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Sharing what I know about type-based illustration while helping creatives do their best work

Introduction to Balancing the Day Job and Side Projects

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Without the day job I wouldn’t be able to do things I’m doing today.

No matter how much I dislike going to work, I’ve realised you need a day job to support your creative pursuits and passion projects. 

I made the relatively novice mistake right after graduating to attempt freelancing with the limited (close to zero) experience working with clients and business owners.

I entered a boss battle with no weapons. 

After a year of freelancing money wasn’t coming in and I was slowly hating my passions. I didn’t want to destroy the passion so this meant taking on a job that was separate from my creative pursuits. 

And this is where the day job, my “weapon” came in. 

So the big question is how do we balance the day job and work on our creative projects?

We'll get into it!

Just a word of warning. Don’t expect a dramatic change right away. This topic is heavy and one article isn’t enough to cover it all. But I’m here to share what I know. Read on. 

Your Mindset Matters at Work

After a year working in retail—anyone who has worked in the retail industry can relate to life on the shop floor—it’s draining on all scales. Some occasions, I was inches away from giving up doing anything creative!

I felt my creativity begin to stagnate and it was no doubt because of the day job. But instead of thinking, I wish I was somewhere else, I began thinking of ideas how my daily tasks can benefit my creative pursuits later on in the day. In general, my body was at the day job, but my brain was flying elsewhere and creating illustrations. 

I would go as far as visualising my surroundings, changing a mannequin into a anime character and even personifying office objects. This kept the creativity active and allowed me to conjure ideas for future projects. 

Here, mindset is everything. It’s why I wrote articles around mindset for the majority of 2017.

Being able to take a positive approach to tasks, staying committed, having a thick skin—all traits we’re familiar with but tend to brush aside. 

What has worked for me is allowing my mind to concentrate on why I’m doing this job right now. This allows me to see the end goal. I remember the day job is a bus stop. I’m not here forever. 

What you start to say to yourself, you start to believe. 

Affirming, as hippy as it may sound, can motivate you to stay strong. By saying “I hate the this job” well yes, of course you hate this job, you’re only fuelling these emotions with more hate. 

Instead, how about saying “This job is temporary”. 

Avoid Unnecessary Spending

You can skip this paragraph.

Simply because I’m not an financial expert, nor do I believe should I be advising people on how to spend their money. Anyhow, I do want to share my thoughts.

Use the pay from the day job to cover your bills. 

I learned this the hard way. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, cover important needs and do not splurge on luxuries.

Easier said than done, but you’re working there for a reason, right? Have you defined what that is? 

I know it’s easy to be like “Yes! I got paid, let’s buy that expensive hoody I’ve been eyeing up!” 

See the day job as a tool to help move your creative pursuits in the right direction. 

Think about your goals. Is this why you’re working at the day job? To buy luxuries? Making the purchase only satisfies the short term need. 

So before making a purchase, think, if what you’re buying doesn’t monetarily contribute to your growth—you don’t need it.

Take Control of Your Time Outside the Day Job

Doing more work after work is tough. I know, because I’ve tried. You don’t have the creative energy because that energy has been spent at the day job. 

After work drinks is fun, sometimes, I guess. But how many times have you said yes to a party on the weekend or afterwork drinks and discovered, I really don’t want to be here. Who are you pleasing? Definitely not yourself.

How you spend your time outside the day job is extremely important. 

It’s easy to say “I’ve worked hard, I deserve a break”. And that’s fair. I’ve said this to myself too and have spent outside work hours doing absolutely nothing. 

But here’s the thing…

Outside hours from the day job is your opportunity to work on your passion. 

While your bills are being covered, you now have the opportunity to start a side project, practice on your craft, start a business and get hustling. 

During a full shift, I’ve been able to work another three hours on my illustrations, lettering and writing.

To get into work-mode in the comfort of your home is difficult so be prepared to fail. Instead find a coffee shop, turn the laptop on and get cracking. 

Preparation here is the key. That way, you’re not sitting in front of your laptop thinking what should I be doing? 

You’ve already planned your tasks beforehand while at the day job so that you can switch into focus/work-mode right away.

Take small steps, make adjustments and carve out time after work to focus on your side projects. 

So much more to unpack, but my hope is you begin to consider even just a little, how you are spending your time. Remember, you won’t be stuck at the day job forever. Change the lens you view the world and you’ll be off to a better start.

Three Actions You Can Take Right Now

  • Work on your mindset. Instead of letting the world shape you, shape the world from the lens of positivity, curiosity and mindfulness. 
  • Look at your work week and identify pockets of time where you can dedicate to your creative pursuits by the hour. 
  • Start small. Go as little as choosing one day a week before or after the day job, to spend a couple of hours to work on something. Gradually build up the amount of time you spend until you find a routine that suits you the best. 
 

 

This is a topic I’ve wanted to get off my chest and it’s because I’ve spoke to people who feel they don’t have value to offer because they’re working a 9-5.

With this series, my aim is to share whatever little knowledge I have on becoming a better creative when times are tough at the day job.

I’ve got four more articles on balancing the day job and building your creative business so if this week’s article interested you, stay tuned.

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