It’s the beginning of a new year and I am thinking about setting intentions for growth for myself and my business in 2023. This is my 3rd year of being totally independent professionally and I’m reflecting on what’s been hard about being a freelance artist and ways I can work through those challenges. The biggest challenge for me feels pretty obvious and also common for folks beginning freelance work: managing projects and achieving goals while staying self-sufficient.
There are countless resources online in other blogs and of course entire businesses dedicated to this exact challenge, and while for now I’m continuing to experiment with how I manage my projects and goals, I want to document and share what I do here to possibly help others and to mainly keep track of how things change over this year.
In another post, I’ll share a little bit more about why managing projects is so hard as a freelance artist. As I reflect on how I’ve worked through the past few years, 5 issues keep coming up:
- I don’t have an external influence, like from a boss, to guide me on decision-making that is linked to income
- I get distracted by too many project ideas and possibilities
- I lose interest in projects as they and I change
- I’m unclear on how to balance between personal and professional goals
- My projects often feel like they are on super short turn around and deadlines
I’ve tried several ways to manage my projects and high-flying ambitions. I’ve tried: coaches, accountability groups, partnerships, online task organizers, brute discipline, journals, mindmaps, bribes, reward charts, pomodoro timers, and public declarations of personal intentions.
Some of these things have worked, some of the time. What’s really stuck with me in the past 3 years has been two pretty reliable strategies: checking in with an accountability partner regularly, and handwritten journals. For this year, I’m going to expand these two practices to more intricately guide my project management.
The Plan: Reflection-based journaling, so many sticky notes, and checking in
In 2023, I’m using a self-designed system of handwritten journals, a ton of sticky notes and checking in with my accountability partner, as well as adding a public aspect of sharing my project progress here on my blog and on my Patreon.
I’m focusing on both personal and professional goals together, with creative projects like revamping my lesson plans for Monster Makers and a folklore coloring book I’m working on next to getting good sleep and exercising. As a self-driven professional, separating my personal wellness from my professional achievements feels like cutting myself in half when I’m much stronger as a whole person. I need personal health including physical and emotional well-being in order to accomplish my project goals, and getting to work on my projects is part of my personal well-being.
I’m using two journals: one for minutiae project notes, to do lists, short-term goals and schedules; and a separate journal for reflection and overall goal-tracking. For the project journal, I’m using a bullet journal I picked up at Michaels that has printed indexes for keeping track of pages. The reflection journal is CPG Grey’s Theme System, which so far (as of January 24) has helped me stay motivated to meet goals daily.
My goals include:
- 5 Pillars of Well-Being: sleep, food, exercise, mindfulness and relationships
- Main Projects: art, shows, classes, client work
- Side Quests: things that are allied to my projects but not central to them like updating my website, setting up an online shop, a newsletter
I’m organizing these goals based on timelines for completing them: seasonal v. monthly v. weekly to do lists. The sticky notes are essential here: in my project journal I have pages for daily schedules and to-do lists, and I am also keeping weekly and monthly to-do lists on sticky notes that I can move from page to page so I don’t lose track of longer-term project deadlines.
So far, just about 3 weeks into the new year, and this system is working fairly well. I’m figuring out ways to quantify the metrics of my list making and goals checking off.
The most impactful practice so far has been the daily reflection. Each night before bed, I spend a little bit of time looking over both my journals and reflecting not only on what got done and what I need to do the next day, but also how I’ve felt and what I’ve been thinking about during the day. Reflecting like this has helped me stay more connected to the things I’m driven to do because of the value I see in them (like creative projects celebrating Filipino folklore), versus the things I feel compelled to for reasons that are less aligned with my goals (like to make other people happy or make myself feel more valuable to a group).
My predictions for this experiment in project management are that the reflection practice will prove the most influential on whether I feel accomplished in my goals, and that metrics based on completed checklists will align with that personal sense. I am wondering if my progress on prioritizing rest will have an impact on my completion of project goals as well.
This year, I’m planning a lot of adventures, which means lots of physical training and planning. And at the same time, I’m wanting to see my classes and teaching artistry continue to develop and my own artistic reach grow.
I have A LOT more to share on this, but I’ll leave this here for now with these goals in mind and a sense of experiment and adventure!
Winter Business Goals (January – March):
- Website updates:
- Newsletter pop ups?
- Class updates
- Page layouts
- New posts
- Update tiers
- Winter Newsletter
- Blog (this!)/ Vlog
- Artist business, learning (this!!)
- Project posts
January Art Projects:
- Folklore coloring book pages
- PNW coloring book pages
- Ghibli Gouache
- Pink painting
- Painted planters
- New stickers
- Update Portfolios & profiles online
- Learning – design on Figma?