As much promise as the New Year holds, it can still be difficult to stay positive. Let’s face it — life as a self-employed creative professional can feel ambiguous at times. When you begin to become desperate for work or money and doubt your abilities, however, you can fall into what many of us know as starving-artist mode. This can cloud your judgment and cramp your business.
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If any of the following thoughts enter your head, exercise caution and keep reading, because you may be in starving-artist mode: I want to raise my rate, but I’m just not sure I will secure enough clients to stay afloat; Work isn’t supposed to be perfect for anyone, so I’ll stick with these clients because at least they keep me self-employed; Projects are coming in slowly — I must be going out of business; I just don’t think I’m as talented as other creatives out there.
Starving-artist mode is not all about money. At its root, starving-artist mode has a lot to do with how we view ourselves and what we think we deserve.
George Coghill, a cartoon designer and illustrator based in Ohio, says he usually feels like a starving artist when projects slow down. “When I’m booked and busy, I never think twice about quoting properly, but after a slow period it’s easy to think you might need to charge less to keep work flowing in,” Coghill says.
This year, if you happen to find yourself in starving-artist mode, keep in mind these five tips so you can find your way out quicker.
- Delve into your past. One of the best ways to avoid panicking is to remember how you got through difficult times in the past. Remind yourself of situations when you thrived and draw on the positives. Sometimes just knowing that you’ve survived a similar situation in the past is enough of a reminder to not doubt yourself — ebbs and flows are part of the business.
- Be practical. When you’re fretting about money, raising your rates may sound easy, but doing so isn’t always a piece of cake. Instead of a steep hike, you may want to boost them gradually. Do your research to pinpoint rates that you feel good about.
- Don’t go to desperate measures. If work is slow or a client has rejected a quote, try not to hop on a project for a wage you would otherwise never accept. “The natural instinct is to head over to Craigslist and start offering your services at bargain basement prices, but please, for the love of your profession, resist that urge,” says Wes McDowell, a California-based designer. “It may solve a very temporary problem, but it will create many more for you in the long run.”
- Check out your clients. Reach out to clients you have worked with in the past. “You never know who might have a project, and there you are, right in front of them again,” McDowell says. An indirect way to do this is to send a holiday card or punch out a new issue of your newsletter. “A lot of projects kick off at the beginning of the New Year, and a thoughtful card can bring you top of mind just in the nick of time,” McDowell added.
- Continue marketing. Inevitably, things will slow down at times. When that happens, get to work marketing yourself because you have to. Plus, it will keep you busy so doubt doesn’t have a chance to set in.
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