Freelance Friday – Nose-to-the-Grindstone Times

Hey everyone! Gosh it’s been ages. Largely because I tend to want FF posts to be lovely things, illustrated and with time taken over them…but when time’s not there, I think I’d rather post what I can instead of leaving this series so untended! So I’ll try and do more miniposts 🙂 So, onwards!

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had a period of serious over-working.

I’m generally a big proponent of balance. I don’t think the way our work culture glamourises over-work, makes it into a virtue, is at all healthy. And I’m hoping to take some time off drawing-work at the end of this year to spend some time on business planning and examining my working and scheduling methods to help avoid it more in future. But, even then – and I may be wrong in this – I kind of think there’ll probably always be those times, now and then. Those times where you have to take extra work. Those times when you need the extra income. Those times when you get screwed over by clients’ schedules. Those times aren’t sustainable, and aren’t something to take as the norm. But those times happen…

For me, this one was caused by a bad start to the work year, with work short on the ground, a big cluster of expenses all occurring at once, and a trip which should have been financially fine but wasn’t really when combined with all the above. Fortunately, I had a fair bit of work come in in the summer. Unfortunately, the early year meant I had to take all of it on.

Things have cleared up a bit now – still lots to do, but I’m out of the work-til-10-pm-every-day stage. (I know 10pm’s early hours to some people, but my productivity goes over a cliff really late at night and sleeping and starting earlier will work better.) So I wanted to post a few thoughts from recent grindstone-period.

-Avoid.
Genuinely, let’s all just avoid these periods as much as possible. They’re Not Good. I need to plan better, and save more. Being in a position where you feel like you can’t say ‘no’ to work is a dangerous and de-powering place to be as a business. Moving on from that and assuming you are stuck in one though:

-Let people know.

If you need to disappear for a while, your friends will probably understand. Just let them know. And likewise, if you have a partner, I hope they’re awesome and willing to maybe do a bit of extra cooking or chores when you’re on a deadline, as you would in return when they are. A bit of warning where possible probably wouldn’t go amiss there, to help them plan for that.

-Breaks.

Breaks breaks breaks. Walk round the block. Go swimming. Have a nap. Go for a coffee and read a book for half an hour. I’m pretty bad for not doing this – not thinking I can afford the time – when I’m snowed under…and you know best what you genuinely can and can’t fit in. But I always gotta remind myself, all work hours are not equal. When I’ve been working for ages and my eyes are bleary and I’m spacing out, things obviously will take longer to do. So if I can get the same amount of work done in shorter time by taking a break that will freshen me up, I should do that.

-Stretch.

I’m finding setting a timer helps a lot in reminding me to get up and stretch every half hour or so. Protect your back and, especially if you’re drawing, your hands. They are way, way too precious to risk.

-Know your limits.

While I generally did have an “I have to take everything that comes my way”, I did say no to a little bit that I just couldn’t fit in. You probably have a feel for the difference between “I’ll need to stay up insanely late for a few days and it’ll be awful” versus “I genuinely will not finish this on time”. If it’s flirting with the latter, resist. Your reputation affects future work, and is too important to risk poor or late work.

-Keep an eye on the health meter.

I know there’s only so much one can do. But when you’re overworked, you’re run down and at risk. At the moment, I have shingles, no doubt due to this recent period of overwork. Yay. Up the exercise, the fruit and veg, maybe some extra vitamins – be proactive rather than being like me and thinking “I should have…” 😛 And that’s not even talking about the extra worries about RSI, backs, shoulders….be careful out there!

Anyway! That’s me, finally out of the swamp with only minor health scars! 😀

See you all soon!