Freelancing is not for the feint hearted. If you’re one of those crazy people with fiery entrepreneurial spirit, you’ll understand the uncertainty that comes with downtime, and the necessity for staying productive to keep the money rolling in. In the spirit of helping fellow creatives, we’ve put together some tips for utilising downtime effectively.
Create stock content
Stock sites make it possible for businesses to buy content at a low price, without having to commit to a working contract. As a creative, it’s a good idea to take advantage of these sites. You can sell themes, graphics, illustrations, websites, animations, video – most things on the web, really.
Creating stock might seem like a chore, but the more sources of income you have, the safer you are; if one source fails, you’ll still have others to fall back on. Envato Marketplaces hosts a number of stock sites, but there are hundreds of others with varying submission requirements and royalty rates. Find one that suits you and start uploading!
Cut out the dead wood
In the majority of creative roles, your portfolio is more important than your qualifications. It’s your chance to shine, but it’s only as good as your weakest piece, so cut out the filler or bring those pieces up to standard. Ask for critique from a critical friend, and try to look at your work from the point of view of a potential client – are you really giving them what they want to see?
Keep an eye out on Twitter for agencies offering critique and find a supportive forum for fellow creatives in your field. Ask for advice and don’t forget to reciprocate. Ask yourself these questions to help build a killer portfolio:
Hone your craft
Whether you’re an all-rounder or a specialist, you’ll be keen to keep learning and improving to stay ahead of your competitors. Cater your practice towards something fruitful, like stock content, or personal portfolio projects. If you want to add to your skillset, take advantage of the myriad of free tutorials online and don’t be afraid to return to the fundamentals from time to time.
Pull out the big guns
Keep an eye out for competitions relating to your field. Not only are they a great stimulus for creativity, they also get your work in front of people. Hey, you might even win something. A Google search is the obvious choice, but you can always search for ‘design contest’ on Twitter or Facebook and see what people are chatting about.
Build a following
Depending on your field, building a social following could be a really good idea. Focusing on one or two networks could be more fruitful than trying to maintain a following on all of them. Don’t expect followers to fork out money for your work, but share interesting content and they might just like it enough to share it. Share work from others, too, and create content to help fellow creatives (like this post).
Try to vary the content you post on different networks. Be wary of spending too long on social networks – if you are easily distracted, try turning off your router or installing a plugin like Stayfocusd for Chrome, or Leechblock for Firefox.
Those who can’t do…
…teach. Jokes aside, making tutorials or offering online courses can be a good way to generate some steady income. Video tutorials can help bring in some extra cash, especially if you optimise them correctly [http://moz.com/blog/youtube-ranking-factors-whiteboard-Friday] Find your niche, or offer your own spin on what’s already out there. You can use screen capture software such as Camstudio or Camtasia Studio to record your screen. It’s a good idea to find a decent microphone to give your videos a professional finish. If you don’t fancy stepping up to the mic, you can always make a tutorial blog instead. Combine both to widen your audience.
Kickstart your ideas
If you have a brilliant idea, but can’t get the cash to support it, consider using crowd-funding. By now, you probably know about Kickstarter and the like. Essentially, you present an idea to the public, and they contribute money to fund your project in return for some material incentive (or just that warm, charitable feeling). Make sure your intro is appealing, and give some thought to the prizes you’ll give to backers. If you’re starting a project just to make money, you’re probably going to lose interest pretty quickly, so pick something close to your heart.
That’s all from us... but please share your ‘downtime tips’ in the comments – we could all use them!