A friend of mine is fired up. He tells me in no uncertain terms that 2016 is well positioned in the past and he hopes to see a better sequence of events ahead of him in 2017, after a challenging year. It’s a strange notion that we created our own calendar and yet here we are, a whole clean slate ahead, drawing a line under a passage of time. Nothing really changes, does it? I mean we have to pick up where we left off before Christmas on any outstanding projects and invoice those completed jobs from December or November, for example.
How do you feel? Personally, I find myself in a strange place. A number of projects were ‘nudged’ back to 2017 when they were originally supposed to start in December. As a freelancer, this can be anything from irritating to catastrophic because this now means the payment is nudged back to early spring, making that word, nudged seem awfully disrespectful in its understated manner.
Then we reach 2017 and whilst I’m sat here, like some sort of terrier, yapping down my email at clients and prospective clients, I get the feeling that those in positions of employment are going for that second coffee before THE BIG DESK TIDY UP, or bringing forward that meeting to delay the return to the office.
I know, I know, I’m being melodramatic again, guessing from behind the curtain, but this time of year can be a befuddling one for us lone wolves. I’d imagine there is good reason why my project correspondence doesn’t seem about to resume until the middle of the month, but it’s the Monday morning of the year for the next few weeks and I’m following in kind.
If it is being treated with a mind of procrastination, as a new slate by those in charge of my next projects, then tidy up is what I’ll do. THE BIG DESK tidy up is underway and this time, I’ll balance out the peppermint tea I had at 8am with a lemon and ginger (less caffeine this year). Then, just as I’m rotating a couple of posters on the studio wall, it’s as if they all sensed I had moved away from the screen and now they’re here, all at once.
They’re wondering if I can get something turned around this week. (I always think of removal men when people use that expression). You just cannot win. I’d like to employ a psychologist for January, if I had the money. There has to be some mental method behind the way the madness unfolds this way?
Someone recently asked me what December and January are like in my industry. I wouldn’t know how to start describing them. I’ve been an illustrator for eight years and I suppose the unruly twins of the calendar year are like entirely unpredictable and extreme in their nature. That much is certain, the rest is up in the air. Let the chips fall where they may.
We come back to work in a ‘new me’ mindset, ready to put wrongs right and kick on, but only the basics are in our hands. So my advice is to attack those basics. Do not sit and wait for anything. Perfect that portfolio, send out those updates to your clients and client wish-list, set about that personal rebrand or create that new series of artworks for no other reason than you want to. Stay patient and remember, they have to come back to work at some point!
There’s no escaping it, January is rough terrain in the freelance year, so strap yourself in and stay focused. As the years go by, you’ll learn to prepare for this bleak time of year in advance, that way, if THE BIG DESK tidy up is happening for you, then it’s of no negative consequence. You saved your pennies and now you can dive headlong into the project you were putting off for all those months.
Ben Tallon is a freelance illustrator, author of Champagne and Wax Crayons: Riding the Madness of the Creative Industries and host of Arrest All Mimics, the Original Thinking and Creative Innovation podcast.
He works with WWE, EMI, Channel 4, The Guardian and The Premier League among others.
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