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May 26, 2022

The balancing act of your work life with your creative life

Words by  

How and why you may be alienating your clients and your business in the demand to appear more “corporate”

Most people I speak to nowadays are hustling through two to three different forms of work. In fact, a recent study showed that 1 in 4 Brits take on a side hustle apart from their full time job. When it comes to freelancing, this seems to get even more complicated as many freelancers have taken multiple job titles, and flexible working hours plus broadening your niche can make it harder to set boundaries on what is and isn’t work.  Graphic designers are also entrepreneurs, and copywriters and PRs are also aspiring authors or some other combination that only seems to get more and more unique. But while such habits no doubt build an impressive resume, the constant pressure of paying the bills, always being on top and hustling can leave little room for creative exploration. Francesca Baker, a copywriter, marketer and PR, describes herself as a ‘proud non-nicher’ who works across art, health, tech, business and more. But while her diverse skill set keeps her work on the go, it also means her own personal projects take a back seat. “I don’t give enough time for my creative writing for sure. I started writing a novel years ago, and always set goals and targets, but it gets shifted aside for paying clients,” Baker shares. 

Being in a creative line of work means paying a price because while many creatives choose their line of work in order to be able to do something they love, worrying about bills and responsibilities to paying clients means that this can often shape the very way in which they approach their work. “I definitely think my work is different because I want to monetise this skill. I think I create work that has to represent what I want to get hired for. Without huge amounts of free time, any work I make to showcase has to look good, have a point and be in line with everything I think that represents what someone would hire me for,” says graphic designer and illustrator Hannah Isabel Lewis. Sravya Attaluri, a mental health influencer and founder of Hello Colour went through something similar when switched to becoming an illustrator after she pursued graphic design in a corporate job and found it took away the joy she felt in designing. “I was definitely fearful of illustration becoming less fulfilling and more of an obligation once I made the switch, especially since the same thing happened to my graphic design work.”

Beyond just having limited time to work on personal projects, freelance creatives can also struggle with burnout and subsequently creative block after feeling forced to always be ‘on’. “I think apps like instagram give you the impression you need to be creating all the time. Posting your own work as a hobby, it becoming popular and that in turn leading to professional opportunities seems to be a common trajectory. It’s great, but I do think there’s less and less space for creating for fun,” says Lewis. Speaking of how she got caught up in that same cycle Lewis adds, “But you can remain stagnant as a creative when you don’t leave any room for exploration. For me that led to a huge burnout and I had to find the joy in creating again.”

While it’s unrealistic for anyone to expect that creative freelancers will be free from the burdens of paid work or the pressures of earning money as well as establishing themselves in the industry, it’s also important to protect that creativity wherever possible. Monetising creative skills does have benefits because it allows you to engage more with what you love, but creativity for the sake of creativity is also important. Attaluri shares that she does this by engaging in activities that she doesn’t monetise. “I’ve recently started painting which is just pure fun for me. I haven’t considered selling them and they’ll most likely remain personal projects. I do occasionally showcase them in art shows and galleries but I don’t accept commissioned paintings,” she says. Setting work hours, and limiting the amount of assignments you take beyond a certain goal – whether that be in the amount of work or monthly income, can also help set boundaries between work and personal hobbies. “I think having a goal to reach professionally is helpful when it comes to monetising what you enjoy doing. You can divide it up and keep some hobbies or sides of your creativity just for yourself”, says Lewis.  

Amidst this obsession with hustle culture and an overwhelming number of ways in which to freelance just right, Baker shares small actionable advice. “Book it out and put it in the diary like you would anything else.”

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