As freelancers in the creative disciplines—graphic design, video, set design, etc.—we’ve got a lot on our plates. Every day we’ve got to be, well, creative out-of-the-box thinkers, able to leap small budgets in a single bound, staying on the bleeding edge of trends, and up on the latest hardware, software and teams that make it all possible. Plus we’ve got to run our businesses, paying our bills, invoicing our clients, and thinking strategically about our careers and where we want to go next. It’s a tall order. Here are some ways we can break it down and get it done.
- Energize Your Creative Self. Take on a project outside your usual comfort zone. This might be a pro bono passion project (see #7 below). Or it could be a totally new approach to work with a regular client. Push your limits and create something you wouldn’t typically do. Or check out work by others to inspire you. For example, this week I’m in New York City where it’s Design Week http://nycxdesign.com/ with all kinds of wonderful gallery and design-focused events.
- Connect to Creative Communities. Lots of independents get so busy with projects and life that we fail to make time for human connections. It’s too late to attend a networking event when you need the work. So get out and go to conferences, coffees and meet-ups. Get to know people in real life, not just in online communities. Real relationships are important, not just for business, but for our mental health as solo practitioners. Join a group like the aiga.org or www.wifv.org, www.aicp.com or www.asmp.org . If you are just getting started in your industry, many groups have a “junior” category with lower dues.
- Keep Learning. Take an online class. Attend a workshop. Read books and articles. Learn not just about the tools of your particular trade, but the fields that connect to your work. As a filmmaker, when I learn more about audio mixing, I’m going to do a better job directing field audio on my next shoot. As a filmmaker who’s been in the business for…ahem…awhile, I especially need to keep pushing myself to expand my horizons. It’s one reason I teach classes on lynda.com –to teach something you have to be sure you are up on the latest and greatest.
- Share. The corollary to learning is sharing. Share with your online communities. Share with your professional association. Share with a mentee. One of my favorite creative directors always has something interesting to share through his twitter stream. I’m much more likely to want to work with someone I can learn from.
- Give Back. Volunteer for the organization you join related to item #2. Or volunteer to speak on Career Day at your local school. Or mentor someone coming along in your business. Whatever you give, you will get back a thousand fold. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true!
- Get Tools. I see so many creative stuck in workflow of tools past. Don’t. So you used to edit on AVID but now you need to learn Adobe. I’m super-comfortable designing content to shoot with a C-series camera or FS-7, but now I’m pushing myself to develop storytelling that can leverage the power of 360 VR like this.
- Charge Appropriate Rates. I have left this one for last. Let’s face it, we creatives hate dealing with money. It’s not why we got into this work. Despite flat wages and the constant dilution of our various industries, we need to support one another by charging a living wage. When I see someone posting on a professional list-serve that they are looking to hire (fill in the blank creative position) at (half the standard industry day rate), I want to shout “doooon’t do it!” to all respondees. Sure, if you’re new to the biz and building your portfolio, you can discount your rate. But don’t go too far. For one thing, people tend to value your work by the value you assign to it yourself. For another, we’re all in this together.
Amy DeLouise is a video director-producer and author, and occasionally an industry speaker.