, I really just need to be writing and hitting publish every single day. Now that said, getting a bachelor’s degree in visual communications with a solid foundation in typography has absolutely shaped who I am today – and sometimes the idea of a mentor and teacher telling me what to do and helping me hone my craft sounds great. But since my early 20s I’ve grown into my role as an entrepreneur. I’m no longer a student of a university but a student of life.

How To Learn More

So while more school, in a traditional sense, isn’t necessarily the answer, continuing education is essential for the creative entrepreneur. And the great thing about being a self-starter this day in age is that you can curate your education to fit your specific needs. Here are six ways you can continue to learn as you go: 

1. Read a book. When Tara and I started Braid we read ReWork by 37 Signals and The Back of The Napkin by Dan Roam. And then we stopped reading and started doing. We were able to build the foundation of our business model and philosophies on principles we learned and applied from those two books. 

2. Attend a Conference. Conferences are a great way to learn new things, surround yourself with likeminded peers, and are places where you can share your own gifts of knowledge by speaking or facilitating round table discussions. I’ve been to Alt Summit and HOW Design Conference and found both experiences instrumental for personal and professional growth. 

3. Go to a Workshop. You don’t need to get a degree in graphic design to learn photoshop. You can go to Bri Emery’s BlogShop! And there isn’t even a degree in blogging which is why a workshop like Blogcademy is so rad for creatives who want to learn how to better share themselves online. Want to learn more about lifestyle photography and food styling by superstar Canelle et Vanille – just go to her workshop! 

4. Take an ECourse. I recently wanted to learn more about calligraphy and hand-lettering so I took the I Still Love Calligraphy ECourse. SkillShare is another great resource for learning new skills – from how to make meatballs to learning web design. Lynda.com is a great place to brush up and learn technical design skills. And of course we have our own Braid ECourses for creative entrepreneurs who want to learn more about business visioning and branding. 

5. Hire a Consultant. If you need someone to tell you what to do hire a consultant. Tara and I recently invested in a business consultant to help us shore up our business model from the operations & financial side of things. We relied on her business degree and expertise to teach us specifically what we needed to do to make our business run better. Better yet, we didn’t have to endure 4 more years of homework and finals to get there. 

6. Invest in Training. I recently paid $7,000 to go through 8 months of life coach training with Martha Beck. It wasn’t cheap but it’s a fraction of what it would cost to get my master’s degree. I see this kind of training as an investment that will quickly pay for itself and then some.

Finally, acknowledge and trust the experience you’ve already got. The education you’ve received (whether formal or self-taught) and the experience you’ve picked up along the way are what make you an expert and that’s good enough for right now. There will always be more to study and master but at some point you’ll need to stop learning, collecting, and thinking, and start doing. There is an abundance of education and learning to be had in actually doing the work. (I wrote more about that in an exclusive Letters for Creatives here. If you haven’t signed up to receive these letters straight to your inbox do so here.)

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Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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