After enough time, freelancing can start to weigh you down. What with looming deadlines, client requests, endless revisions, and next month’s rent perpetually on your plate, a bored and overwhelmed freelancer is hardly a surprising phenomenon.
I know; this opening paragraph might seem a little out of place in a blog that’s built around its love for freelancing, but trust me, it’s appropriate. As much as we’d like to imagine every single freelancer across the globe frolicking blissfully through meadows of personal satisfaction, it’s simply not a reality. Freelancing can be really hard sometimes, and there’s no shame in admitting that fact.
If you’re feeling this way toward your freelance career, it’s important not to feel ashamed or defeated. It’s likely that you haven’t failed your dream job, and it’s even more likely that you need to find a personal project on which you can focus your creativity and rejuvenate your love for your craft.
That’s where a passion project comes in. Giving yourself a new creative goal, or even allowing yourself a little more time for creativity can refresh and reanimate your freelance careerand even has the potential to become highly lucrative.
Let’s get the money part out of the way first.
When talking about side projects, financial legitimacy usually comes up in the conversation.
“But is it worth my time? I mean, I could be working on client projects and making actual money!”
That’s a legitimate question. When you’ve got deadlines to meet and a family to interact with, working creatively for no pay is not usually a high priority… but what if we phrase it a little differently? What if, instead of working for “no pay,” we call it “working for potentially massive pay?”
History is littered with examples of side projects that ballooned into fortune-making ventures. For a more recent and relatable one, however, let’s take a quick look Instagram, the wildly popular social photo-sharing app. What began as a location-based, check in-style side project turned into an app so big that Facebook paid big bucks to acquire it.
Working on a personal project, whether it’s an app, art series, or novel, has the possibility to set you up for huge financial success later on.
When it comes to potential fame and fortune, wouldn’t you rather say you gave it a shot… or at least two extra hours a week?
Flesh out your style, improve your skills, and show off the good stuff.
Now that we’ve gotten money out of the way, let’s go a little deeper.
Don’t get me wrong; money is important. Any freelancer who tells you that money doesn’t matter is likely either bending the truth or already sitting on a comfy financial safety net. That doesn’t mean, however, that making money should dictate your every decision.
Think back to when you first started freelancing. You wanted to make a living doing what you loved, right? Well, if you’re feeling dissatisfied with your current freelance career, it might be time to revisit the past and rekindle your love affair with your craft.
A “passion project” can take on many forms. It could be anything from a screenplay to an innovative eCommerce structure, depending on what you love to do. Working on a passion project in your free time is a great way to improve your skills and explore new methods or techniques… without sacrificing the quality of your client work for the sake of experimentation.
This “side gig” could be as simple as creating a new piece for your portfolio. Clients often choose freelancers based on the work displayed in their portfolios, so if you’re tired of getting boxed into a specific niche, try creating something that shows off your other talents.
Personal projects allow you to express your creativity in ways that your main gig might not allow. Take The Postal Service, for instance.
The Postal Service, a musical collaboration made up of members from the popular bands Death Cab for Cutie and Rilo Kiley (among others), went from a creative personal project to a pop culture phenomenon. Releasing only one album, Give Up, the band members produced a collection of songs so beloved that it warranted a 10 year reunion tour.
One of the most fantastic results of this famous passion project, however, is that these musicians brought an entirely new sound to their listeners… one that wouldn’t have fit in with their primary bands.
The creative success of Give Up poses as a shining example of how valuable it can be to dedicate time to an offbeat passion project.
Spark your motivation by listening to your passion.
Maybe your freelance rut is just that–a rut.
Feeling dissatisfied doesn’t have to signal an existential freelancing crisis… it could simply mean that you’ve been working too hard, and are in need of a creative spark.
A passion project might be just the ticket you need to clear out your creative cobwebs, and it doesn’t have to be a monumental undertaking. Something as simple as a “one drawing a day” or a weekly free-writing session can jolt your brain into a more positive place and create a finished project that you can revisit (or even sell) in the future.
You could also reach out to fellow freelancers for collaboration. A personal project with the added accountability and responsibility of another contributor will keep you from abandoning the assignment, and introduce you to styles and techniques you might not already be familiar with.
As a freelancer, nurturing your creativity is not a luxury… it’s a necessity.
A busy freelancer who is constantly trying new things, as well as setting creative goals for him or herself, is far less likely to feel unsatisfied and bored. The added bonus of creating marketable, portfolio-worthy products to your repertoire turns a passion project into a valuable tool for your freelance career.
So, the next time you have five minutes, institute a creative planning session. Take a look at what you’re happy with in your freelance business, and then look for things you’re missing.
What got you freelancing in the first place? What do you miss doing? What gets your blood pumping and your brain spinning?
If you can answer those questions, you can plan a passion project… so what are you waiting for?