By: Kent Sanders, writer, professor, and creative coach at
Everyone is looking for a way to stand out from the crowd. This is especially true in creative fields, where there is a lot of competition in graphic design, editing and writing, music, photography, and other areas.
It’s tempting to believe that the way to stand out is to produce work cheaper and faster than others. But the road to success isn’t a race to the bottom. Rather, it’s a race to the top.
How do you get to the top? Not by fighting for the scraps, but by setting yourself apart as a true professional.
As an artist, writer, teacher, and editor, I consistently see three practices that are increasingly rare. They are rare because they take a little more time and effort than most people are willing to spend.
However, these practices will instantly set you apart make you a hero to those you serve.
1. Send handwritten thank you notes.
In today’s digital world, sending a handwritten note through the mail seems out of date. But that’s precisely why you need to do it.
A handwritten note tells someone that you cared enough to go the extra mile. You know this from experience. When you get a handwritten card or letter in the mail, it’s the first thing you open.
Whenever someone has helped me in an important way, I send a handwritten thank you note. The tagline for my blog is “unlock your creative potential,” and I try to practice this by including a small vintage skeleton key in these cards.
Everybody wants to feel good about themselves, no matter how well-known or successful they are. Sending handwritten cards is a simple and effective way to accomplish this. Read more about my system for writing thank you notes here.
2. Be on time for appointments.
Creative people are notorious for being disorganized and scattered. When you show up on time, you show that you take your work seriously and aren’t settling for average.
Habitual lateness is a character issue. It says to other people that your schedule is more important than theirs. It also says that you’re not able to manage your time very well.
Habitual lateness is a character issue. It says to other people that your schedule is more important than theirs.
Sometimes unforeseen circumstances keep us from being on time for appointments. But that should be the exception rather than the rule.
The best way to prevent being late is to show up early. If you’re meeting someone in person, arrive fifteen minutes earlier than you need. If you have an online meeting scheduled, make sure all your technology is working beforehand. Always have a Plan B in case something goes wrong.
3. Use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
How often do you receive emails and text messages that have mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation? Probably all the time.
As a college professor and writer, I can say with 100% certainty that good, careful writing will set you apart as a professional. The bar for good communication is so low these days that this one skill will immediately help you stand out from the crowd.
You don’t have to be a genius to stand out from the crowd. You just need to be willing to do a little bit more than others.
These three simple practices—sending handwritten notes, being on time, and using proper English—will set you apart as a true creative professional.
About: Kent Sanders
Kent Sanders is a writer, professor, and creative coach. He is also the author of The Artist’s Suitcase: 26 Essentials for the Creative Journey, and host of the Born to Create Podcast. Kent’s mission is to help others unlock their creative potential. You can find lots of resources for creative entrepreneurs at his blog, KentSanders.net, where he writes about creativity, mindset, and productivity.