I was asked recently what I thought the correct ratio of creative vs. business work should be when managing your own freelance business.
Easy answer, right...?
Now... my mind initially fell into the trap of believing the answer was simple. I am fortunate in that I have never had what many would consider a 'proper job'. For my entire working lifetime, I have been a creative freelancer. Surely, after 15+ years experience of working for myself, as both a business owner and an individual, I spend more of my time overall being creative? That is, after all, why I do what I do... Yes?
But, then, I began to think about how much time I spend at my desk, responding to emails, managing my social media and financial accounts... Meeting with clients to discuss new projects, and the day-to-day business maintenance that goes hand-in-hand with being your own boss...
The percentage of time spent on actual creative work...? Factoring all of the above in, it's a lot lower than I originally assumed (in all honesty, I'd estimate less than 50%). Which could come across as somewhat disheartening if you are looking into freelancing as a creative but don't consider yourself in possession of a 'business head'.
I think this is something that most freelancers will tell you is one of the biggest things to adapt to when first starting out. And - if you're not careful - will ultimately be the primary cause of resentment if your sales are in limbo and motivation is low (but, that's another topic for another time...).
So, what can you do to keep on top of this?
Now, there are probably many out there that will quote some technical jargon about correct business practice or a mathematical equation to establish a formula for proficient use of time...
But, we all know - when it truly comes down to it - if you are a creative person, the chances are you won't feel connected to one singular aspect of your job the full 100% of your time. You will often find many different directions to take to occupy your time, if for no other reason than to stimulate your creative juices and evolve as an artist.It is for this reason that most creative people often take on other jobs and skill-sets and are adaptable to many situations.
Speaking personally, I feel it is important to start by setting yourself a good routine.
Over the years I have tried many different ways to achieve this, but ultimately it's about finding the best way that works for you and your business. If you are the type of person (like me) that keeps a bullet journal, or has multiple online calendars (all colour-coded, of course), then organise away to your hearts content! If you are more of a 'post-it stuck to the fridge to remind you that you need to call someone' kind of person, then that is what works for you. Whatever you need to do to take all of that information out of your head (but keeping it safe for future reference) to leave your mind able to focus on being inspired and productive.
You will know which days you prefer to undertake different tasks, and which you like to relax. Something as simple as setting aside the morning to catch up on emails and using the afternoon to create (depending on when you feel most focused) will get you into the right rhythm. But, fundamentally, you should get into the habit of keeping on top of the larger jobs by breaking them down into smaller - more manageable - jobs, rather than attempting to complete them all in one day.
And finally... relax
Running a creative business is exciting, rewarding and frustrating all rolled into one. There will be days when you don't feel like doing anything creative or business-y. Let's face it... there are a lot of reasons to get disheartened about your work when you are so close to it.
Use those days to relax and recuperate.
It's important to step back every now and then and evaluate so you can see ahead to the horizon.