Business owner and Offset photographer Elaine Rystead shares her strategies for staying inspired and on-task in order to reach her creative goals in 2020.
2020 has been a shakeup, there’s no denying it. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop pursuing your creative goals. 2020 was the year I decided it was time to start chasing my dreams again, and I’m choosing not to lose sight of that.
My name is Elaine Rystead. I’m a freelance photographer, social media expert, and content creator based in Vancouver, BC. This is my creative story, and what I’m doing to stay creative in this new normal.
Pursuing a Creative Career Started with Instagram
Like many other creatives, I discovered how to make photography more than a hobby during the early Instagram days of 2012. The were the days prior to Instagram Stories, face filters, and before businesses had discovered how to use the social media platform as a content marketing tool.
As I continued to develop my photography skills, I ended up growing a social media presence that enabled me to explore creating content for brands on my travels. This eventually opened up more opportunities to shoot content for Fortune 500 brands with Shutterstock Custom, documenting travels for tourism boards with my blog @localwanderer, and shooting lifestyle content on my personal account @elainery.
Taking the Career Leap to Freelance
Eventually, my love for photography and content creation led me to working at tech startups and exploring full-time content marketing roles. It wasn’t until January 2020 that I decided to take a leap of faith and start my own creative and social media consulting business, along with a few other side projects I’m currently working towards.
Like many freelancers today, I’m also navigating being self employed while practicing social distancing and adjusting to the uncertainty that this time brings.
GIF by Local Wanderer.
Staying Productive: Remembering my 2020 Creative Goals
Whether you’re an influencer, designer, copywriter, photographer, or filmmaker, you’ve most likely explored the endless amount of options available to you as a freelancer within the gig economy.
But let’s be honest. Freelancing at a time filled with uncertainty poses many challenges and can be really difficult to navigate physically and emotionally. It can also be a challenge to know what freelance opportunities are available at this time, and to feel like achieving our creative goals is still an option. Not to mention we’re physically disconnected from our clients and creative communities, which is an adjustment for staying productive and on track with our goals.
Staying productive as freelancers is important. Image by Elaine Rystead.
So what are freelancers’ options today? How do we stay productive in order to continue creating and achieving our creative goals? These important questions led me to establish three freelance frameworks to use as a daily productivity guide.
Three Freelance Frameworks for Maintaining Creative Goals at Home
Framework 1: Finding Balance at Home
Finding balance at home. Image by Elaine Rystead.
As we continue to practice social distancing, we’re abandoning old routines and adjusting to spending most of our time at home. For most of us, both working and spending downtime in the same environment can be a real inspiration drain and prevent productivity. As a result, it’s important to establish a framework or plan for making our homes more work-friendly.
Creative environments are unique and personal to you
I like to begin my workday focusing on my wellness: making coffee, exercising, and lighting a candle or some palo santo before opening my phone or computer. Once it’s time to start working, I find a room with the most natural light and a comfortable setup to keep me focused. Find whatever morning routine works for you, and if possible separate your workspace from your bedroom or wherever you sleep. This helps with staying focused during the day and unplugging more successfully at the end of a workday.
Create a space at home that inspires you. Image by Elaine Rystead.
If your workspace isn’t getting your creative juices flowing, I recommend getting creative with your living space: spring cleaning unnecessary clutter, moving furniture, or re-decorating your space. To feel more inspired within my space, I’ve painted walls and cabinets to brighten up my mood, performed renter-friendly kitchen renovations, and set up an outdoor garden on my patio in preparation for summer outdoor workdays. Fun projects keep me creating and feeling productive, even if it’s not all for my freelance projects.
Image by Elaine Rystead.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet for finding creative balance at home:
Start your workday by checking in with yourselfEstablish a morning routine (exercise, coffee, reading) prior to work Rearrange your workspace to feel more inspiring Cook healthy meals throughout the day to establish balanceThink of new ways of using your space to create contentAdd plants to your workspace to liven things upCreate a photography backdrop for capturing portraits and still-life productsPlay around with light in your apartment to find new ways of shooting projects Decorate your space or create a mood board with current inspirationKeep moving, meditate, or take breaks by going outside for a quick breath of fresh air
Framework 2: Defining and refining your expertise
In a market that’s constantly evolving, the one thing that remains consistent is the demand for freelancer’s creativity and expertise. Though it’s always valuable to learn new skills, I’ve been using this time to identify what exactly I’m the expert of within my industry. Rather than generalizing and burning out, I’m being proactive about highlighting my strengths to target new freelancer opportunities.
There’s always a demand for creativity. Image by Elaine Rystead.
Example of finding new opportunities
One of my 2020 creative goals was to set up an e-commerce platform for my travel blog Local Wanderer. As an enthusiast, I initially got a bit carried away thinking of all the options and services my blog partner and I could provide on our new website. It wasn’t until we took a step back to define our goals, where I found the value of focusing on a few key services rather than as many as possible.
This helpful process was supported by assessing our most requested services from existing clients, and by summarizing our expertise. Though we plan on trying new things in the future, we believe that offering services based on our current expertise will help us see quicker results and eventually provide data to support how and when we scale.
Pivot and find focus. Image by Elaine Rystead.
Here are a few suggestions for defining and refining your expertise:
Write a list of what you believe are your strongest achievements and servicesIf you’re just getting started as a freelancer, set a list of goals and creative services you’d like to specialize inVirtually network with other freelancers and connections within your industryEstablish a professional community by following accounts that inspire you on social mediaExplore sharing bite-sized tips & tricks videos on Instagram Stories or IGTVLook into creating your own E-learning courses to promote your expertiseListen to educative podcasts and audiobooks from experts within your industryShare ideas with other creatives through joining a Facebook or LinkedIn groupFind yourself a mentor or someone who you can learn from
Find what works for you. Image by Elaine Rystead.
Framework 3: Enhancing your productivity
Freelancers are wired to create on the regular, and being home for days on end can be a real productivity drain. In order to stay productive throughout each work day, I keep a list of ongoing tasks and short/long term goals easily accessible to me at all times. I use both my phone and tools like Trello or Google Keep to help prioritize my tasks, and also find it helpful to set deadlines in my calendar in order to keep myself accountable.
This process has helped me stay productive in getting my business administration setup, designing pitch deck templates for new clients, and setting up new revenue streams like my new Offset and Shutterstock accounts.
Set up new revenue streams to support your goals. Image by Elaine Rystead.
Here are a few other creative suggestions for staying productive:
Write a list of your short and long term goals, along with measurable steps for achieving themCheck in with your goals regularly to maintain consistencyReward yourself for achieving your goals (a glass of wine, an evening movie, you name it)Give yourself multiple breaks throughout your work dayExplore working on creative projects you’ve been putting off Update or create your business website to ensure it’s up to dateSet up or update your LinkedIn profile to expand your professional networkShare work you’re proud of on social mediaDo an Instagram audit, updating your Bio, Highlights, and Feed to reflect your workSign up for video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Loom, and Google HangoutsInvestigate productivity and communication tools like Google Keep, Slack, or Trello Use a time management app like Toggle to track your hours
How clients can support freelancers today
Freelance workers have contributed approximately $1 trillion to the economy. This includes self employed artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, designers, and all the above. If you’re a brand or business who would like to support freelancers during the Covid-19 pandemic, here are some ways to do so:
Investigate options for outsourcing more projects to freelancersLine up product photography shoots that can be delivered to freelancers’ homesInquire with creatives who can shoot lifestyle images from their current living spacesLicense imagery from local photographers or stock artists within your communityPurchase freelancer’s photography prints or other digital products Purchase gift certificates or credit to work with freelancers in the futureEducate clients on the value behind hiring freelancers and remote contractorsCreate an ambassador or referral program Offer your products to freelancers for free or at a discountProvide freelancer mentorship and coaching
Clients can support the freelance economy. Image by Elaine Rystead.
I hope these tips help inspire you to maintain your creative goals for 2020, and keep creating. There are a lot of things that are outside our control, but it’s up to us as creatives to stay inspired and keep inspiring others by the work we create.
Top Image by Elaine Rystead.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these articles:
Who is Generation Z and What Visuals Represent This GenerationIllustrator Alona Savchuk on Freelancing and Body Positivity Hayley Benoit on Improvisation and the Business of Photography15 Video Trends We’d Love to See Represented in StockCreating Imagery that Accurately Represents Disease Outbreak
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