As someone that works for myself, I am constantly looking for ways to expand my personal growth as a freelancer. Coming into a new decade kind of forces us to think about the next ten years. Thinking about your future can be overwhelming, especially as a freelance creative. Being a designer on your own is stressful enough, but coming out of that dreaded dry-of-work holiday season can seem scary and daunting. Like – do I even remember how to use Illustrator anymore?
When we were kids, we were regularly pushed to dream and set goals by our mentors, parents, and teachers. And then shown systematic steps in getting to those goals and dreams. After leaving school and entering the “real world”, these prompts and reminders tend to dwindle. If you’re working from home, or on your own, the need for that push is even greater.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with where to start, here are some ideas to expand your personal growth as a freelancer:
Ugh, I resisted this one for such a long time. Can I count the excuses? I don’t have the time; I don’t see myself being spiritual in that way; it’s so hard to concentrate. One day, this past summer, I was feeling exceptionally desperate and anxious to get my shit together. I used some sort of quickie youtube link. The meditation session was only about 10 minutes, but it calmed me down and helped me reshift my focus. It kept my mind calm for most of the day and ended up helping me be more productive than usual.
Meditation can help with so much “future anxiety”. As a freelance graphic designer, sometimes I don’t know exactly where my next paycheck will come from (or when). This practice helps me prioritize and focus on what steps I need to take to get from A to B without completely freaking out every second of my life.
2. Listen to your body
When it’s time for you to make some big important decisions – do you listen to your body? Do you feel the right and real answers in your gut? It’s important to try to make decisions through analysis and reason as well, but as cheesy as it sounds – it’s important to listen to your heart as well.
If self-awareness is not something you practice regularly, it can take some time to learn and know what feelings and sensations to look for. Many times we’ll mix up what we’re thinking, with what we’re feeling. What does your body tell you? Where is it telling you? If you’re like me and experience anxiety regularly, you may need to preface this step with meditation to clear your mind first to help expand on your personal growth.
3. Get out from behind the desk
Important conversations in business and connections are often in person. If you can, try mixing up the typical in-office setting meeting, with a more casual “get together”. Depending on who your client is, this might help form a stronger bond that will allow you both to work better. It’s like the shower effect – When your mind isn’t super laser-focused on one thing, it allows you to expand your ideas and get even more creative. If a client seems like they would be open to it, suggest getting outside and out of the office for some personal face time.
4. Pick a personal board of directors
Businesses have a board of directors to make sure goals stay on track – and so should you! Friends and family are wonderful to have around, especially if they support your creative freelance career. However, having a professional “mastermind” group is so valuable to your success. Consider reaching out to people that you admire both in and outside of your industry. Leaders in other businesses may have new approaches or ideas to some things that you might struggle with – and vice versa. Getting new and unique perspectives is of large value not only in a creative industry but in a work-life balance as well.
Think about what your goals are when you start to pick your board. You might consider individuals who have taken a similar path to yours and are further along in their success. If you are identifying your weak spots – who excels in those areas?
Lastly, your board doesn’t have to focus only on professional topics or on your freelancer career. What areas of your personal life would benefit from the insights of someone you respect? Where can you expand your personal growth as a freelance designer?
5. Declutter your personal life to expand your personal growth as a freelancer
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” How many times have you heard that one? Probably many, because it’s true. Think about who your top five are and how well do they do (or don’t) align with your goals and your future. Do you feel like any of them are holding you back? Listen to your gut.
This is not a call to ghost a BFF or start killing off your favorite characters of your life that aren’t on the same path as you. Evaluate their support for you when it comes to your goal settings. If they aren’t supportive of your freelancer lifestyle, maybe it’s time to establish boundaries in the relationship that are more clear. This way, you can make room for relationships that support where you are headed.
This process of “decluttering” to make room for the feelings, relationships, and events can be applied to other areas of life. I always feel so much better after decluttering my home. I get rid of “stuff” but then I have room to move around and breathe.
Jessica Goldsmith is a freelancer in Brooklyn, New York. She is a graphic designer and illustrator who is passionate about helping small businesses find their voices through branding.