Every year around this time I start planning my next 12 months in business, looking at anything that’s already planned, aspiring to new things and always making up a list of aims to achieve before another year passes. I’ve done this for over a decade now and it’s always been worthwhile, however for the passed 2 years I’ve also added a ‘Ben the Illustrator Rule’ to stick to throughout the year. Each year they’ve just been very short and simple, easy to keep in my mind, yet big enough to evolve and grow my business and have positive consequences. Just last week I realised that it was these single rules, one per year, far more than my grand plans and lists of aims, that were actually benefitting my business. The positive results are not just in the commissioned client work I’ve been getting, but also in my personal and professional life. So next year, 2012, I’m not giving myself a list of aims or a grand plan, I’m just initiating another single new rule for myself. I won’t be sharing my new rule for next year right now, but I thought it might be worthwhile sharing the rules from the passed 2 years.
2010 - NOTHING FOR FREE OR FUN - Before 2010 I used to get involved in hundreds of unpaid projects, partly for the enjoyment of creativity, but also hoping to spread my name and gain exposure. There were exhibitions, collaborations, toy projects, competitions, free pitches for jobs, free illustrations for small clients and everything else in-between. However in January 2010 my wife and I had our son and instantly there was never again going to be much spare time to focus on anything that wasn’t going to pay the bills (I make an exception for charity projects, which I am always available for). So I cut all my ties in the areas that were neither commercial nor charitable and just split my time between my clients and my family. I actually found that not working on the ‘fun’ projects brought in a far higher calibre of client. The benefits of this rule were huge, alongside some of the greatest commercial projects I’ve ever worked on, I also didn’t miss a moment of my son’s first year.
2011 - EMBRACE FRESH THINGS - I’ve always enjoyed working in the modern world, the design and technology industries are always evolving and will always be exciting places to work. The start of 2011 signaled 5 years for me working solely in illustration and I decided to not only embrace fresh new directions but also fresh new ideas. I moved on from my tried and tested self-promo tools (posters, postcards etc) and launched my Seasonal-Billboard, I collaborated with Mr.Booth to work on my first app, Crayate, and having talked about it for some time, I officially joined forces with two fantastic colleagues to form Studio B3N embracing our potential in the world of animation. Each of these evolutionary steps, along with a few other new ideas and projects, have not just paid in the commercial sense, but also benefitted my professional mind and injected even more excitement and confidence into my future career.
2012 - Ahhhhh, you’re going to have to wait until 2012 is out before I share this one.
I’d love to hear from anyone else who focuses on their business or creative work in this way, whether it’s New Year resolutions or meditative mantras, get in touch!
*A bit of small print* No career follows a perfect path, we all have to keep evolving and learning. Also, every creative professional is different, so what works for one person, won’t work for another, be sure to manage yourself in a way that’s best for YOU.