I love running my own business and the freedom to carve my career path is really rewarding. I sometimes hear playful envy that I can live on my own schedule and even go see a movie on a weekday (snatch the morning discounts!). I agree those aspects of freelance are really nice but, it is not without its unique challenges too. I would say it demands more drive and discipline from me than my previous corporate years in the fast-paced intense world of architecture. Seems cheesy but passion is really the fuel!
When I'm taking a break on client projects, I'm spending my free time painting for myself. The fact that I'm returning to illustration even at times of rest - that is how I'm so sure this is what I love to do!
At the same time, I think balance is key to sustaining the fuel to create. We are all human and it is understandable that our minds need to recharge and refresh. The ratio of work/ life can vary from person to person and with each career milestone too. There may be times when one has too much free time but also periods with very full schedules juggling several jobs without pause.
Alright, so from a more practical standpoint here are some practices that may help avoid burnout!
1. Make time for your portfolio and fun personal projects!
I'm sure many illustrators feel that their portfolio is a never-ending project. Make sure you put aside time for personal growth and recharging your joy for illustration! Give yourself dream projects that can manifest as future opportunities.
2. Your balance starts with understanding and respecting other's work/life balance.
3. Project Time Management
Mutually establish realistic deadlines with clients and keep them informed of progress. Even if the illustrator is on track, there can be unexpected delays on the client's end so it can be stressful when projects start to overlap with incoming new jobs. Be proactive to offer solutions but I think its important to uphold structure to your business too in order to be responsible to all your commitments - work and personal.
4. Mute notifications after work hours.
Sometimes it is necessary to work late to meet deadlines or clients only have time after their day job to communicate. I believe accountability is so important in building a positive and reciprocal relationship. However, I can understand the perspective that freelancers having no 9-5 office hours makes them feel more accessible. The opposite tendency may be true for illustrators who work odd hours and want to get in touch with clients. Especially with SNS, the pressure to respond immediately is more pressing than ever now. Use judgment to determine the urgency and try your best to set expectations too. I think it's important not to forget to be professional to yourself too by knowing when to rest and of course respecting other's time too.
4. Disable the "last seen function" on apps.
The multi-use nature of messaging apps blurs the boundary between work/life. The same communication platform is used for family, friends, and work now. Disabling takes out a lot of unnecessary stress and doesn't take away from your professionalism.
Thanks so much for reading till the end! Do you have any tips for a healthy balance?
I would love to hear from you on instagram: @natalie.illustration