Challenge 04: Finding the money
Sometimes, your dreams don’t just demand your time and energy; they need a bit of seed money too. You might need some cash, for example, to pay for that course, print your own book or magazine, or to get you through the first few months of going freelance.
The most obvious approach is to start watching the pennies and save up a nest egg. That’s not a particularly fun prospect, but make a few lifestyle sacrifices and keep a careful eye on your budget, and it should be achievable. Plus of course, if you’re foregoing that nice bottle of wine or subscription to Sky, it’s only going to help you find that extra time you need to pursue your creative goals.
But what if you’re impatient to get started right now? That shouldn’t be a problem, says Mielke, it’s just a case of which part of your plan you get started on. “Google is free, and so research and planning costs you nothing other than time,” he points out. “So switch gears to a part of your plan that might be more organisational and can be done during free time at night or on weekends.
“For example, if you’re wanting to self-publish a book about your favourite design topic, there’s nothing stopping you from researching how to get your book on Amazon, or making a list of possible printers who might print your physical book.”
Of course, saving is not the only solution to money issues. Alternatively, you could visit the bank and see whether they can offer you a loan, or equity release on your home. If they say no, try another bank or building society. We’re still in an era of quantitative easing, and you might be surprised how willing financial institutions are to lend to anybody with a track record of having a regular income and good credit score.
Another source of potential cash might be crowdfunding. Lisa Maltby, a Sheffield-based illustrator, used Kickstarter to finance her ‘disgustingly distinguished recipe book’ for children, The Glorious Book of Curious Cocktails. (She’s also the illustrator behind this article’s opening image, High Hopes.)
She managed to raise £5,600, although creatives commonly ask for, and often get, larger sums. Be warned, though: even free money doesn’t come for free, and you’ll probably have to do a lot of hustling in order to meet your target.
“Running a Kickstarter was like having another child; it was quite a challenge,” recalls Maltby. “I have a wide network of people I’m connected with, so I was able to push for a few things, pull a few strings.”
“But even then it was really tricky to get articles about the campaign published, to get people to share it on social media. You are your own campaign, so you’ve got to fully drive it all the time. I got the funding, which is amazing, but this sort of campaign is not to be taken lightly. It’s really hard work.”
Challenge 05: Building a strong network
Even if you consider yourself a self-starter, the success of your creative dream often lies in the hands of other people. So having a strong network of contacts will help enormously, whether you’re seeking work as a new freelancer, looking for the right partner for a collaboration, or searching for a mentor as you develop your skills in a new creative field.
Building up a decent list of contacts you can rely on doesn’t just happen by accident, though. Getting out there and introducing yourself to people, both on social media and in the real world, at things like creative events and meetups, is essential.
Kate Moorhouse, a graphic designer from Manchester, very quickly learned the importance of networking when she went freelance. “I heard about a meetup group based in Sheffield and Manchester called Freelance Folk and popped down to see what it was all about,” she explains.
“I immediately got a friendly response from everyone. It felt like we were all in the same boat: finding our way, making the same mistakes. And it was nice to chat to like-minded people from different industries. Everyone had different disciplines, but the freelance side was common to us all.”
It wasn’t just a psychological boost: the group helped her find work, too, she adds. “I met the founder, Katy Carlisle, at one of her Squarespace workshops and she asked me to redesign the logo for the group. In return, she helped me with some Squarespace support. Since then, whenever I go to the group, I meet someone new who I can either work for or work with. I’ve also collaborated with other freelancers from there, and I feel it’s a really natural way for us to work together.”