The start of a new year can be equal parts exciting and stressful. While there’s the optimism and hope that comes with a fresh year, there’s also lethargy and holiday inertia that requires some serious undoing. A great way to deal with these mixed feelings is to get yourself organized and here are 7 simple, but effective suggestions to help you prepare yourself for the creative and productive year that lies ahead.
1. Identify yourself and your goals:
The beginning of the year (and the financial year) is a great time to sit down and reflect on what you’ve accomplished so far, and how you want to take things forward in the years to come. It’s important to spend time on achieving a more honest and focussed definition of what you want to do and why. These thoughts will form the foundation for a well-structured, creative career and business plan. Goal setting is equally important and there are tons of experts and entrepreneurs who speak about the benefits of creating long term and short term goals. According to this article on Entrepreneur, goal setting is a great way to figure out your progress and the viability of your initiative or venture. So make sure you spend some time, evaluating and re-evaluating the goals you’ve set for your creative future.
2. Answer the hard questions:
Have you been avoiding some nagging doubts about the work you’re doing? Unsure about whether you’re using the right software, getting your taxes right or doing your business the right way? No one likes to admit they’re wrong and many of us would be happy to go about things as usual, particularly if we’re self-employed or freelancers. However, not addressing problems and sweeping them under the rug is definitely not going to solve things and it’s important to start off the year by identifying areas in dire need of improvement. List out the questions, you feel require further clarity and work towards answering them.
3. Get the help you need:
Some problems can be solved DIY style, and then there are others that require the help of experts. Being an artist or a creative entrepreneur does not imply that you don’t need the help of other professionals. Don’t be shy to look up agents, managers, marketing consultants, legal advisors, financial advisors and planners who might be able to offer you the specialized assistance you need. Also, do some research of your own by checking out books, websites and blogs that might have answers to some of your questions. If financial planning stresses you out, here’s an interesting, illustrated case study on financial planning for creative professionalscourtesy Peace, Love and Financial Planning – a site dedicated to financial planning for creatives.
4. Avoid financial and legal drama by staying organized:
You don’t need to be a financial guru or a legal expert to know that trouble with money or the law can be a major impediment to anyone’s creative growth. Don’t set yourself up for doom by ignoring your finances, investments and taxes. Find a good financial advisor and ask her for a consultation. Get in touch with a chartered accountant and learn more about how to plan for your taxes. Similarly, invest in a good lawyer or legal advisor and learn more about how to protect your work and how to avoid any unintentional legal violations. If you’re engaged in a self-employed trade, you may want to consider registering your brand name or your business as a company – questions that financial and legal professionals would have the right answers to.
5. Don’t shy away from social media – embrace it:
Marketing, particularly social media marketing is not just important, but has become a necessary weapon in any entrepreneur’s arsenal. As artists and entrepreneurs, you are faced with the constant requirement of having to promote your work, while engaging with your fans and clients. If social media is not your thing, try to adapt by speaking to social media consultants about how to make marketing occupy a larger role in your creative business plans. If social media is your thing, speak to social media consultants about how to get better at it. There are many interesting sites, blogs and books that you can read in order to learn more about marketing – two excellent reads are “The Zen of Social Media Marketing” by Shama Kabani and “Brand Like a Rockstar” by Steve Jones.
6. Organize your appointments, bookings and orders:
It might seem a bit too obvious but it’s surprising the number of creative professionals who lose track of their work just because they haven’t scheduled it properly. Whether it’s taking a class or teaching one, performing or meeting with a client, don’t let the dates and work overwhelm you – instead maintain a simple list or schedule to keep track of deadlines and commitments. There are a number of apps out there that might help you do the job, starting with the humble Google calendar or even more old school (and a personal favourite) notebook planner or diary.
7. Network responsibly and take time off:
As a generation glued to its computer screens, we often underestimate the good that comes out of old-fashioned networking. Accept invitations to networking events and try to be open with respect to the people you meet and the ideas you share. Thanks to websites like meetup.com or facebook groups, it’s easier to find or create gatherings of like-minded people interested in talking about the things you’re passionate about. Sign up for newsletters and follow up on local spaces, like Bangalore’s Beagles Loft, that are constantly playing host to cool meetups, initiatives and discussion groups. Just remember – not everything has to be motivated by work and so, remember to take some time off every once in a while. Catch up on some reading, your favourite sitcom or go out and watch a show – feed your curiosity with fresh and new information as often as you can.
Remember, these points are just beginning for more comprehensive and personalized lists of must-dos for all you artists and creative entrepreneurs out there. The whole point is to organise your work so that you’ve got enough time and energy to focus on realizing your highest creative and commercial potential. If you have a few pointers, suggestions and resources that you would like to share, do leave a comment below for all of us to learn from. Here’s wishing you all a very happy 2015!