A few months ago one of my sweet TWD community members wrote me to say she had just quit her full-time job to pursue her freelance illustration career. Like most people undergoing a major life transition, she was riddled with doubt and anxiety. She asked, “how do I stay motivated when the emails aren’t pouring in? How do I stay encouraged?”. I really felt for her.
I was very lucky in my timing when I first left my full-time position. I was picked up by Instagram as an account to follow within weeks of leaving my corporate job, and was quickly flown to Moscow to illustrate at MBFW Russia. A week or so after I was hired by Condé Nast Traveler for my campaign with Bermuda Tourism, and featured as an illustrator to follow by InStyle magazine. It was all happening so quickly until it wasn’t…
Months later when the jobs weren’t pouring in naturally, I was crippled with worry. “Was that it?” I thought. “Had I worked all this time, sweat and tears, all to have it crash and burn in a matter of months?”. But like the sun rises and sets, so do our dry-spells. I’ve had to learn the art of staying motivated in high times and low. Here are a few ways I manage to keep my head in the game no matter the weather:
1. Make a Vision Board
This year was the first year I went out and bought a physical cork-board to pin-up all my major career goals. It felt empowering and courageous to visually mock-up the future I hope to have in my career and personal life. Whenever I feel lost or unsure of the way forward, I look to that giant board and I’m reminded of why I work this hard. It also makes me feel accountable to myself and my goals.
2. Surround Yourself with Other Highly Motivated Individuals
And those who fan your flames! This is imperative. Sometimes the roadblocks of our day-to-day lives make it impossible to see the forest from the trees. But surrounding yourself with friends and family who are your cheerleaders, who believe in you wholeheartedly, will keep you on your path. I’ve also found it important to spend time with other highly motivated, ambitious, professional risk-takers. They will understand and support you in ways no one else will.
3. Keep Your Inspiration Fresh
I am constantly on the hunt for new inspiration. I want my illustrations and business model to always reflect where the culture is moving but also remain authentic to me. Traveling is one way for me to be reinvigorated in my art, but also seeing new films, art shows, discovering new designers, and artists in different fields. Being re-inspired helps to get your energy up to keep going and stay in the game.
4. Connect with your Clients & Dream Brands
Use slow times as an opportunity to reconnect with former clients and connect with your dream brands. When work and life are in high speed it can be difficult to maintain those relationships or reach out to develop new ones. Ask to meet for coffee, be flexible, meet them wherever they can meet you and be personable. So much of this industry is founded on person to person connection. Your work needs to be strong but being amazing to work WITH can sometimes take you even further.
5. Take Time Off
This might seem counterintuitive but if you never break it results in burnout. I took a couple months “off” this past Fall to step back and reflect and it ended up being the best decision I could make for myself. I was able to do a real analysis on myself and my business, what parts worked, what didn’t, and more importantly what I wanted moving forward. By the time Winter hit, I was eager to work again and brought so much energy and enthusiasm to the new projects. I ended up delivering my best work to date.
Do you agree with the above? What helps you stay motivated? Would love to hear your thoughts below.