When I started to work as a freelance illustrator, I was forced to develop new habits in my life more than ever. There was no longer a boss telling me how and when to work. All the critical decisions were up to me from now on.
How do I find my illustration style? How and where to present my work. How do I get the attention of potential clients? How to use social networks? The list was endless, and I didn’t even consider time for family, friends, and sports.
I knew that I needed a plan. And to fulfill it, I had to create new habits. Drawing alone would not be enough. I had to get into the habit of taking small but consistent steps. Every day I worked on my style, I informed myself about the benefits of social networks and marketing methods for illustrators. I set fixed times for sports, which is essential because you move even less in your own home than when you work in a company.
Over time, I’ve noticed four methods for myself that help me develop new habits:
- Baby steps:
Let’s do a little bit every day. Our motivation for the next day fades as soon as we overload ourselves. Let’s say we want to read more. We can set a limit like five pages, ten minutes, or half an hour each day. How much we want to spend is up to us. It should only be realistic and not overambitious. In a few weeks, we will have internalized the habit of reading like brushing our teeth.
- Track our new habits:
A simple calendar helps. As soon as we read, we make a checkmark for the day. The best thing is that the chain of checkmarks eventually motivates us over time. We don’t want to break it.
- Backup plan for super-busy days:
Some days are just different than others: deadlines, personal commitments, or dark days when we can’t get our minds up. No problem. We have already made a plan for that. In those days, we don’t read for x minutes. We read one paragraph only. It takes a few seconds, and that’s perfectly fine. We make our checkmark here, too.
- Having mercy on ourselves:
If the chain breaks, it’s not the end of the world. If it happens, it does not mean we have failed—quite the opposite. If we get upset or feel bad about it, we take it as a sign that we care. Let’s keep going tomorrow.