I hate mornings: Setting a routine for freelancing
I’ve kept a diary for years. During those years I've had a bunch of jobs and personal commitments alongside building my illustration portfolio. Looking over my diary, I can clearly note the sharp rise in my productivity level when my creativity is carved out in a routine. Let’s just say the times when I've noted simply ‘work on illustration tomorrow’ have yearned less than impressive results.
Allow me break down how I've crafted a creative routine that works for me :-)
The first and most essential thing I recommend is to spend a period of time decoding yourself. I’ve trialled a bunch of routines, but without fail my brain seems to go into overdrive at around 4pm. Once the clocks strike 4, the hours seem to blur and I could ferret away at something into the late hours without batting an eye. For the longest time I felt guilty about the fact that I can't for the life of me, get up at 5am, but in actuality getting up a little later allows me to make more work in the day.
If you feel a little overwhelmed, note how productive you feel over the course of a few days at regular intervals throughout the day. Take into account any external factors like your day job, or if you’ve been up playing Animal Crossing till 2am the night before to spot the patterns.
Block out the time
Once I understood my peak working hours, I started to block out my time accordingly. On the days that I freelance, I spend a few hours in the morning (roughly 9am- 12pm) doing my admin related tasks. Mostly because they are boring but it also eases me into the creative part of the day. I see it like eating the best part of a cake last (the icing, duh).
Afternoons are always my illustrative parts of the day. After lunchtime, I schedule in some hours for creating (this is the same on days that I have commissions on). To break this down further, my absolute favourite part of illustration is that sweet spot when I’ve got the line art sorted out. I can relax into the fun painting and inking part whilst listening to a podcast. I make sure that this part is always the latter end of the afternoon, so I work on line art for multiple projects at once in the early afternoon.
I’ve found the art of layering projects to be a really good practice. When those freelance commissions are rolling in, you’re probably going to have to work on a few things at once alongside your personal development work. I try to mix up what I'm working on on different days, even when I have a quiet period in commissions. It keeps the machine well oiled!
Don’t give yourself time to question what you’re doing
Cast your mind back to high school. Its 9am and you’re taking a peek at your timetable. Scanning over it, you’ve got Science first, then maths, then art class until lunch. For the most part (except you cheeky truants), you most likely made your way over to each class in succession without much thought. That autopilot is sort of how I treat myself today. I write out a full list of tasks I need to do the night before in my diary, so that in the morning I just do the things. That way, I'm not giving my brain the space to throw a wobbly about how much I hate organising invoices, I'm literally just organising the invoices so I can get to the fun bit. This also stops me sitting at my desk staring into a cup of coffee until it turns tepid, which has also happened on many occasions.
Surrender to small goals
At the moment I'm running a portrait project. This is a great practice to have when expanding my portfolio in-between commissions, and also maintains a personal sense of momentum. It clears out the space that I'd waste panicking/twiddling my thumbs whilst also helping to create content for my instagram, portfolio and emails.
Side-note: Show up for yourself. I think this is one of the most integral parts of my routine. Its super important to stick by myself and commit wholeheartedly to everything in my life. If I can’t even get up with my alarm instead of hitting snooze, or missing the gym for an extra 30 minutes in bed, how do I expect to craft a career I want? How do I show any grit in the face of contempt? It sounds cringe nation, I know. But it works.
Refill that cup sometimes
I’m a virgo with a scorpio moon so I’m all in all the time, baby. So much so that I could easily fritter away 16 hours on a project unless my boyfriend reminded me to eat. However, there are occasions where I'm hammering away at an illustration and it just keeps. going. wrong. What I never seem to realise is that by taking a break for an afternoon, or returning to an illustration the next day, I’d save more time than to keep burning the midnight oil. It feels rough to get to that point, because we are trained to think that working harder is the same thing as working smarter. (Welcome to the capitalist system - but that's for another blog ;-) )
I’ve reached a point where I give myself permission to take an afternoon off if I'm in a mess, but prevention is better than the cure. Burn out is absolutely real and can make you absolutely sick. Don’t feel tied to your routine if your cup is empty, work off your bodily instinct and take a damn break!
Thx for reading!
Drop me a DM and lets chat routines, babayyy.