I’m a big fan of podcasts. I started listening to audio books while I freelanced at home. I found they put me in an almost meditative state, where my hand was still drawing, but my mind was listening to the book. When I transitioned to a full time office job I discovered podcasts. At first I listened to entertaining comedy and story shows, to get me through the long days of being in front of a computer screen. Then later on, as podcasts became more mainstream and prevalent, I discovered I could pick up new skills while still working. Podcasts make multi-tasking so easy. They’ve been my go-to since quitting my day job to pursue a freelance creative career.
These days I’ve found so much solace in podcasts that teach me the skills to build myself a better creative career path. They keep me positive and focused on my goals. They make me believe that I can do this crazy thing I’m doing. I think they’re essential in figuring out how to survive financially as a freelancer. Actually, if you listen to enough of them you start to see certain teachings being repeated.
Some key points I hear repeated different ways:
- Find your niche and work within it - Ask yourself what you love doing, who can benefit from it and then create work focused on that. Reach out to that audience or potential client. Example: If you love drawing cats (me! me!) then find out where those other cat lovers are who will enjoy your work. Maybe make a book that is cat-centric or a series of posters that cat-lovers would relate to. This is a much better method than the unfocused “I can do everything” shotgun approach. Instead people will start thinking of you as the person who does ________. What do you want to be known for?
- You are the only one in charge of your own happiness - There is no fairy art-mother who is going to swoop in and rescue you. You have to make your own opportunities and put yourself out there. Tell everyone your unique story. Don’t be afraid to reach out to potential clients, and then don’t be afraid to follow up if you don’t hear back from them. You are the sole person in charge of your life. Take action, even if they’re small steps. If you are miserable at your current job, start a side-hustle as an escape plan, save up some money to fall back on. You’re the only one who has ultimate control over your situation. Life is too short to be miserable.
- Rejection happens, use it to learn and grow - You can’t take rejection personally, you also can’t be afraid of it. Earlier this month I reached out to a few illustration agents. I experienced some dead air, but also got an email from one. She was kind enough to compliment my work, explain that they keep their roster small and took the time to answer what they look for in their artists. She went through my website and said my portfolio was strong but could benefit from some more conceptual work that would be suited to an editorial market. I wasn’t upset, I used the rejection as a way of making my work stronger for next time.
- Be real and draw from your unique perspective - Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Celebrate your wins, show your emotions, create community, don’t be afraid to show your weaknesses. Use your personal experience to help other. Try to see success as an escalator. You are standing on your step looking up at people ahead of you in their careers, but remember that there are people on lower steps, earlier in their career that are looking up to you as inspiration. Have the strength to share what you’ve been through so you can all move forward together.
- Take action - Instead of sitting there thinking, and list-making, and worrying about the outcome of something, just do it. A lot of those things you put off will later be the steps you look back on and wish you had done earlier. My GeekyPet.net store is one of these. I made an Etsy shop account then spent two years wrestling and fretting over launching it. I worried about shipping and losing money and dealing with customers. Then I just said “screw it” and put it out there. Sure, I had to adjust my shipping prices a few times. Sure, I had to deal with lost packages and other challenges that come with running a shop. But now, six years later I wish I had done it years earlier. Things usually aren’t as scary as we make them out to be in our heads.
A couple of the amazing podcasts that motivate me on a daily basis:
Creative Pep Talk - Helping you build a thriving creative career. Andy J. Pizza is a full time illustrator, motivational speaker and podcaster. He’s made his life’s work helping other creatives find their path and turn it into a living that they love. I especially love his strategic series called “The Creative Career Path” (starts on ep 170) There are so many amazingly uplifting episodes that get me through those dark days of self doubt. It’s especially refreshing to hear how open and honest Andy is about his failures in illustration, his ADD, family history and other hurdles he’s struggling with or managed to overcome. It makes you realize you’re not the only one out there going through these things and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The process is a marathon not a sprint, take it slow and steady and you’re bound to see progress.
Don’t Keep Your Day Job - Cathy Heller faced adversity and used her creativity to craft a successful career in the music licensing business. She uses her experiences to uplift others and help them have the groundwork and courage to leave miserable jobs building someone else’s dreams and start building their own. It’s very positive, yet realistic. Her interviews with guests are especially inspiring and full of information on what works and what doesn’t. I actually found her through an interview she did on The Creative Pep Talk podcast. Here are some examples of takeaways from one of her latest episodes that will give you an idea of topics covered.
TAKEAWAYS FROM “HOW TO BE A FLOURISHING FREELANCER with JOY CHO” EPISODE:
- Don’t wait for opportunities to fall on your lap. Go out and make the pitch.
- Nothing is going to give you courage more than the desire to accomplish that dream.
- Do your research. Know how you fit with a brand and how you’ll bring a change for them.
- Focus on your niche. Find the intersection of what you’re good at, and what you love.
- Rejection happens to everyone. Use it as a chance to learn.
- If you have a voice, if you have something to say - you have the ability to share it. What you do with it is up to you.
- Don’t compare yourself to the people already out there. Use them to fuel your fire.
- Pay attention to what content makes you feel good. Then create something that’ll light up that feeling in someone else.
- You be you. You have your own speciality, your own style. Even if you don’t know what it is yet, it’s already there inside of you.
Women of Illustration - This female-centric podcast by Dina Rodriguez is a new web series that helps women be heard, make art, and get paid. I love that this one interviews up and coming women artists and discusses their struggles and tips on how to make it as a creative in this crazy online world. It has current real-world advice, namedropping drop-shipping companies, apps and other helpful products for designers. Warning, Dina doesn’t censor her cursing (it’s actually part of her brand to be uncensored) so this one may not be for all audiences.
I think the key thing about listening and learning from these podcast is not only to soak it all in, but to actually act on what you’re learning. Here’s hoping my words and these shows will help you in finding your own creative path.