What is the designer’s roller coaster?
I suppose I should actually call it the self-employed-person’s rollercoaster, since it’s a problem that applies to almost anyone who’s in charge of their own hours.
So here’s the thing: as a designer (or production crocheter, or graphic designer…), you’re not only in charge of actually doing your work (the designing or crocheting), but also finding work for the future.
Why can this lead to a problem that I call ‘the roller coaster’? Because when you’re totally busy with current projects, it’s very easy to let the planning-for-work component slide. And if you don’t plan for future work, then you’re very busy season will be followed by a totally-dead season. That’s a problem.
The problem stems from the fact of life that most projects have a certain amount of lead time. So, while you may be working on a garment for a magazine right now, you were only able to land that project because you sent in a proposal 6 months ago. If you want to be working on a new project 6 months from now, that requires that you do a little footwork now to schedule it!
I can say this with some degree of authority because it’s my life right now. I’m writing a book manuscript that’s due in 4 weeks, followed by the holidays. I want nothing more than to bury my head in the crocheting/writing involved with the book and not to worry about anything else.
But do you know what would happen, then? February would be full of crickets chirping.
How to avoid the roller coaster
Avoiding the roller coaster is astoundingly easy in theory, but difficult in practice. All you need to do is: consistently plan for future work even when you’re feeling completely swamped by your current projects.
Easier said than done, right? Yup.
It’ll take a little bit of willpower to keep your schedule smooth, but you can do it!
Here are a few easy-to-implement tips that will help:
- Develop a regular habit of discovering opportunities. This could be any habit that makes ‘staying in the loop’ easy, such as asking to be included on various magazines’ email lists (to receive calls for submissions) or deciding to email a few contacts every week about setting up teaching gigs.
- Even during your busiest times, schedule a chunk of time exclusively for future planning. It’s easy to put off, which is why you have to schedule it in. And while it’s easy to tell yourself that submitting a teaching proposal or design will take no time at all… a good proposal requires effort to draft, so you need to dedicate time to it.
- Break the submission process into do-able chunks. Are you feeling overwhelmed because setting up a collaboration with a friend requires a lot of work? Think about breaking it into chunks. For example, today you’ll just email about ideas, next week you’ll do swatches…
- Self-publish. I know this tactic isn’t for everyone, but the more control you have over your production schedule (as opposed to the timelines imposed by external forces), the easier it is to compensate for busy/slow times.
What I’m doing now
So, as I said… I’d very much like to be in a book-only hole.
But I know that’s not a good idea, so I make sure to stay on top of planning for the future. Here’s a peek into what I’m doing:
- I started the FreshStitches Kit Club (where people sign up for 6-month subscriptions), which guarantees I’ll be busy for the next 6 months!
- I’m emailing a friend about collaborating on a design project (and she knows I can’t do ‘real designing work’ on it until after the New Year, but I’m getting the ball rolling!)
- I’m sending out teaching proposals for future teaching bookings.
- I’ve sketched the next couple of FreshStitches designs and set their publishing timelines in place. This ensures that I’ll be releasing designs in a steady fashion in the future.
- I check Ravelry/twitter/FB daily… keeping my eye out for opportunities!
Doing these things only takes a small bit of time out of my week, and the rewards of having a pretty consistent work life are worth it!
Would these tips help you?
Do you have any more to share?