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You’ll Never Feel Ready (And That’s OK)

Since I launched my one-on-one consultation service, I’ve met with a good amount amount of aspiring illustrators. One thing that seems to be a commonality amongst them is the feeling of readiness—that their work isn’t good enough to start promoting. Well, here’s a secret: you’ll never feel ready. But don’t let that stop you from marketing your work.

Imposter Syndrome affects almost all creative professionals. Top illustrators, art directors, and creative directors I’ve discussed this with have whole-heartedly admitted to feeling like frauds. Masters don’t consider themselves masters. It’s that striving for perfection, though—while simultaneously realizing that they’ll never achieve it—that elevates their work to the next level. It’s a daily, noble battle.

Don’t let doubts be a roadblock to your career. While your work may not be good enough yet for the cover of Time, it’s good enough for somewhere—even if it’s just a tiny hometown publication that can only pay you $5. The more professional jobs you do, the more your portfolio will grow and improve over time, and the greater your future job opportunities will be. Eventually, you’ll blink to discover a shocking truth: you are a professional. The irony, of course, is that you may never actually feel like one.

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Neil Swaab is a freelance illustrator, art director, author, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. He's an instructor at Parsons the New School for Design and the illustrator of the New York Times bestselling book Middle School: My Brother is a Big, Fat Liar by James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou. His new authored and illustrated book, The Secrets to Ruling School: Class Election, comes out this September from Amulet Books.

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