I recently finished school and completed my degree in Digital Art & Design. Certainly a cause for celebration, but I found the situation more difficult than I had initially anticipated. Searching through job applications I didn't see much of a market for what I could do and it was frustrating, I felt like I needed to completely remake my portfolio to include work that was “cuter” or utilizing more photography, more ui/ux work, etc. The experience of my expectations colliding head-on with reality shattered me for a few days. I'm more or less on the other side of this anxiety now, and working through it has given me a lot of perspective.
I spent the last few years studying art and design at school and learning storyboards in my spare time. I began to develop two different portfolios which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it was pulling me in two different directions. Towards the end of school I thought I would focus on storyboards, but that decision was probably motivated by my current distaste for the school I was attending. Despite my efforts to focus on story art, by the time I was graduating and putting together my portfolio I found that most of my best work was illustration and design.
I think a HUGE part of success as an artist is focus, not just in process but also in style. If you go to your favorite artist's instagram right now and look at their profile from a distance it all looks like one thing. It's clear to anyone what they do. I don't have that. I was already doing too much, and I was letting fear make me feel like I needed to do even more. I knew I had some serious thinking to do, it was time to stop, think, and choose ONE direction. I began by asking myself a lot of questions including:
What are my strengths?
What are my weaknesses?
What do I create in my free time?
What are my best portfolio pieces?
Where would I like to be in 5 years? Creatively? Financially? Geographically?
Taking the time to really think about this stuff made me feel a lot better, and for the first time in my life I think that I have a clear idea of what I want. I know that being a freelance illustrator and designer is really the best path for me. I'm still going to look for in-house jobs, but I know that my goal is to increase the amount of freelance work that I do until I can sustain myself with just freelance. I also found a lot of direction stylistically that I won't go into right now. I'm still feeling a little stressed, but I have piece of mind.
I used my newfound focus to make a long form career “to do” list. This is a list of everything I feel that I need to do over the next few months to be successful and start my career off right. I made a plan for how I want to divide my time and what my workday will look like. As I was writing out my plan I thought it would be cool to design it in a poster and print it out to hang in my work area. This is what I came up with.