Monday, January 7, 2013

Illustrator Zen & The Art Of Career Maintenance

"You may ask yourself, wellhow did I get here?"- Talking Heads

It's already January 7th. Can you feel all the New Years pressure yet? Between you and me, all these resolutions and online reminders can feel pretty overwhelming right? 

We truly have the best of intentions set aside every January. We put a lot of thought into the new year. We know we need to be productive, energized and motivated. None of this should involve stress but sadly it does! What we could do is just simplify our new year! We can focus on what works: being productive, finding work and making more money. 

Every year we start off January with high hopes. It is also a great time to take look back so we can look forward! So what happened during 2012?

• What progress did you make last year? 
• What was your news?
• What did you create?
• What successes and mishaps did you have? 
• What is working?
• What needs improvement? 

"Celebrate what you want to see more of." -Tom Peters 

So now that we have taken stock of our progress, it's time to get to work. Take the pressure off of yourself and begin with 13 things!

1. Worry Less And Create More
No sense in worrying about what you can't control or what other illustrators are doing. It's true-competition is out there and it's HUGE! Try to save your energy on your own career. Better yet, instead of comparing, try to see what makes other illustrators successful. Learn what works for them, how their work goes viral and how they get clients. Success leaves clues!

2. Start With A Clean Slate
Clean your desk, your office, your computer screen and your in-box. A fresh start is what we are looking for after we ring in the new year. Organising and deleting clutter has a way of making you feel more in control of your space and technology. 

3. Do More Self-Directed Projects
What better way to motivate yourself and perfect your style than to create what you like. These projects can eventually become part of your portfolio. They can help you land new clients and help you break into new markets. Think big, think global and take advantage of every idea you have!

4. Push The Random Button
I go on the philosophy that if you are going to create, let go! This is where we get to work on our personal permissions, creative self-esteem, fears, and the things that make us uncomfortable. Do the opposite of what you normally do-Try not to make everything just right. Make a mess and break your rules from time to time! Set aside some time to just create anything-you don't even have to like it or keep it but the idea is to just make something! 

5. Stop Putting It Off
Get over trying to be ready all the time. Not feeling ready is a made up obstacle. Challenges and problem solving are a daily event for some of us so there is no need to create more to deal with. Beginning with something and starting somewhere has a funny way of creating momentum that can catch on if you are willing.  

6. Diversions Not Distractions
What's the difference you ask? Diversions can aid in your creativity and help give you more energy and inspiration to work. Diversions include: networking in person, going to a gallery, attending a conference or learning a new skill. Distractions can lead you off course and waste time. One of the biggest distractions we battle is Internet noise. Facebook of course is at the top of the list here as well as clutter, noisy work spaces, complicated personal lives and unrealistic schedules. When we are okay our creativity is okay. The major key to of all this is creating a realistic balance by focussing on what is going to help you stay motivated. 

7. Create Something To Look Forward To
Special occasions and holidays shouldn't be the only thing we look forward to each year- we can make them as well. Make some plans for yourself. Try a new website, a new promotion, a new client project or a self project that could boost your portfolio. Set a date and lay out all the details to accomplish it. Have reminders to do certain things daily to get it done. Each completed task makes it more real and when the final event happens you can celebrate knowing you did the work to make it happen! 

8. Conquer New Skills
Are there things you wish you could learn or become good at? I'm sure you have a list the size of your house! Illustrators are lifers when it comes to learning-we are driven by curiosity! Our biggest obstacle is creating more hours each day to do everything we want. Pick something once a week to to start off with. Once we realize we can actually squeeze it into our crazy schedules, the momentum to repeat this action begins! 

9. Direct Yourself!
Who knows you best? Exactly! Be your own agent. Really have a deep hard look at your work and what message it sends to your audience. Define what markets your work fits into and what the industry wants from the markets you want to pursue. If you were an art director, what would you want to see from an illustrator? What do you think an art director wants to see on a website or promotion piece? This is the part of our job where we get honest, do our research and be direct with ourselves and our work.

10. Have A 'No Work Day' Once A Week
“Let's stop the glorification of busy. We don’t need to use our busyness as a measure of worthiness.”—Jennifer Pastiloff 
Believe it or not, we do come with an off switch-we just have to find it! Being 'on' all the time is exhausting and can lead to burnout. Take time to be unavailable and do something unrelated to illustration at least once a week.

11. Make Promotion A Habit 
As they say, attention is the economy of freelancing. Sadly on average, the time we spend promoting ourselves is very low on our business list. Promotion a verb- it demands time, planning and repetitive action. Those who scream loudest on a regular basis get heard!  

12. Focus More On Earning
If you take a look at how much time you work and what gets you paid you maybe surprised how free your freelance is. If we did what the social media experts tell us to do daily we would never have time to create illustrations. All our time would be spent on jumping from site to site chatting, posting and reading links. How does this help us get paid? It doesn't! The idea is to use sites that benefit you, aid in your career, and help you find work. So, if you are feeling saturated by social media and not getting back what you are putting in, then it's time to scale it all back!

13. And Here Is The BIG One- Go For Creative Broke!
2013 can be a great year but you have to let go in order for that to happen. This does not mean be reckless-it means to be mindful and fully dedicated to your success. What would you do for your career if you knew you could not fail? Would you go to the wall for your business? Here's the last big question to ponder over: If you know what you need to do to succeed in illustration then why are you not doing it? Go for creative broke and use every resource you have because everything you want to achieve depends on it! 

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year." 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I wish you the very best this year- make it a lucky 13! Keep me posted on your plans, successes and creative bucket lists! Don't forget to send me questions too-I love email! 

And lastly, watch these videos-it's a different perspective on productivity and money that I think we can all appreciate!

All the creative best!

~Holly :)



P.J. Magalhães said...

Great post Holly and some much needed thinking 'in the right manner' has been done because of it! :D Many thanks and all the best to you in the coming year!

Holly DeWolf said...

Thank you so much for your comment P.J. I do hope hope this is the best year! Cheers! :)