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Urban Hubs Are No Longer a Living Requirement for Creative Success


The “Creator Exodus” is a phenomenon that has been accelerated by the COVID-19 era. With the requirement for non-essential businesses to operate from a remote-first capacity, the 2020 experience has encouraged creators at all levels to redefine their metrics for productivity and success.

While remote work does indeed have its challenges, the time away from cubicles, open-office floor plans, and conference rooms have given businesses and entrepreneurs the time and space to assess their needs and wants for the future of work. In addition, production and creative endeavors look very different in our modern age. While cities like New York City, London, and Los Angeles continue to be influential in defining the fidelity and standards for high-quality creatives, our digital age has made opportunities for networking with creatives and developing skills boundless. For this reason, along with many of the other challenges of living in an urban center (i.e. cost of living), the creative energy of urban hubs has shifted to other dwellings around the world.

Innovation is Everywhere

Smaller locales are investing in start-ups and tech companies, and the pandemic has leveled the playing field for creators and businesses. Access to press passes for local events, attendance to photography meetups, and in-person conference opportunities have all changed dramatically. It’s no surprise that metropolises are losing their edge, as cities like St. Louis and Durham are committed to investments within their local governments to foster innovation in their respective communities.

These smaller cities are citing themselves as innovation hubs and they’re redefining the way that people approach their creative and business endeavors. Along with the economic development opportunities for these cities, there are even cities (such as Tulsa, OK) that are going as far as compensating creators and businesses to house their operations there. The cost of living is cheaper in these areas as well, so you can invest in expensive tools like the camera equipment you may not have been able to afford while living in a large metropolitan area.

Promote Yourself From Anywhere

So, if you don’t need to be cramped in that small Washington Heights studio anymore, what does marketing yourself and working virtually look like? With platforms like Working Not Working and Thumbtack there are plenty of ways to get your name out there. In order to promote yourself, you need to make sure that you have a strong portfolio, that’s where tools like Storyblocks Maker or Adobe’s Creative Cloud come into play to make video creation easy and accessible for marketing your business.

With these tools specifically, you can pull together a professional reel that allows you to market yourself in just minutes. They also allow you to present your body of work in a polished manner, before you go to the trouble of building a site using Cargo Collective, Webflow, or Squarespace. In addition to building a portfolio, a few other ways to get yourself noticed in a remote environment include leveraging your social media networks and pages as a virtual portfolio and a place to promote your best photos. At the end of the day, consistency and proper optimization of photography-related hashtags is an important part of your promotion model.

Virtual Exhibitions Grow Exponentially

Before COVID-19, many of the premier art and photography exhibitions, such as PHotoESPAÑA, Helsinki Photo Festival, and Filter Photo Festival required photographers to submit their bodies of work and travel long and far to attend these festivals. As an artist, and even as a viewer, those opportunities have changed.

Now, we live in a world where artists and companies are innovating to find ways to uniquely display their work online in a virtual exhibition setting. This option is in many ways more cost-efficient for photographers as well, since virtual real estate is much more economically feasible than renting gallery space. Outside of the photography exhibition space, there have been many creators that have taken COVID-19 as an opportunity to flex new muscles and innovate virtually. Many of the creators at this year’s SXSW have taken the opportunity to teach the community progressive topics, such as 360-degree content creation workshops. As the location of learning and workshopping changes, so does the nature of production at-large.

As the creative industry grows and evolves, it’s clear that physical location is becoming less relevant, and the greatest relevance lies within a creator’s ability to amplify the reach of their creative work through virtual mediums.

About the author: TJ Leonard is the CEO of Storyblocks, a different kind of content company delivering a fresh approach to meet the creative needs of a new generation of storytellers. Built on the belief that all stories deserve a chance to be told, Storyblocks provides video, audio and images through its unique subscription model. By offering unlimited downloads and continually adding fresh content, Storyblocks challenges the paradigm that your ambitious creative vision requires deep pockets. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Storyblocks has been recognized by the Inc 5000 list seven consecutive years and was recently named as one of Washington D.C.’s Top Workplaces by The Washington Post, and among the Best Places to Work by the Washington Business Journal. TJ is a New Hampshire native, who graduated from the University of Virginia and MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and lives in Washington DC with his wife and two kids.

Image credits: Images provided courtesy of Storyblocks.