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.


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...


...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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