“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

– “Alice in Wonderland”, Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

We, independent artists, always have many creative career aspirations – getting hired by that dream client, charging more for our work, growing our freelance business, adding a new skill to our creative and business skillsets, and so on…

If you are anything like me, your inner world easily gets chaotic with so many targets and desires that just don’t seem to be realizing as quickly as you’d like 😰

Ah, those shimmering visions that ignite our souls, the reason we hustle through late nights, weekends, and endless cups of coffee!

Here’s the brutal truth we all already know: dreams and creative desires without concrete plans of “attack” are like fireworks without a fuse – life and work always get in the way and they fizzle out, leaving nothing but a lingering disappointment inside.

Consistently not going after and reaching your goals also indirectly trains your brain that it’s Ok to not go full-force for things you actually really want in your life.

You spend your days in a whirlwind of activity, checking off tasks, getting jobs done, feeling productive AF. Then you pause for a second and realize you are just spinning your wheels and have not moved any closer to fulfilling your creative ambitions.

Does this sound familiar? I really hope I’m not alone in this mind trap.

I’d like to stop the busywork charade and grab the detonator.

So, I decided to study what high achievers and academics know about accelerated skill acquisition (all the way to the expert level), then use my own experiences and successes in the corporate world and as an independent creative professional in the beauty industry to develop a framework for turning my aspirations and dreams into goals and going after them, no time or energy wasted.

I’d love to figure out if I can assemble a blueprint that any visual artist could follow to acquire new skills QUICKLY, with superior focus and clarity, create a working portfolio, and take it to the market.

It doesn’t matter if it’s retouching, product or beauty photography, video, graphic design, Ai image or video generation – I want a plan that tells me how to go from dreaming to becoming FAST. A roadmap that is based on scientific research and the experiences of people who already know how to do this in other fields.

And I will test out this workable framework myself by adding a couple of new disciplines to my own skillset. If I can do it, so can you.

It’s a journey, and I don’t expect to magically whip out a brilliant strategy, because, well, work and life, are still going to try and drag me away from my aspirations. But for now I’m just going to focus on not quitting this pursuit.

If you already know your creative aspirations, then what?

The well-known approach to setting goals and reaching them that I am currently aware of is simple (not saying it’s easy).

It works for going from GOOD to BETTER, but I want to find a way to go from GOOD to BEST in any given field and FAST.

Dream BIG, Plan SMART 🎯

What we know now is that setting ambitious goals can boost motivation and performance. But don’t stare at the mountaintop, break it down ⛏️

Here’s what’s been working for me so far:

Step 1. Give yourself a couple of hours with no distractions, preferably not at the desk where you do your “busywork” (go to a coffee shop, or your backyard, or just another room). Use a sheet of paper (squared, lined, dotted, blank – whatever floats your boat) and start from the top.

Step 2. Don’t think about HOW you are going to achieve your big goal during this exercise, just write it down assuming the Universe, God or the Higher Powers (whatever your personal beliefs suggest) will conspire FOR YOU every step of the way as a reward for your determination.

What is the ONE BIG thing you truly desire in your creative journey? Be specific, ditch the wishy-washy.

Take a moment to actually feel it – how happy and accomplished achieving this goal will make you feel. I’m not kidding, it works – let your subconscious mind know what you want through FEELING it. This will help you to go the distance later when the going gets tough.

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A post shared by Julia Kuzmenko McKim 💄 (@juliakuzmenko)

Step 3. Next level down on the paper – think of what elements must be in place for this goal to be easily achieved.

Think stepping stones, not Mount Everest in one leap.

For example, you want to shoot a specific beauty campaign for a specific client – think of what skills, circumstances and experience are necessary for you to confidently execute that project.

Trust me, you want to be prepared to enjoy the process, so it feels like a dream come true and not have a nervous breakdown instead because you lack confidence due to insufficient experience.

What kind of projects do you need to have in your portfolio for this client to even consider you?

What marketing steps do you think you will have to take to put your work in front of this client? You don’t actually have to know the answer right now, so just write down – “client’s eyeballs on my work”, it’ll suffice for now and you will figure it out later through articles, books, online courses… 😉

This exercise, among other things, allows you to see what knowledge and skills you are lacking to be able to achieve your goal.

Post-production is a huge part of the creative process and will contribute to (or take away from) the excellence of the resulting work. Who will take care of the retouching of your shoot?

Will you do it yourself? Even if the timeframe is super tight with lots of deliverables? Definitely check out our smart retouching panels if you choose this path!

I created our panels with my Retouching Academy team a decade ago and now we are serving over 18,000+ users which include employees of well-known beauty brands such as Sysley Paris, educational institutions such as New York Film Academy, and myriads of content creators around the globe.

We have just released a mini version of our Beauty Retouch panel, check it out and use my discount code JKM20RALab for 20% off your purchase:
Beauty Retouch Mini (this coupon code will work for the original Beauty Retouch and MUA Retouch panels as well, you can compare all of our panels here).

Will you let your client pick someone you don’t know to finish your images? 🫣

Will you have a retouching assistant?

Maybe you’ll need to assemble a team of retouching helpers and by the time your dream shoot comes around, you will have trained and tested retouchers to do this with you – no surprises, full control and confidence.

I created a whole retouching agency when my commercial jobs got too big for me to handle alone for this very reason – I never want to wonder who and how will retouch my work for my dream clients, no thanks, been there!

Think of other things that need to be in place for that shoot to be exciting and fulfilling.

Step 4. Now go into each and every single element you’ve come up with for this level of milestones and do the same – what needs to be in place for each to be sorted and ready for the following stage?

What do you need to learn and practice to get those things ready?

Step 5. Create as many levels of milestones on your way to your goal and put everything down that comes to mind.

Don’t sweat the details, you just want to map out the big picture, and a lot of details will either come up along the way, or change entirely – be flexible, but keep your eyes on the 🏆.

Once you mapped out the overall roadmap to your Dream, transfer it over clean to your work notebook, or your digital notes, or an organizer app – somewhere where you can easily review it, and do that often!

Maybe even every day, so you always know what you need to do next on your way to your Big Dream/Goal.

Your creative journey is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be detours, roadblocks, and moments when you want to throw in the towel. But with clarity, focus, and a healthy dose of action, you’ll transform your dreams from distant stars into a dazzling constellation of creative achievements. ✨

📌 Additional food for thought:

Try this and we’ll look at how to stay laser-focused and get there next time!

Catch ya later! 👋