How to Manage Your Time as an Unpaid Artist

How’s everyone doing out there? Keeping safe and healthy? This whole pandemic is getting pretty crazy. Not getting into too many details, but this virus has been negatively affecting my job a lot more than I thought it would. It’s made the whole world sit on the edge of their seats, and opening up some pretty negative things about how the country is run.
Anyways, about this post for today. Let’s get to some sort of normalcy here, shall we? I have a topic I want to discuss that I’ve been thinking about lately that I want to share with you. And it’s all about managing time.

How many people out there have side hustles? I know I do, and it’s really rewarding and fun to work on projects at home, especially knowing there are people that enjoy what I’m putting out. But what happens when you’re trying to build a small empire for yourself, but also have to maintain some type of obligation, like a full time job, or maybe you’re even taking care of kids or other dependents? Do you feel like you’re very limited on time to work on your passion projects, and when you do have those golden hours to work, you end up too tired to even THINK about those projects?
While I may not be an expert, I have some pieces of advice that may help you combat those times when you want to work on something when it seems impossible. I’ve been trying out a couple new habits, so please take a look:

Go to bed early, wake up early
This may be one of the hardest pieces of advice to follow, so let’s talk about it first. Getting on a consistent sleep schedule, especially if you’re planning on working hard for something, is key. If you’re working a 9 to 5 job like me, make sure you are getting to bed at a reasonable time, both to perform well at your current job, as well as keeping stress levels low with a good amount of sleep. That way you’ll be able to work on those side projects with the best mindset. One thing I’ve been working on is trying to wake up at 6am every morning. While I currently am failing at this, I am trying to at least wake up before I have to get ready for work, and plan out some simple ideas to work on. Sometimes, this may consist of only writing down a couple things, or sending an email. With this, I have been introducing coffee to my diet. This may or may not be a good thing, but it definitely has helped me work a little longer than usual, and I do feel like a typical coffee-loving adult now.

On my days off, I do like to sleep in. I mean, who doesn’t like to sleep in? But on days where I work, I try to follow this schedule. If you really can’t commit to sleeping earlier at night, at least try to make your sleeping schedule consistent, and try to avoid long naps. There’s no worse thing than napping after a long day at work only to realize you slept through all your free-time. I’m not saying to burn yourself out to the point of exhaustion, knowing your limits is very crucial. However, time is all we have, and it’s important to know how to make time when you’re trying to build something.

Make a to do list, and try crossing things off that list!
Lists are very fun to make, at least for me. I’m a big fan of writing almost everything down that I want to do. Keep a planner or your smartphone on you with a list of things you want to accomplish for the week. I take my planner practically everywhere I go, and , while I’m not obsessive with it, I do like to keep track of what I want to accomplish. Stuff on my list may not have to do with building my art career; sometimes I write down that I have to do laundry. But sticking to a list is always very helpful, and crossing stuff off is even better! One very important thing to note, for me at least, is to not make your to do list too ambitious. It’s good to take baby steps when planning your future, and doing the things that you can do now in order to accomplish even more in the future is good.

If you can, write down ideas while at work
This piece of advice may not work for everyone, especially if you work in a fast-paced environment like retail. Sometimes at work I have things I want to add to my to do list. I either write it in my planner, or on a scrap piece and put it in my bag to look at later; I take it out of my mind to focus on my job. I couldn’t do this as much at my last job, but at my current place I can write down a few things during my downtime. Take this piece of advice with you carefully; don’t neglect your job duties with your side hustle duties, I don’t want anyone getting in trouble here! I know that some people may not particularly like their current set up, and it’s sometimes soul crushing to work a job you aren’t passionate about. But think of all the things on your to do list as milestones to help you reach a bigger goal.

Are you stuck on a concept? External sources may help!
If ideas leave your mind as soon as you clock in to work, or as soon as you fall asleep, be sure to write them down as soon as you’re able to. If you’re not much of a writer, try drawing your ideas, or recording them with your voice. Even if you have to tell someone your ideas. Getting your thoughts out into the world is essential. Also, adding onto this piece, find an activity, or task that allows your ideas to flow out if you’re feeling stuck. Whether that be driving, taking a bath, cleaning your apartment, or listening to a podcast; find something to do that inspires you.
Some things I like to do that help generate ideas are: listening to ASMR videos, drawing, taking a bath, anything calming and quiet that allows for minimal movement, and only the sound of my thoughts are in the air.

Form a support group
I don’t know about you, but I love seeing my friends. They inspire me in different aspects of my life, and all of my friends are also artists. We help critique each other all the time on our work, and help each other come up with project ideas. My boyfriend and a couple other of my friends are all working on a film together, and another friend of mine
does monthly sketch groups where we all get together and draw. These things have been amazing in motivating me to continue my passion projects especially when I feel art blocks coming on. When you have friends supporting you, there’s practically nothing you can’t do. If you’re having trouble finding people in your area, there’s always the internet! While I’m not too keen on meeting online friends, I know others that have has great success with it. Discord is a great place to join large groups of artists and people who are into the same things you are. Find your people!

When inspiration hits, follow it’s lead
Getting inspired is sometimes the hard part. But once it hits, it feels like all you can do is follow it’s lead. I may not need to give out this advice, because every good artist knows to do this, but if you have a million dollar idea that hits you square on the head, you better let it grab you by the hand. Sometimes that means staying up late and doing a whole painting of the entire world map of one of your stories (this actually happened). Whenever I’m inspired to create a new illustration piece, I like to sketch it out. When I see it on paper, I HAVE to finish it, or else I’ll think about it for the rest of the day. Because if this, I try not to sketch concepts right before I have to go to work. If you’re having trouble finding that type of motivation, try stepping away from the project for a while and do other activities. Sometimes coming back with a fresh eye is enough to inspire you again. I do this all the time with my stories.

While working hard, rest hard too.

Working hard to achieve a goal is good, but know when it’s time to rest. Being overworked and stressed is never fun; I’ve seen so many people under lots of stress, and it can really cause troubles with your health. If you’re feeling like you can’t focus on anything at your desk, or you’re feeling like you can’t even get a stroke on the paper, take some time off. Right now, I am working on a hashtag over on my Instagram called #366daysofsketching, where I try to post a sketch everyday this year. While I’ve been really good about it, I have missed some days due to working a lot at my day job, moving apartments, and other life stuff getting in the way. I don’t let it get to me, and I don’t try to apologize for it either. When I do post, people really like it, and sometimes leave really nice comments as well, and that’s huge. It’s essential to have a work-life balance, even when you’re trying to build an empire.

So, you’re going in hard. What’s the best way to go about it?

Are you ready to commit to long hours at your computer desk on the evenings after work and on the weekends to create your dream life? Here’s my advice: Go for it! Work smart. Be ready to make sacrifices. Tell your friends that you’re working on something. If you’re trying to save money for this venture, make smart financial choices. Don’t neglect your day job; that’s your main source of income still, remember? But all in all, work smart.

Thanks for reading my post! I hope you all found this advice helpful; I wrote it using my own ideas and what I’ve experienced so far in life, so do your own research on time management and growing a dream job. There’s lots of good resources out there.

Take care and good luck!



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