"January always seems to be a slow month," says London-based illustrator Hazel Mead. "The last two years, I panicked and wondered whether I should change my career. In fact, I planned to have this January off completely because the last two have been quite depressing."
Yes, January can be the cruellest month for freelancers. Fret not though, for Hazel and fellow top artists Emile 'BloodBros' Holmewood and Seb Westcott have advice on getting over the New Year slump. Read on if you're a freelance creative looking to start 2021 in the best way possible — both emotionally and professionally.
Remember that January is like any other month
The first month of the year may be a bit of a dry patch, but Hazel has a zen perspective on things. This year hasn't been so bad for her, actually; several new projects have popped up for the artist, along with a few teaching gigs.
"I've realised it's important to remember that it's just the ebb and flow of freelancing," says Hazel. "That's what we traded off when working for ourselves: the guarantee of a certain paycheck. Some months will be fruitful; others might be quiet. It all seems to even out."
Take this opportunity for a break
Tokyo-based vector titan Emile Holmewood also feels that with illustration, it's best to "ride the waves". Better known as BloodBros, the artist tells Creative Boom that January is the best time for a rest from it all.
"If I've been busy for a spell, I will try and not feel guilty for having a break. I may even travel to get some fresh inspiration. Financially, that means I always treat every job like it could be my last for a while, so: save, save, save."
Ready your Round Robins
Over the holidays, some arts journalists were lucky enough to receive a digital Christmas card from the whimsical Seb Westcott. Explaining his favourite festive movie, it was enough to put a smile on any Grinch's face.
"I think these postcards have made an impact as far as reminding people that I am a person and that they might like to work with me," says the Cornwall-based creative. "As far as wisdom goes there, nobody wants to work over Christmas so I scheduled-send a bunch of emails at the beginning of December."
Seb reckons staying in contact with people over the holiday season casually helps because "it keeps you fresh in their memories for when they get back to work in the new year."
As Seb is indeed having a busy January, you now know what to do next December folks. All cards are welcome by the way, hint hint.
Make it new
"If doing a personal project, I try and push myself to do something different: draw in a different style, learn new software," Emile tells us. "I think those kinds of challenges give me the motivation that could otherwise be lacking. Not working is exhausting."
Singing from the same hymn sheet is Hazel, who has taken this month as a chance to try her hand at writing, mentor at a university, gift free illustrations, and even deliver an art class online to over 500 kids(!)
"But the thing that's exciting me the most is that I've decided to explore resin, silicone and wax casting," reveals the taboo-tackling feminist. "I'm still deciding what to make. I fancied a little side hustle which may generate a bit of money in the end, but is mainly to get creative in a new medium, away from the digital I've been doing every day for the last few years."
"I think it's also good to remember as creatives there are many ways to generate income streams, and it can be easy to be stuck in one mode of creating and generating income, so perhaps it's time to look into a new one," Hazel suggests perhaps starting an online shop, delivering courses/classes, or adding another skill or tool to your skillset.
"I always find January a good time to reflect, plan and get creative, and am finally finding a lot of excitement in January rather than dread."
Just what we like to hear, Hazel!
Update your portfolio; don't stay up to date with others
When asked if he has tips for freelancers looking to make more money this month, Emile suggests booking a holiday with refundable tickets.
"Without fail, if you make plans, a client will pipe up and need a huge project turned around!" Like Seb, Emile also sends clients Christmas cards to remind them of his existence.
"Update your portfolio while you wait for them to reply," he advises. "And if feeling insecure, really try and avoid Instagram Stories. There's nothing like a Story of someone bragging about their amazing life to open the door to self-doubt."
You can say that again. Happy new year, Creative Boom readers, and enjoy this month for all the possibilities it may bring.