Being an artist can sometimes be terrifying. With everything ranging from creative block all the way to buggy software, it seems like there are a scary amount of obstacles constantly getting in our way. But fear not! In honor of Halloween, we here at Learn Squared have cooked up a handy survival guide to help you out in that treacherous forest we call THE INDUSTRY!
SURVIVING VAMPIRIC CLIENTS
Legend states that these creatures feed on the sorrow and lifeblood of creative folk and unlike normal vampires they are DAYWALKERS! From torturous changes of the brief to inhumane demands, they will also deceive you with inconclusive feedback and will often expect you to work for little or no renumeration often ghosting you at the sight of an invoice.
Leave your silver bullets and cloves of garlic at home as these tips will be way more effective:
Tip #1: ASK ASK ASK!
Ask as many questions as possible during initial talks with a client. This is a great way to get a feel for your clients' intentions and a clearer picture of what tasks you need to do to deliver. This will also allow you to highlight any issues that may occur to the customer and hopefully pave the way to a fruitful relationship.
Tip #2: Be Professional
Irrespective of how difficult or abrasive a client may be it is important to maintain your composure and keep focused on the task at hand. Be clear about your point and refer back to previous conversations or emails if something is up for dispute. Although we are only human and all have our limit - you are your brand and you don't want your reputation to be at stake. The more you can keep your composure whilst staying true to your values will go a long way.
Tip #3: Written Agreements
Ensure you and the client both agree on the terms and sign a contract before beginning any work. You can also have a separate document that highlights what your deliverables are and other important information such as deadlines, late payment fees, etc. Being upfront is super important and gives each party a clear picture of how the project will go down. If there are any changes that need to be made mention this as early as possible and get it agreed in writing. Great clients will make this very easy mind you, but this is about horrific clients so be wary.
Tip #4: Don't Take the Work
Perhaps a controversial tip but if your alarm bells are ringing from the get-go it's totally ok to walk away - even if you need the money! Instead of using that time to work on a personal project might prove more fruitful in the long run as it may attract a much better client. But think through everything carefully. Oh and if no alarm bells are ringing at the sight of horror clients then go out and get some alarm bells!
SURVIVING DEMONIC DEADLINES
At least once in your career, you will encounter a crushing deadline. One that appears to have been conjured up by something wholly evil! It will steal your sleep, the joy of a project and can even damage your health. It can even feel like a spell has been cast on your where time seems to be running at double speed whilst you are running in slow motion. A Demonic Deadline's ultimate goal is to watch you break or fail to meet that deadline. But fear not here's some tips to help you.
Tip #1: Plan, Plan, Plan!
It's simple, be realistic in how long a task can take you and see how long you have left! Having a clear picture of the amount of effort you need to provide to meet your deadline will help a ton. Clear schedules where you can and if a deadline is unrealistic the be upfront and let your client know.
Tip #2: Trim the Fat
We all want to give our best work and often we push ourselves to produce the most dazzling imagery we can. Though is that the best use of your time? Can the idea be communicated without all the bells and whistles? If so then do it! Especially if it shaves time off that deadline.
Tip #3: Make Lists
Lists can come in many forms and degrees of detail but listing out tasks and subtasks can be super helpful for some. Whether you list out a set of milestones or list out every aspect of a design, they are a visual way to keep track of progress and after all we are visual people! Keep an eye out for APPS that can help with this the Sticky notes feature in both Windows and Mac are super handy and FREE.
Tip #4: Stay Healthy
Ensure you get enough sleep, a rested mind will work far quicker than a sluggish and tired one. Also, you are likely to be sat at a desk for a long time- so get out, go for a walk, hit the gym do some pilates or anything that will keep your mind refreshed. The busier your career gets the more intense deadlines can get and if you have bad habits early on they will only compound over time and can cause some nasty side effects. Also, if you are suffering from pain or the mental side effects of crushing deadlines - it's imperative to seek professional medical advice.
SURVIVING GHOSTS IN YOUR MACHINE
Ever had a software crash at the worst possible time or even your entire computer just fail? Maybe one of your GPU's spontaneously combusted or that king of all fatalities... THE BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH. Well, all these are man made right? And are therefore susceptible to failure from time to time. Wrong, all of these are down to technological poltergeists and we’ve got some tips to help you.
Tip #1: Always Save Your Work
This is a timeless piece of advice and superbly simple. Just Ctrl+S! Also, make copies and upload them to the cloud. Having multiple versions can often be a lifesaver too.
Tip #2: Clean and Maintain Your Computer
You don't need to be a tech-head and there a plenty of YouTube Videos on how to maintain your computer. If you look after it it will look after you - just ask the Millenium Falcon.
Tip #3: Optimize Your Workflow
Once you conquer a new software or tool, ensure you spend time to know it intimately. This means knowing what will break it, knowing the in's and out's, and ensuring you maintain an element of control over the tool, rather than the other way around.
Tip #4: Save Up!
Hardware and software are pricey and no matter your budget there is always something available that can break it. But sometimes you need that upgrade to ensure you work at the speed you want to. So save those pennies and keep your hardware up to date as much as you can. HOWEVER, only upgrade when you need to, you may not need that latest GPU or VR Headset afterall. Prioritize what you need and spend WITHIN YOUR BUDGET! There may payment options such as PAYPAL CREDIT or other means where you can pay for things in installments with 0% interest which may be useful. Also keep an eye out for sales - BLACK FRIDAY and CYBER MONDAY are ones to save up for.
SURVIVING MUMMIFIED CREATIVITY (ART BLOCK)
Art Block can feel like being wrapped up in bandages much like a Mummy and that feel of being bound blinds your creative output. It's annoying and can be daunting when it happens during a looming deadline or important project. But fear not - no one has scooped out your brain and popped your organs into jars and wrapped you up to prepare you for your afterlife! Check out these tips to help you with this.
Tip #1: SLEEP!
The likeliest cause is that you are overworked and are tired whether it be mentally or physically. Sleep is a WHOLE OTHER topic but in short, it's a big deal on your body and mind, they behave differently when they are deprived of it.
Tip #2: Do Something Else
A bit like above but perhaps when you are at capacity on a particular project or subject matter you are likely to become fatigued. Simply working on a different kind of project or just something totally different like cooking, gardening, music, etc. Maybe even clean up and organise your files. Once you are done get back to work and see if it helps.
Tip #3: Feed Your Brain
Put down your stylus and watch a nature documentary or flick through an encyclopedia. Take a walk and bring a camera of some type with you and snap away. Read some poetry or listen to some music you have never heard before or even start a meaningful debate on Learn Squared's Discord. Whatever it is consider how it can help you in the long run. Maybe some knowledge may stick and help in a future project or your brain will simply clear its cache and be back to optimal performance.
Tip #4: Power Through It
On many of our Twitch streams you would've heard Maciej and Ash exclaim that Art Block does not exist for them and simply the reason for this is they have deadline after deadline and literally have no time for art blocks. This is interesting to hear as it may well be that their minds may want to 'block up' but out of pure necessity they have no time to do so, so this is something to keep in mind. But in keeping with a Halloween theme - imagine you are being chased by a monster and the only thing in the way between escape or being devoured alive is your art block. So by crashing through it is the only way to survive!