In the lead up to July I’d had a few conversations with fellow creatives where I compared myself to a hamster stuck on it’s wheel having forgotten that to get off you just need to slow down! I was feeling burnt out, pulled in every direction and unsure what to spend my time on. So I decided that I needed to start saying no.
I’m constantly haunted by the ‘Freelance Spectre’ a ghost whispering in my ear that I’ll never get another offer of work if I turn this one down! So for the month of July 2018 I turned off that ghoulish record and set myself the challenge of saying no to any and ALL offers. (Obviously if THE dream client had got in touch with THE perfect job I would have put the experiment on hold, but that didn’t happen!) This is what happened.....
- I worked through my to do list; for example screen printing the remaining few prints on a couple of editions, a time consuming task which I’ve been putting off for months!
- I made some new personal work; finally developing some ideas that I’ve been thinking about for a while, designing new work for my portfolio and new products for my shop which will be useful as we move towards the winter months!
- I got on top of my accounts; Like many creatives I hate the financial side of running a business ignoring it until I have to deal with it. It’s a major weakness that I need to overcome, so I started using an accounting software called Xero to help me! I’m now weirdly loving looking at my finances because for once they are organised!
- I got on top of my emails; ever heard of email debt forgiveness day? You get the idea!
- I said yes (whoops) to one indie collaboration with a brand whose ethics I really admire because I had a gut feeling of excitement about it and I always listen to my gut! This also weirdly helped me say no even more, as if you aren’t excited about at least one aspect of a job then why do it?
- Apart from that one yes, I said No for a whole month; as a result I’ve become a lot more comfortable with saying No, something I’ve always struggled with.
This experiment has left me feeling a lot more relaxed about work (an afternoon on the sofa with my cross stitch has happened this week!) Stepping off the hamster wheel has given me way more perspective on my business and what i want to focus on. I'm going to continue on saying no going forward because taking on more projects means spreading myself too thin and leaving no time for nurturing personal work.
To wrap up; saying No is important no matter what stage you are in your career; as a new illustrator taking on a job that doesn't suit you stylistically can leave you confused and with an incoherent portfolio. As an experienced creative saying yes to everything leaves you with mediocre work and burnout. Finally definitely say NO to unpaid 'exposure' work as it devalues the whole industry. BUT say yes to collaborating with fellow creatives on cool (possibly unpaid) projects that excite you and that you want to see in your portfolio!
Did you like this post, do you have something to add? Let me know in the comments!