Want to be a graphic recorder?

There can be few things more satisfying (in a work sense) than doing a job that makes you happy, makes other people happy and has a tangible, real time benefit to the context you're working in.

I get to draw in some amazing places around the world, (...underneath Concorde, in the ballroom at the Savoy, on the roof of the National Theatre, by an Italian lake, in a morgue...), I get to meet fascinating people and sit in super interesting meetings (mostly they're confidential so sshhhhh!). 

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Life as a graphic recorder is full of 'feel good', in fact it's such a nice job that I often get a round of applause as people wrap up their session, but it's still a relatively unknown career for most people. I think it's time that changed. If like me your dream is to earn a good living out of working creatively then it might be worth a closer look.

Would it suit me?

Everyone's different of course, but here are 5 traits that lend themselves to life as a professional graphic recorder. 

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1. You can draw

Now I spend a lot of time showing people how to work visually and get the benefits of visual thinking, even if they can't draw at all. This is not that.

To be a professional graphic recorder (as opposed to someone using visual skills in their role) there is, rightly or wrongly, an expectation that you can draw, and that the finished graphic record will both make sense and look good. So although you don't need to be in any way an artist, you do need to be able to draw identifiable objects quickly. 

2. You are mentally agile

By that I mean you're able to take in information, which may be random, unexpected or about a topic you're not expert in, and make sense of it. If you're not sure if this is you, then go and pick a random TED talk, have a listen and see if you could understand the key points. If you can then you'll probably be fine.

3. You are happy to serve

By this I mean that you're able to get pleasure from a job well done, even if you don't particularly enjoy the content. Sometimes you'll be called upon to draw opinions that may not be yours, or listen to content that you don't find interesting. Your role is not to join in the discussion, but to identify and capture key points, connections and themes, all of which helps the participants process and understand the information better.  You are there in service of clarity.

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4. You can innovate

Stuff goes wrong all. the. time. Equipment fails, agendas change without warning, and all possible human and environment variables come into play at some point.  You need to be able to think on your feet and go with the flow. Be a sapling not an oak tree.

5. You can pull off the business basics

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Most people in this field are self employed or running their own small business. The scene is evolving slightly as some corporations are hiring their own in-house graphikers, but in the main, you have to be okay with the rollercoaster that is working for yourself. So are you able to build relationships, talk about money, and have enough systems in place that you know the right image file is going to end up with the right client? You'll need to be able to deal with unpredictable cash flow (especially at the start) and still get your bills paid on time. 

How many did you have?

If you had most, or maybe even all of these traits then you might want to think about exploring something new and joining the growing global tribe of graphic recorders. 

Our awesome online course Be a Graphic Recorder teaches you all the skills you'll need to start capturing conversations brilliantly. 8 weeks of exercises and support from me, an expert in the field with over 12 years experience running a graphic recording studio. I've drawn everywhere from a muddy field to Buckingham Palace and have worked with clients like TimeWarner, Google and the NHS. 

The course is in our online Graphic Change® Academy, with content available 24/7 so you can do the exercises when it suits you, with an private group to share your work and individual tutor feedback on your work, it's a perfect place to start your career as a graphic recorder. We have students in 59 countries (and counting). To join them head to our training pages.


Graphic Change is a visual thinking studio that works with individuals and businesses helping them to get the benefits of working visually. If you want to find out more about working visually in meetings join our online course Be a Visual Facilitator to learn the skills you need, or if you want to chat through at possible project, get in touch.

If you enjoyed this read, let us know by clicking 'like' below, and if you know someone who will appreciate this post, share it forward.

Why creatives need side gigs

I love having a creative business. 

The fact that I dreamt about it for a really long time while I was working as a manager [read my blog about that heremakes it especially pleasing to know that I'm getting paid to be a creative and draw for a living. I am literally living my dream.

So imagine my surprise, when I realised that it wasn't enough.

How could it be that I was spending all day being creative, but actually find myself feeling creatively hemmed in? The want of another creative outlet was starting to affect my creative mojo in the business I loved and had dreamed of. How could I know that after years of wishing I had more creative time that I was actually wishing for the wrong thing!

I realise now that what I wanted wasn't just 'creative time'. No, it's not that simple. What I wanted was actually:

1. to have a creative business - to spend my working day being creative and getting paid for it

2. creative time

Now, you might think that getting 1. would automatically give me 2. I know I did. In fact for the first few years I was so busy doing 1. that I didn't notice that being paid to create content for other people didn't really fulfill my need for 2.

Don't get me wrong. I love my business. I love the work I get to do with clients. It's varied, interesting and keeps a big chunk of my creative brain very happily occupied. But there's that other bit. The bit of my brain that wants to do stuff my clients just aren't going to want, the bit that wants to create without a defined end in mind. The bit that wants to smudge things...

...that's when I realised I needed a side gig. A side gig can be huge or tiny. Regular or random. It doesn't really matter. Just something that is purposeful and gets your creative juices flowing without being curtailed by someone else's agenda. 

So I jumped in feet first. My first side gig was to set up a whole other business; Patternbooth.

I know right?  *slow eye roll.

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Yes, at first it fed my creative need. I designed stuff, I figured out how to make stuff, all the things I love...I even started getting national press, but before long, it started to build up into something that didn't feel that different to my main business. Lots of work and not a lot of unboundaried creative time.

Since then I've realised my side gigs don't need to be as big, in fact they don't need to be gigs at all. Now I get my extra creative kicks in a much more modest way. Not regular enough to be a hobby, not income generating enough to be a gig. Let's call it a Gibby.

I indulge myself in Gibbies as and when I need them. They satisfy that side of my creativity that likes a brief but doesn't like rules and deadlines, and without getting in the way of the creativity that I need, to actually pay the bills.

My last Gibby was at Christmas [a perfect time for a bit of festive marker pen indulgence I must say]. I got a lot of pleasure from making this theatre for my nieces, and I fulfilled my need for extra curricular creativity for a few weeks...

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...now what's next?

 


Cara works with individuals and businesses helping them to get the benefits of working more visually, and is author of the upcoming book Draw a Better Business. If you want to find out more about working visually in meetings join our online course Be a Visual Facilitator to learn the skills you need. If you want to talk through a project we can help you with get in touch.

If you enjoyed this read, let us know by clicking the "like" below, and if you know a visual thinker who will appreciate this post, share it forward.