Part 2 of 12 Things I've learned in the 12 years I've been Freelancing Being a freelance creative is a very passion driven path...

12 Things I've Learned in the 12 Years I've Been Freelancing (Part 2)


Part 2 of 12 Things I've learned in the 12 years I've been Freelancing

Being a freelance creative is a very passion driven path that certain people in life choose for themselves. If you have the right mentality in place, you can go far, and you can certainly work on the projects you greatly desire to work on, while making money doing so. If you struggle to find purpose in your creativity, or income, perhaps you are looking in the wrong places. We should all strive to bring our work and personal lives into cohesion and some of the points I'm offering for your consideration have allowed myself and several of my students to do just that. Without further ado let's get onto Part 2.

7. You can't rush greatness (Take your time with learning and with projects)
It's often said that energy is wasted on the youth. The younger an artist, the more they seem to rush headlong into big idea / personal projects hoping to achieve greatness. Only, most discover they don't have the "Innate Talent" they think they're supposed to have and then they give up and walk away. They could have been moments from a great breakthrough, but it all gets set aside to pursue more easily attainable life goals and instant gratification of a job well done. I'm not great. I think I could achieve greatness someday, and I desire to do so, but I keep a level head when I am feeling down about my work. Usually I've learned to turn it into a question. What does this say about my weaknesses as an artist / designer? Then I target that portion of my art or design skill and work on it feverishly.

8. Work through the doubt! (That's when it's time to art.)
 An artist friend of mine and I were having a conversation along the lines of both of us being in a seemingly constant state of depression regarding our work. We were both contemplating our life choices and why we've not "made it" as artists. Respectively he and I have both accomplished some radical stuff in our given industries, but at the time we were feeling less than adequate compared to some of our contemporaries. So here's what I said to him and it stuck with both of us so well, we remind each other of this very point when things start seeming bleak. 

"You'll never work harder than in those moments you are proving 
to yourself that you can and will keep going."

9. Study Many Subjects. (Be an expert in your field by studying others)
Here's a list of some of the things I actively study: Consumer Tech Trends, Vehicle Manufacturing Trends, Interior Design, Fashion, Color Theory, Legibility Standards, Printing Technology, Web Trends, Graphic Design Standards and Procedures, Classic Art, Music Production, Business and Personal Development. OK so why just list off a ton of stuff like that? It's to demonstrate a point, that while they are varied and yet also related, every major industry has a very significant impact on current graphic design and art trends. Sometimes you can get ahead of the design curve and lead the pack on a new trend, other times you could be playing catch up, but if you don't invest the time in understanding the world around you, you will fall behind as an artist or designer.

10.  Pick Your Projects. (You don't have to work on things you don't like.)
You can, and absolutely should, have a very direct capability to choose the projects you work on. If you take a gig because well, "it's money" but you don't like the project, you will do poorly on it. You may give up and, you could possibly even get fired because of taking too long to finish something that should have been able to be done with relative ease. I hear a lot of tired clients tell me they hired someone and they never get a response from their designers after a few months. Some of that could be due to the client's mannerisms in dealing with the designer, but often it comes down to the designer deciding they just don't like it and have no motivation to work. There are so many industries and companies of all types that are looking for designers. You should absolutely be comfortable targeting the industry you want to make projects for and go after it.

11. Work / Life Balance is an absolute must (Don't alienate yourself in favor of work)
Without the support of my wife, I'd not be sitting here writing this for you now. I'll raise my hand here and say I'm guilty of brushing her off and diving into a project or working beyond my normally established hours because I'm behind on a project. Let me tell you, that's not a good place to be but we both strive to make sure we live a balanced life. Despite her seemingly infinite patience, I've upset my wife on several occasions and while she forgives me and we move on, I definitely feel the sting of disappointment when I've ignored her because I was "In the zone". It's appropriate and highly recommended to set work/life boundaries, not just with a significant other, with your friends and family as well. Identify your most productive times and try to build a schedule that allows you to have hobbies and a personal life. If you're a pet lover, don't forget those lovely cuddly little balls of awesomeness either! Spend time with your loved ones. Take some time for yourself even. Go out and take a walk to center your mind and relax. If all you do is work and worry and you don't enjoy life, what are you doing it all for anyway?

12. Share your wisdom readily. (Become an excellent mentor / Pay it Forward)
If there is one thing I ask of my students in repayment for all I've taught them, it is this: Someday, some kid with bright eyes and a shine of hope and excitement in their expression will come to you and ask how you've gotten where you are, or how to do what it is that you do. This is your repayment. Teach them as I have taught you, to seek the life they desire to live, and share with them the ability to understand their true potential. Encourage them to begin with the foundations but show them how it applies to what they wish to create. By imparting that which we have learned, they will make it further than we've been able to do so. They will accomplish more with less, and will be able to change what it means to be an artist.

Lance T. Miller is a professional artist and designer in several mass product development fields. He consults with artists to lead them toward their goals in life and works with some of the top agencies in the Board Game Industry as well as the Magic Industry and his own line of consumer products.