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Ask Lawrence: What to do with your ‘summer break’?

15 Dec 12:00 by Lawrence Akers

Lawrence Akers summer break

It’s that time of year once again! Traditionally, things begin to slow down and minds start to turn towards a much needed end of year break. This can be hard for freelancers though; if they haven’t found as much work leading up to Christmas or haven’t set up a budget to cover them over the slower period, this forced break can often result in stress and anxiety. With that in mind, this Ask Lawrence focuses on what you can do with your ‘summer break’ to help reduce that stress, get some rest and put some focus into making 2018 the absolute best.

Get clear on 2018

The end of the year has this habit of making us quite reflective and consider what has worked for us and what we need to let go of. It is no coincidence that many people start their year by looking for new jobs as the break has given them the opportunity to weigh up their year and determine what they want to do next year.

If you’re planning to do freelance, now would be a great time to set out what it is that you’re going to want to achieve in the new year.

Budget here is important; how much do you want to earn? What does that look like to achieve it? How many jobs do you need to do? What does the average job value look like? What service offerings do you have to reflect this? 

This feels like a great time to quote Alice in Wonderland;

“Cat: Where are you going? 

Alice: Which way should I go? 

Cat: That depends on where you are going. 

Alice: I don't know. 

Cat: Then it doesn't matter which way you go.” 

Be clear on what you want to achieve in the new year as it will set up a structure that can drive you and benchmark your success. It will help to provide you with reassurance that you will have money to live on at the end of the year and it will allow you the opportunity to actually take a break when you need it.

Take a break, if you can

When we don’t rest properly, it is so much easier to get caught up in stress and anxiety. If you can afford it, then actually put down the tools and take a break to enjoy life. 

Taking a break doesn’t have to be expensive. You could have a weekend in the country. You could take in a gallery exhibition and a coffee with a friend. It is simply being able to do something that brings some joy and connection into your life. While work may also do that (hopefully it does), it reminds you that there is more to life than being a creative!

This is obviously not going to stop the flow of bills coming in however sometimes we just need to accept that we can’t change when things are quite but we can begin to prepare for the new year so that things can be different and we can find more opportunity.

Prepare for the new year

You know what you want to achieve in the new year.

You’ve taken some time out to rest up.

Now you need to ensure that you have all the tools ready to be able to step into the new year and hit the ground running.

When did you last update your CV?

When did you last look over your folio?

When did you last do a short course to help you develop new skills that are becoming requested more and more?

I can tell you now that when I interview people in the creative industry, the #1 response I get to the question around areas that they want to develop in is ‘digital’. Digital, in itself, is very broad; do they mean websites? Social media? UX and UI? Wordpress? Back end? Front end? There is so much it could mean! 

A bit of research online will often find inexpensive or free training options to help you begin that journey in developing new skills so that you can make yourself an option for a greater range of jobs.

What about exploring your revenue streams? How many do you have? Can people find you directly? Recruitment agencies? Side businesses that utilise your creative skills? A bit of business nous to put together packages that are going to answer all of your potential client’s pain points without them even realising? Some incredible answers can come when you start to use your creative skills on yourself.

Refresh your ‘brand’

As a creative, you’re used to being given a brief with a ‘problem’ that needs a ‘design solution’. When you apply that same design thinking to yourself and your own brand, it can help to provide a focus on how you position yourself. You need to be able to stand out because, frankly, there is some amazing talent out there.

What problems do you solve with your creative thinking?

What is ‘the story’ and ‘the feeling’ that you want people to have when they connect with your brand?

Where can people find ‘your brand’? Where do they hang out?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a sole creative, you are still your own brand. I’ve met with many sole creatives who have a rock solid brand and who get out there as niche experts in their specialist area and they are absolutely killing it because they have that focus and understanding about who they’re speaking to and what solutions they provide.

If this year has proven to be challenging and not given you the experience and growth you’ve wanted, then it is time to consider what you can do to have a different experience next year. If you do the same thing and expect a different outcome, you’re relying solely upon luck and chance to provide you with enough to live on. If you become proactive and approach things differently with a solutions focused mindset, you’re going to be setting yourself up to have 2018 be your best year yet.

You can watch my colleague Houman Bigloo and I chat about this topic in our 'Lunch With...'.

Of course, if you have any thoughts, questions or simply would like to get in touch with me and offer up a topic for the next Ask Lawrence, you can contact me on lawrence@creativerecruiters.com.au or you can find me and connect with me on LinkedIn. 

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