The Freelance Lifestyle – How I Maximize My Energy and Focus

In today’s installment of the Freelance Lifestyle, I share my secrets on how I maximize my energy and focus.

These are things I’ve been refining for the last seven or so years. And some things are still a work in progress. But these are the things that I’ve found the most helpful to keep up my focus on the tasks in front of me with the most energy possible.

I set routines for the boring stuff

I have a morning ritual, and a night ritual for getting ready for bed. I’ve also set my breakfast to be consistent, with the exception of when I travel.

I set routines, because here’s the trick: routines mean less decision-making. Once routines become a habit, they become one less thing to think about.

Especially as a freelance creative, decision-making is important. Every creative act is a decision. But our human brains are only wired to make so many decisions in one day before it gets tired.

So I make habits out of the more mundane stuff, to make less decisions, to keep up my energy.

I use the Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique is something talked about in a lot of productivity circles, including by the likes of Thomas Frank. It’s a simple technique where you do work for a set amount of time, then take a break, then you repeat the process. The most common time blocking is 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break time.

With this technique you can set your work and break time to however long you want.

You can use timers to make this work. Personally, I like the Forest app. It’s an app that plants a digital tree for a set amount of time for you to focus. As long as you don’t touch the phone, that tree will keep growing. Once the timer runs out, you can set a break time before you sit down to plant another tree and focus again.

I like the Forest app because it keeps me focused, AND it keeps me off my phone. (My phone is super distracting otherwise).

I have a “commute” for the beginning and end of the day.

I hadn’t thought too much about this until I watched this video from The Financial Diet. In this video Chelsea shares tips on how to work from home effectively, which I highly recommend you watch if you want a supplement to this post.

In this video she brought up the idea of a “commute,” even when you work from home. And I realized, “Oh dang, I already do this for the beginning of the day.”

The idea of the “commute” is that you have something to help your brain transition from personal time to work mode. And at the end of the day you do that in reverse.

For me, transitioning INTO work mode looks like this: after my morning routine, I sit at my desk and draw script in my sketchbook for later chapters of The Legend of Jamie Roberts. I do this for ten to twenty minutes. After that, I take the time to write for ten minutes. And once both are done, I can fully get into work-brain mode.

To transition OUT of work mode, I wrap up my timed work on the Forest app/Pomodoro time block. Then I set down my tools, unplug things from my laptop, and take a shower while my favorite music plays from the Bluetooth speaker.

These are small things, but they help my mind slow down enough to shift gears.

I hope these help! If you’re still stumped, leave a comment below and I will do my best to help you out.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

The Freelance Lifestyle – How to Keep a Client

In this installment of The Freelance LifeStyle, let’s talk about how to keep a client.

If you want to know how to GET clients, here’s last week’s post revealing my mind-bogglingly simple techniques.

So, now that you’ve used those techniques, you’re ready to keep clients!

Here’s how you go from portfolio to satisfied co-creator:

Be honest – let the potential client know if you have other commitments.

This is so you can let the client know that you and them will BOTH need to strike a balance between availability and actually working on the project. To this end, let the potential client know when they can reasonably expect you to deliver something. This is not the time for aspirational declarations.

I know – this flies WILDLY in the face of most freelancer aspirations of “set a deadline and then deliver the project early” or “deliver the project with extra bells and whistles a few days before the deadline!”

You are a human. And this is life. Things get in the way. Let your client know when that happens. Which leads to:

Keep that honesty in your communications.

I don’t care if you’re talking to your clients through email, phone, or Facebook messenger. Be honest with your potential client in the medium of your choosing (that means no sarcastic or meme-y remarks).

Do you have to share EVERYTHING that’s happening? No. Your client probably doesn’t need (or want) to know about your cat choking on a ballpoint pen cap before being eaten by a mutant boa constrictor. But if you are in a state of grief, just say, “Hey, things are really rough right now because my pet died.” You don’t have to go into details. Keep it simple.

Good clients will understand if you’re having an off day. Or an off week. (If they don’t get it, maybe don’t work with them any further. Just a heads up.)

Check in regularly.

“Regularly” can mean once a day, or once every couple of days, or once a week. As long as it’s consistent and NOT spam, that’s what matters. Don’t just drop off the face of the earth while working. (And clients, this goes for you, too. I’ve known a few clients who have just dropped off the face of the earth.)

Check-ins can look like whatever you need it to. Just keep up the communication.

Actually deliver what you promised.

You know that thing the client asked you to make? DO THAT THING.

Use whatever work flow method works for you. Pomodoro technique? Kanban board? A checklist? Use what works FOR YOU. (If you need ideas for how to structure your workflow, try one of Thomas Frank’s videos on YouTube. He does good beginner videos on productivity).

And as much as humanly possible – do NOT put the work off until the last minute.

“But I work better if I -”

No you don’t. You THINK you do, but you don’t. I have two sisters who are known stubborn procrastinators and I am the token sibling that turns work in early. I KNOW THE EXCUSES. They are just that: excuses.

You will make better work if you actually DO the work, one step at a time, one day at a time.

I tried procrastinating ONCE, in college – I pulled an all-nighter to make a painting that was due the next day. And I STILL didn’t finish it. It would have been better if I worked on that painting for even five or ten minutes a day for the week leading up to the due date.

Learn from that mistake.

Alright, I’ll end it here before this post gets any longer. If you have questions, leave them in the comments for me.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

How Do You Land Work as a Freelance Artist?

This is the question that has plagued Google and other search engines since the internet became popular. How DO you land work as a freelance artist?

Well, when you’re a freelance artist, I’ve really only found one or two methods that have worked above all else. You might want to sit down for this one, because it’s so mind-bogglingly simple and yet so difficult at the same time.

Here’s the two things you need to land work as a freelance artist:

  • a website
  • friends

That’s it.

No, I’m not joking.

A website will put all of your work in one place: your portfolio, your social media links, a sign-up page for your email newsletter, testimonials from people who hire you – ALL OF THAT. All of that goes on your website.

In my experience, people who hire artists don’t really give much of a shit what’s on your resume. They just care that you make good work, that you’re easy to contact and work with, and that you turn the work in on time.

Maintaining a website will help establish that you can do all 3.

“But how do I even get clients?” you might be asking.

You mean, other than having a website where people can find you online and look at your work?

Friends.

If you have good friends, they will be your first clients. Yes, you will likely need to discount your rates if you’re absolutely new to your field. But making work for friends (or your roleplaying group, or your book club, or whatever friend-group thing you do) will build your portfolio. Your portfolio is what will land you the work you want.

Do you want to be a character designer? Make character art for friends.

Do you want to be hired to make comics? Make zines illustrating an inside joke for your friends. (By the way, Chloe, if you’re reading this: “…apple pie.”)

Then, once you make the thing, post the thing on your website.

And then – get ready for this next part – ask your friends to spread the word that you’re available to work.

I have lost track of how many clients I’ve gotten over the years because a friend of mine said, “By the way this lady I work with is looking for an artist to (bleh).”

Is it really that simple? Yes.

Is this fast? NO.

Is the work worth it? YES.

If you’d like to see more posts about the Freelance Lifestyle, or if you’d like to keep up with my work, I have an email newsletter. It sends out once a week, and it’s the best way to stay in touch with updates on my blog and my webcomics.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Introducing: The Freelance Lifestyle Blog Series!

My previous post, where I talk about preparing for freelancing full-time again, was a bigger hit than I expected it to be. So I’m beginning a new blog post series: all about the freelance lifestyle!

What will make this series stand out from other freelance sites or blog posts out there are these big things:

  1. I’ll talk about living well on a budget. Of course I’m going to talk about how to make a budget in the first place. And I’ll also be sharing how to maximize your earned dollars and live well on less.
  2. I’ll share how I land, fulfill, and complete gigs. A lot of posts on the internet are about how to find work. Few of them are about actually doing the work and making your clients happy with your work. So I hope to share my secrets on how I keep my clients happy and coming back over and over again.
  3. I’ll share how to maximize your energy and focus, to know what things are worth your time and energy, and what things are better off left to someone else to worry about. No, I’m talking about hiring outside help – I’m talking about knowing which outlets (social media or otherwise) are worth pursuing.

If there’s anything else about the Freelance Lifestyle you’d like me to talk about, leave a comment below!

If you would like to help contribute to this series, consider giving a dollar on Ko-Fi. It’s a digital tip jar where you can give just once (and it takes a smaller cut than PayPal).

Stay tuned for new updates in this blog post series!

I’ll also be continuing my Adventures in Moving blog post series. That will update intermittently as things develop further.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

How I’m Preparing to Freelance Full-Time (Again)

preparing to freelance full time image post of author appearance artist alley table setup

If you’re a patron on Patreon, you know this already, but I turned in my two week notice at the local gas station I work at part-time. I’m now preparing to freelance with a more open schedule than ever before.

For the last year or so, this has been the situation: because of the part-time gas station gig (with indeterminate hours from week to week), there were times that making comics had to go from a full-time job to a part-time one. Then right back to full-time. It was a strain on my energy AND the energy of my clients.

Now that I’m leaving that station job, I’m freelancing more fully again.

So what am I doing to prepare myself?

Well, first thing’s first, I turned in my two week notice at the gas station, rather than just walking out or saying, “I QUIT.” This is not just to protect my ass just in case I need to get the job again. It’s also more professional of you to turn in a notice, instead of leaving at the last minute.

For the last week and a half to two weeks, I’ve been analyzing my income streams, which are these:

  1. Patreon (this includes producing The Legend of Jamie Roberts). It’s a weird day when you realize your passion project is paying for your groceries. A weird day, but a GREAT day.
  2. Making comics for clients. I have one dedicated client whom I’ve been working with for years. I have two whom I work with when they have work for me (which is intermittent at times). And I’m hoping to get more clients to draw/write/letter/design for.
  3. Commissions, which encompasses anytime someone wants me to draw their D&D characters or even family members or pets. This is usually through KickStarter, but I get occasional odd requests.
  4. DoorDash and/or other labor. However, I live in the middle of nowhere, so DoorDash isn’t as lucrative as it would be in a major city.
  5. Ko-Fi. This is still new, so I’m not sure how much this will bring in. But I’m keeping it in the income stream lineup.
  6. Consignment Deals. This one I only have to check in once every 3 to 6 months. So the income is not as regular as the other streams. But it pays out once a quarter, so it works.

KickStarters WOULD make the list, but they are exceptionally situational. Also sporadic.

I’m looking into other income streams. I’m considering going back to Gumroad to sell ebooks through (I want to avoid Amazon as much as I can). Otherwise I’m looking for new clients to fill out the gaps.

I’m also looking to launch a new KickStarter campaign. But you should sign up for the (free) email newsletter for more details on that. I’ll talk about it with subscribers in their inboxes tomorrow.

If there’s an idea that you think is worth considering, make a suggestion below. I’ll look into it.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.