Why creatives need side gigs

I love having a creative business. 

The fact that I dreamt about it for a really long time while I was working as a manager [read my blog about that heremakes it especially pleasing to know that I'm getting paid to be a creative and draw for a living. I am literally living my dream.

So imagine my surprise, when I realised that it wasn't enough.

How could it be that I was spending all day being creative, but actually find myself feeling creatively hemmed in? The want of another creative outlet was starting to affect my creative mojo in the business I loved and had dreamed of. How could I know that after years of wishing I had more creative time that I was actually wishing for the wrong thing!

I realise now that what I wanted wasn't just 'creative time'. No, it's not that simple. What I wanted was actually:

1. to have a creative business - to spend my working day being creative and getting paid for it

2. creative time

Now, you might think that getting 1. would automatically give me 2. I know I did. In fact for the first few years I was so busy doing 1. that I didn't notice that being paid to create content for other people didn't really fulfill my need for 2.

Don't get me wrong. I love my business. I love the work I get to do with clients. It's varied, interesting and keeps a big chunk of my creative brain very happily occupied. But there's that other bit. The bit of my brain that wants to do stuff my clients just aren't going to want, the bit that wants to create without a defined end in mind. The bit that wants to smudge things...

...that's when I realised I needed a side gig. A side gig can be huge or tiny. Regular or random. It doesn't really matter. Just something that is purposeful and gets your creative juices flowing without being curtailed by someone else's agenda. 

So I jumped in feet first. My first side gig was to set up a whole other business; Patternbooth.

I know right?  *slow eye roll.

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Yes, at first it fed my creative need. I designed stuff, I figured out how to make stuff, all the things I love...I even started getting national press, but before long, it started to build up into something that didn't feel that different to my main business. Lots of work and not a lot of unboundaried creative time.

Since then I've realised my side gigs don't need to be as big, in fact they don't need to be gigs at all. Now I get my extra creative kicks in a much more modest way. Not regular enough to be a hobby, not income generating enough to be a gig. Let's call it a Gibby.

I indulge myself in Gibbies as and when I need them. They satisfy that side of my creativity that likes a brief but doesn't like rules and deadlines, and without getting in the way of the creativity that I need, to actually pay the bills.

My last Gibby was at Christmas [a perfect time for a bit of festive marker pen indulgence I must say]. I got a lot of pleasure from making this theatre for my nieces, and I fulfilled my need for extra curricular creativity for a few weeks...

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...now what's next?

 


Cara works with individuals and businesses helping them to get the benefits of working more visually, and is author of the upcoming book Draw a Better Business. If you want to find out more about working visually in meetings join our online course Be a Visual Facilitator to learn the skills you need. If you want to talk through a project we can help you with get in touch.

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Working visually in traditional workplaces

Hi, I'm Natasha. Although you haven't heard from me on the blog before, I'm the other half of Graphic Change, and I'm a project manager by trade. For many years now, I’ve worked creatively and visually to deliver projects and change in companies. I’ve seen for myself how a workforce can both have more fun at work but also be more engaged, take more responsibility and be more productive by working more creatively together.

When I talk to people about this, they say things like, “but our work is very serious/dry/logical. I can’t see this working”, or, “I work with very senior/logical/serious people. There’s no way they’re going to respond well to me working more creatively with them.” So I tell them this story…

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Before I ran a visual workshop with the Directors of my last workplace, I knew they had mostly been in ‘dry’ meetings, with lots of reading and wordy presentations. That’s what grown-ups do, right? So I prepared them to open their minds to a new way of working, and laid out explicit rules that effectively made me the boss of them…for a brief morning session at least. I created a game of Top Trumps with the list of projects on our wishlist that year and we spent the morning playing the game. We came out with an agreed project portfolio for the year that reflected our 5-year strategy. In 2.5 hours.

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At the time I ran the strategy workshop with them, our management team did parallel work with a well-known 3rd party consultancy. It took us over 3 (not fun) days with the consultancy (can you imagine the cost of that in people’s time alone?) to come out with a couple of big spreadsheets. So what happened next? The Directors abandoned the 3rd party work and just adopted my creative approach…it was simpler, it spoke to people, it was memorable and it got the job done. Painlessly. We did it annually then.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see such a side-by-side comparison of creative vs. traditional ways of working again in my career. But it proved what I already suspected from my experience: working visually engages people, it helps them focus, it promotes creativity in idea-generating and problem-solving, it makes meetings more productive and enjoyable and it makes communications clearer. It really doesn’t matter how senior, logical or serious people are…there is something about working visually, standing up, laying things out, voting for things with stickers, that engages everyone on many levels.

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Now I suspect you’re thinking that this may have worked in the fluffy kind of workplaces I worked in, but it would never fly in yours. Well, here’s the interesting part…

I worked in highly regulated European banking and financial services environments. Mostly with IT changes. Never with much of a budget or many people (don’t believe everything you’ve heard about banks…). So believe me when I tell you, if I can prove to a bunch of bankers (literally) that working more visually is not only more fun, but delivers better results, then you can do it in your working environment, too!


Graphic Change is a visual thinking studio that works with individuals and businesses helping them to get the benefits of working visually. If you want to find out more about working visually in meetings join our online course Be a Visual Facilitator to learn the skills you need, or if you want to chat through at possible project, get in touch.

If you enjoyed this read, let us know by clicking 'like' below, and if you know someone who will appreciate this post, share it forward.