Every weekday morning I start out with the same exact joke. I pop out of bed, quickly brush my hair with my fingers and then tell my slightly annoyed wife “welp, I’m ready for work.” This is usually greeted with a roll of the eyes. To her and I think most people, this seems ideal. There are so many people in the world that would kill to get out of bed and walk 10 steps to their office and sit down and begin. There’s no commute, no shower, no getting dressed, and no mental preparation to see a boss that you most likely don’t feel like talking to. But is it really that easy?
In a sense, it should be, but every morning as I sit down at my art table and think, “here we go again”, I feel an insurmountable pressure to get started; dive in; and be busy. Now that I’ve been doing it for a few years, I’ve finally found some structure to this routine. From what I’ve heard, I’m not alone. Many freelancers feel overwhelmed on a Monday morning. There’s so many different ways you can go about your day. There is the actual paid work that you need to get done for clients. There are also the fun passion projects that you are itching to do. There are daily life things like running errands and paying bills, walking the dog, and eating breakfast, and just, you know… life. There is the checking of your daily websites, social media, etc. and then answering e-mails that are waiting in your inbox. With all of these things to do, what is really the most effective way to go about your day? What will give you the most artistic satisfaction but at the same time accomplish real projects and be able to cross them off your list.
My dog barks. “Hey, it’s my turn buddy! Stop what you’re doing and take me for a walk.” When I first started freelancing, this kind of thing annoyed me. I mean seriously, I was just getting into a groove. I can’t stop now. It will take me hours to get back into this. I’ve lit candles, I have my favorite Pandora station playing, and my pens and paper ready to illustrate. After months of this, I’ve finally learned to embrace it. “You know what Coco, you’re right, I DO need some fresh air. Clear my thoughts. Take some deep breaths.”
So how do I do this? How do I pop out of bed and make it happen? How do I hustle everyday? We are all going to have days where at the end, we will look back and say “I just didn’t get it all done like I had hoped today.” Sometimes I feel like it’s hard to relax with my wife, my son, and my dog at the end of the day because there were a few more creative things I just didn’t accomplish before picking him up from daycare. I have found that if I don’t really make an effort to find a work/life balance, then both sides suffer. My wife, my child, dog, and friends don’t get the best of me. I’m not 100 percent present. If I spend too much time away from my work, I feel a creative yearning inside. I long for some quiet solitude to just be creative.
It’s Monday morning and the alarm goes off. Just kidding, I don’t have an alarm… but my wife does. I could easily go back to sleep (at least until my son wakes up), but I don’t. I know that I need to treat my freelance business just like I would treat a real job, because it is one. In fact, it’s even more important, because it’s not only my own company, but it’s my dream, my passion. So I get up. I start out probably like the rest of you. I have coffee, some breakfast. I take my son to daycare and I take my dog for a short walk. When I’ve taken care of that side of my life then it’s time to get started.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been a list maker. I love to write them on paper and then I love to cross them out. So before anything has happened, I have done something on Sunday that has really helped me focus. I’ve made a list of what I need to accomplish on Monday and what I hope to work on if I finish those tasks. This way, at the end of Monday I can look at that list and say “I did what I set out to do.” I may not cross everything off the list, but at least I understand the order of priorities. One of the challenges as an artist is sometimes creatively you are excited about one project and not about another. We have a habit of bouncing around from project to project but then at the end of the day, it feels like nothing really got finished. That’s why no matter how much I want to work on a different project; I force myself to finish the priorities first. Sometimes I set up a reward for myself. If I can just finish coloring this page, then I will allow myself a half-hour to sketch that idea I’ve been dying to get to. For me, this practice works well.
The longer I work freelance, the more tricks I seem to teach myself. I become more and more efficient every day. Some days don’t go as planned, but I think you have to be able to forgive yourself, take a deep breath, and start again the next day.
I would love to know how other freelancers start their day. What are your morning routines? What are your tricks to get started creatively?