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For the longest time, I dreamt of working for myself, doing what I love, which is all things creative. I used to work in advertising as an art director, first full-time and later freelance. When I held down full-time jobs, I’d get up at crazy hours like 3 in the morning to work on my illustration side hustle. One of the reasons I went freelance was so that I can spend more time illustrating. Still, it took me way too long to make the switch from advertising to full-time illustrator.

Working for yourself as a creative is terrifying.

Ok, that sounds a bit dramatic. But if you’ve ever considered leaving a well-paid career to try your luck as an artist, I think you might know what I mean.

It really is kinda terrifying and hard!

But there are so many free or cheap tools and resources available online that makes it easy for you to either start your creative side hustle or if you’re feeling brave, take that leap into working for yourself. I keep telling myself that if I can manage to make a living and grow my business during a global pandemic and an economic downturn, the future is looking frigging good! And let me tell you, I’m a scatty, messy, deurmekaar creative. So if I can do it, so can you. Probably better than me!

I’m going to share with you my 5 top tips for your creative dream career.
Tip 1:

Diversify and pivot. I have multiple income streams. Multiple. It confuses people. Hell, it confuses me. But, I’ve had a steady-ish income during a rollercoaster of a pandemic year. Pre-Covid, most of my income came from teaching workshops. Covid cancelled my primary source of income. Luckily it wasn’t my only source of income. I was already doing portrait commissions and book cover design as well. So I just put more of my energy into those income streams. I also pivoted to moving my workshops online and offering one-on-one Zoom lessons and consultations. I also have an online shop. I recently did an online course for Raising Brightness, of which I earn a commission. So I’m always adding income streams. It’s a lot of work, yes. But when one income stream takes a dip, I already have a few others set up.

Tip 2:

Market the crap out of yourself! I find that a lot of creatives are uncomfortable seeing themselves as a business. They hate the idea of networking and marketing themselves. There is sometimes even a snooty, looking down on creatives that do market themselves. I’m not sure where this attitude comes from, because in my experience, as a creative working for yourself, the hardest, biggest, most important part of your job is getting yourself some jobs! Most of us can’t afford to quietly sit around waiting to be discovered. Nope, we have bills to pay and kibble to buy for the feline overlords. So you have to put yourself out there. Use social media, use your connections, tell everyone and anyone what you do for a living.
Tip 3:

Create your own dream job. Sometimes a dream client will fall into your lap. Other times, you have to be your own dream client. Create an offering. For example, I do various portrait commissions. This enables me to work in a style that I love and do the kind of work I love. I market my offering, and clients come to me, already knowing exactly what they want. Most dream jobs can be flipped in this way. For instance, say I wanted to design book covers, but I’m just not getting any book cover design clients. I can and should keep marketing my book cover skills to the publishers and indie authors. I can also design some book covers and sell the finished designs to indie authors who can’t afford a bespoke design.

Tip 4:

Don’t try and beat the competition. Set yourself apart so that you don’t have any competition. My portraits might be a bit weird and kooky. They kind of turn you into a character in a kid’s picture book. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I enjoy working in that style, and I love drawing portraits. Luckily, people like them. And if they want a portrait like that, well, they’re going to have to come to me because I don’t know of anyone else doing something similar. Being unique and developing a strong, original style takes time, dedication and practice. But it is worth the effort.

Tip 5:

Don’t work for free or drastically lower your rates. It might be scary to turn down work. And it’s tempting to think that any badly paid job is better than no job at all. But this is a mistake for various reasons. First, you might end up locking yourself into that low rate. Second, you’re in a sense saying to the world that your art has very little value. Third, you’re reinforcing the idea that artists should be happy to work for free or very little, making it harder for all creatives to get paid fair rates. And, next time you’re about to accept a badly paid job, imagine you say yes, and block out the time in your schedule it will take to do the project. Then a well-paying job with the same deadline comes along, and now you have to say no to good moola because you agreed to work for peanuts. Nope. Just no. Value yourself and value the industry you work in, and demand fair pay. It is up to us to create a fair industry for ourselves and others. No one will walk into a restaurant and ask for a free meal or a boutique and ask for a free dress. So why should it be ok to ask for free art? Let’s be clear. It’s not! I’m not willing to do it, and neither should you!

If you are thinking of starting your creative side-hustle or taking the leap into full-time creative working for yourself. I can help! One of my many income streams is teaching fellow creatives how to monetize their skills! I’ve teamed up with my friend and kick-ass marketer Steph to create a workshop that will teach you how to become a creative entrepreneur.

We’ll teach you how to find your style, brand and market yourself, show you our social media marketing tools, tips and tricks, and you’ll leave inspired and with a practical plan.

Our next workshop is on the 29th of May at Haas Coffee in town. Tickets are limited. For more information and bookings, just click on the ‘Learn with me’ tab on my site.

And if you’d like a taster, Steph and I are doing a free webinar on Facebook this Wednesday at 18h00 where we will be going into more depth on some of these tips and also have time for a Q&A. You can find that over on Steph’s Facebook page.

We hope to see you there! Both Steph and I get super excited and completely nerd out over this topic. The last one we did, we had so much fun. We can’t wait to teach more creatives how to make money doing what they love!

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