One thing that I could have done differently, is that I spent unnecessary money on trying to get my dream.
I graduated from UC Berkeley and the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and I was trying to figure out how to get jobs as a freelance illustrator. When I look back at where I was then, my work really wasn’t good enough, but I didn’t realize it.
I bought a lot of books on different illustrators trying to get inspiration, learn techniques, and study their styles of illustration. But mostly, those books didn’t help to improve my work. What I realize now, is that I should have spent more time improving my work and less time trying to find inspiration. I should have just spent a lot of time practicing to improve my skills.
I also bought a lot of art materials, trying to figure out my ‘style’. The top illustrators have a distinctive style, and I didn’t have one yet, so I experimented with different materials. While it’s good to experiment, I regret that I hadn’t been more serious in art school, because that was the time to experiment and find your style.
I also spent a lot of money for advertising in art directories, you can buy a page to advertise your work for $1000 or more. I advertised for a few years, one year I advertised in two directories.
I don’t think I got any jobs directly from those directories, again, before I spent the money to advertise, I should have spent more time improving my work.
Even though my experience is from an artist’s/creative point of view, I think it’s applicable to any career, try to see how it fits your situation.
I think I wasted a lot of money when I should have concentrated on improving my work, and not realizing that, it actually took me longer to get to my goal.
You may have to spend money to get to your goal, but see what you can do to improve yourself and your work before spending the money.