Being self employed is challenging, but most artists have to contend with it if they want to remain independent. The benefits of being an independent, self employed artist include the freedom to travel for new inspiration, ability to create during your most productive hours of the day and the autonomy to pick who you work with. Such advantages come with a challenge: as an independent artist you must schedule your time effectively, manage your workspace and urge yourself to keep going. To help with these challenges, you’ll need to develop a creative habit – and we’ve outlined our top five strategies to succeed as a self-employed artist while maintaining balance in your personal life.
Creative Habit: Plan to work during your peak creative hours
You probably already know when your best creative hours are. By working during these magic hours, you’re setting yourself up for success. For example, if mornings aren’t your thing, and your best work comes between 3pm-6pm, don’t expect yourself to get up early and go to the gym before sitting down to work at 9 am. Sure, one of the best things about being self-employed is your ability to step away from your work and run errands whenever you want. But if you know you’re the type who’s unlikely to get right back to it, then accept that it’s not likely to happen. adjust your weekly and daily schedule so that you can sleep in, putter around the house and be ready for work by noon so that your 6-hour work day encompasses your magic creative hours, and you still have the evenings to see friends and family.
Creative Habit: Go to your studio space
Putting money into a studio or workspace every month is an extremely effective investment for independent artists and the self-employed. Working only from home can cause strain on relationships and tends to leave people socially isolated. You’ll want to find a space that puts you in contact with other independent artists from a similar discipline.
In a studio or coworking space, you can still do your own thing and have some privacy, but you’ll get social and professional benefits by building relationships with other self employed creatives. For example, sometimes a short conversation with your studio neighbor can help you break through a creative block, give you a new perspective, or open your eyes to new resources. Or maybe you’ll get to chatting with a group of self-employed artists who have an idea for a new collective or initiative that would love to be part of. You’ll also find yourself more motivated by witnessing others hard at work.
Of course, it’s totally okay to work from home some days. Just be sure you have doubles of computer chargers and other basic supplies at both spaces, so you have less stuff to ferry back and forth.
Creative Habit: Set up for your self-employed work
Shortly before your prime creative hours begin, take a moment to sit down and decide what you’re going to work on. Set your phone and computer aside, and grab a pen and paper. Jot down what you plan to work on, and write out a list of the things you’ll need to have handy to complete the tasks. For example, if your plan is to finish a painting, you’ll need to set up an easel, fill a jar with water, and track down the appropriate brushes and paints before you begin.
Taking time to consider how you’re going to approach a work day is an approach that works for many artists, who often wonder how they’re going to organize so much work into so little time. By segmenting your work day into parts, you’ll feel far better prepared to tackle the day and be productive. For maximum productivity, set out your calendar at the start of the week, and loosely plan what you’ll work on each day. Whatever you don’t finish can always be added to the next day’s tasks.
Creative Habit: Get the tools and apps you need
Having access to the best software, tools or even a simple printer can make all the difference to your self-employed work going smoothly. Allow yourself to spend a bit of money on professional software, art equipment and office tools as needed. As an independent artist, you can’t just rely on a trip to your local Kinko’s and expect to be as productive as possible!
In terms of technological tools, take advantage of organizational apps for your phone and computer. Consider using Google Calendar, so that you can set reminders for important appointments (it also means there’s no more lost time scrounging around for your day timer, because your smartphone is almost always at hand). Other great apps for the self-employed include Google Drive, Wave and Quickbooks accounting programs, Tiny Scanner (allows you to scan documents by snapping a picture of them), Slack (group chat and project management software so you can stay connected to fellow artists), and various alarm apps that don’t snooze unless you solve a simple logic puzzle (I Can’t Wake Up and Alarmy are pretty good.)
Creative Habit: Eat food and move around
These things may sound basic, but for passionate and creative people who reject authority and structure, these daily habits get quickly neglected when in the throes of deadlines and new projects. So, do some planning to make them a part of your regular daily life. A well-fed independent artist who’s had some time to move and stretch is going to work more effectively and efficiently than a restless artist who’s easily frustrated because they’re hungry.
When you cook, make lots of food and use well-sealing tupperwares so you can take leftovers for lunch. While you’re at it, throw some in the freezer for emergency dinners.
Make exercise incidental and difficult to avoid. For example, plan to walk or bike to your studio on a regular basis, instead of taking the bus or driving (if it’s really far, walk the first half of the trip, then get on the bus etc.). You could also find a gym that’s between your home and the studio, and plan ahead to meet a friend for a workout on your way home.
How do you get into the creative habit? Let us know in the comments!