While majoring in University, someone once asked me if I’d rather be a jack-of-all-trades or a specialist in something. We were at a point where graduation was just a hop skip and a jump away, that we needed to start thinking seriously and decide on what path to take. I don’t remember what my answer was, but I’m realizing that in today’s world, you’ve somehow got to be both, a specialist who can also do everything else (if that makes any sense at all).
Two years ago, I had considered myself lucky to get into this digital coloring business. Because, one, it required access to very expensive tools which meant, only a handful of people could get access to it. Which also meant that there are only as many people as there are machines, so therefore, two, less competition to deal with. I foresaw a good stable career (for 5 or so years at least).
What I did not consider, however, was how fast technology would grow. Gone are the days when you’d need apprenticeships to be someone. Now, training and apprenticeships are just options. If you wanted to be someone, and you can become ANYONE, you’d only need to go online. Everything you need, at your fingertips, literally. Say, you wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Youtube. If you wanted to learn how to paint, there are online tutorials and online shops for your tools. What about those online “colleges” where you can acquire diplomas?
So, what about coloring? With the recent release of more accessible tools, what was once monopolized by a minority is now being democratized. “The Democratization of the Colorist”, as Patrick Inhofer puts it. After reading his article, What’s Your Specialty? Career Advice to Keep You Earning, it occurred to me that my specialized profession required more specialization to have an edge in the growing competition. I panicked. What has happened to the Photographer when DSLRs broke out is now slowly happening to the Colorist.
Now, how on earth am I going to compete with everyone else who’s coming in, most of whom are probably cheaper to hire? Will my two years count for something? Would it be enough to be hired at my price? Or would they rather get the cheaper colorist? Let’s face it, everyone’s a cheapskate in today’s world. Not that I’m struggling to find gigs at the moment; I am full-time in my company, after all. But, it’s something to think about, right? Though, I’m still a firm believer that experience is the best teacher.
Whether a veteran or noob, a colorist or something else, Mr. Inhofer’s article is a good read. I highly recommend having a look at it. Just to make you think. What’s there to lose?