We have all listened to this phrase sometime in our lives. “Work smarter, not harder.” I’m 100% with this, but it cannot be applied to people who want to get somewhere. Working hard is a must if you want your work to be noticed over other people’s work.
Even if I hate the previous statement, the world’s population is growing, and it’s growing fast. The number of people with the same abilities you have is enormous, and competition is strong anywhere you go, so how can you make sure you stand out from the masses?
Sometimes we work hard to pursue these ends, but working hard alone isn’t going to take you anywhere. You have to add the smart factor.
Being intelligent about how you approach your work is the most important part of it. Spending countless hours without breaks is never the way to go. While applying these, you must set a pace where you don’t burn yourself out or end up rushing because you are tired.
So here’s my take on it. I chose to work harder & smarter, and here’s how I do it.
Choose your audience.
When starting a new project or learning experience, it is great to surround yourself with great knowledge from a wide selection of topics. You are aiming to be able to problem-solve a specific matter with the widest variety of tools possible. When chasing your goals, this is not the best way to do so.
Your goals will most likely depend on someone else’s acceptance of your work. This person or group of people will have different opinions and ways, but they have something in common. They are looking for something that you can do.
Your task for this first part is to choose where you want to go, simply by choosing a group of people, the art department of a company, for example, and aiming your work to that audience.
Study your audience.
For this second part of the job, the hardest one, in my opinion, we are going to study what that particular group of people needs at the moment to grow, personally or professionally.
Being a 3D artist, I can see what company X is looking for in me according to what other people in the same position I’m aiming for are working on. It can be an art style, a batch of particular props, like vehicles or weapons, etc.
As another example, one for the non-video game people, if a bakery is specialized in bread making, you have to accommodate your repertoire of recipes to those that have something to do with bread.
Once you have identified what your audience needs, it is time to buy their product and review it to yourself, read their articles, play their games or watch their movies, take notes of what they do that you don’t, and incorporate it into your knowledge base.
If you can ask for feedback from your audience, you’ll be able to confirm that their needs are in line with what you can provide them with.
For this second part, you should end with a solid idea of what your target needs. It can be in any shape or form, but I recommend that it is short and understandable, as some notes on a piece of paper or a document stating point by point how you plan to get to that audience you have studied.
Reach your audience.
This is by far the easiest part, but that doesn’t mean it requires less work. The previous two points were the “Work Smart” part of the job. This one is the “Work Hard” one.
When you know what to do, first learn very well how to do it. Look for tutorials, books, articles, or even online courses on developing that specific task you are working on.
Once you are ready to start working, become obsessed with what it is you are doing. To exemplify, I always carried a camera everywhere I went when I started as a 3D artist. This allowed me to take pictures of everything I found interesting, whether it made sense to other people or not.
I remember taking macro shots of how a wall was dripping water or how a car’s paint reacted to the sun depending on the level of dirt it had accumulated. I also took more pictures of the arrangement of trash piles than I am willing to confess. This is how far you have to take things, far enough so that you start to question if what you’re doing is within the ranges of sanity.
When your work is finished, it is time to show your audience what you’ve been up to. Make sure you listen to their feedback, and if it wasn’t good enough, you might have to go back to step 2.
With this, you’ve learned to give your audience what they want from you. If successful, you have made it to where you want to be. If where you are isn’t enough, keep working on it!
Life is a never-ending learning experience.
I hope you enjoyed this article! If so, please let me know. If that weren’t the case, I’d be happy to hear about it too!