NAILA RUECHEL, NYC FASHION EXPERT, STYLIST & PHOTOGRAPHER
It is a fact of life that every artist, no matter how talented or popular, will experience slow periods throughout his or her career. No one likes to admit this. Perhaps it can be explained by the pressure to always seem in-demand. Social media serves as a good tool to not only appear busy but also to stay in the minds of colleagues and those in a position to hire us. Having said that, I think it is important to not get too caught up in that. The effort of appearing busy is time-consuming in and of itself.
True, it has become increasingly important to keep an active social media presence. Keep in mind that the purpose is to keep your clients up-to-date on your latest projects and to offer a brief look at things you think are cool right now. Keep it active, but don’t spend limitless hours on this. If you don’t intend on selling ad space and turning your blog into your main source of income, spending all 24 hours of the day creating and searching for content is probably a more exhausting and time-consuming effort than necessary. You don’t want to spend your precious time off glued to the internet. Of course, you will have to decide what works best for you.
Remember, you are not alone! We have all experienced that lull. Everyone understands that the busy stretches do not always last. It’s okay! Slow periods give us an opportunity to recharge. We all need restful periods in our lives. Don’t worry. Spending a month, or even a week without work can be torturous, but any part of that spent worrying is a waste of your precious energy. Creating a schedule for one’s self can help alleviate the malaise. After many years of struggling with how to best manage my time during these periods, I’ve come up with a few pointers.
Hobbies - Identify what activities are important to you outside of the things you get paid for. Dedicate some undisturbed time to those. Hobbies are often put way down on the list of things we make time for. It is very easy to feel guilty if we don’t first attend to self-promotion, kit maintenance, family, friends, or even household chores. Remember that these activities are our hobbies because we find great pleasure in engaging in them. If one of the goals to achieve during down time is to recharge our batteries, then time ought to be spent experiencing guilt free pleasure. This is helpful in creating balance.
Self-promotion – Whether you are a represented artist or you represent yourself, your clients like to hear from you personally. Spending time saying hello, by email or by phone goes a long way in solidifying your existing relationships.
Testing – Be sure to approach this in a way the best serves your interests. Look for gaps in your portfolio and approach a photographer whose style is consistent with your vision. Photographers are usually happy to work with you on stories that you already have a strong sense of the style direction (or make up direction if you are a hair & makeup artist). It eliminates the guesswork and they can comfortably begin choosing models and locations that will compliment your idea. The benefit to you is that you put yourself in the driver’s seat and are more likely to get the type of work you need for your portfolio. After all, there has to be a payoff when you are working for free!
• Set schedules and time limits – I find setting a weekly schedule and working within limited time frames very useful. For example, unless you are a professional blogger with 200k followers, working in half-hour blocks, three times per week might be all it takes to create the content needed for that week. Maybe you prefer to blog fresh, by-the-minute content, in which case, daily 15-minute blocks may be the way to go.
• For self-promotion, a three-hour block, twice a week is plenty.
• It is ok to spend a full day or two per week, in slow times, on your hobbies. Give yourself that permission, as you will feel so much better for it. Some of the things you create in this time may actually turn out to be valuable in your paid work.
• No matter how ambitious you are, everyone needs a restorative horizontal day!
Words and image by Naila Ruechel
Find out more about Naila and her work here!
THERESA POBORSKY, CHICAGO STYLIST
I have to admit that I secretly love the lulls that come with the world of freelance. A couple of slow weeks this January felt like a reward for all my hard work in past months, especially one baking in the August sun while sorting - quite literally - tons of wardrobe in the back of a production truck. I use the slow times to bring the “life” part back to my work-life balance. I love sweating it out in 105-degree heat at Core Power Yoga (perhaps I AM a glutton for the heat), and I have to say, my Bow Pose is now on-point! I also harnessed the heat while baking a glorious Christmas cake ... and other less glorious baked goods not pictured here.
January was simply a good time for clean-up work. I did my taxes, worked on my website, started a blog (stay tuned, coming soon!) and reached out to brands feature collaborations via social media. I've decided that 2016 is the year I will use my Instagram feed as a space to work with brands I truly love. I churned out some beautiful mood boards for creative projects that I’ll feature in my February Instagram feed.
For Valentine’s Day, Highbrew Coffee will be posting work that Melinda Jane Meyers and I shot this month. And I will be posting some fun personal pics featuring their product along with some of my mini confectionary masterpieces as I indulge my newfound love of baking. I feel like my off-time gives me the space to let creativity breed and I’m walking into February feeling more inspired than I have in months!
ANANDA KHAN, NYC HAIR & MAKE UP ARTIST
Let’s face it, as a makeup artist and hairstylist in the media industry, there are times when I am not using my entire creative capacity and feel the need for a challenge. I have an insatiable curiosity and many interests. So in the slow season, I hit the books and my inspiration does not always come from conventional sources.
A good internet rabbit hole can occasionally lead to invaluable professional development. On Ash Wednesday, what began as an Instagram search for religious observers wearing ashen crosses on their foreheads, ended in the discovery of an ancient group of tribesmen who wear full-on makeup and perform ceremonial songs and dances to charm women.
The Woodabe, a nomadic group of North African tribesmen, have performed these week-long traditional courtship ceremonies for over eight thousand years. The men skillfully decorate their faces with vibrant sienna and burnt yellow pigments, geometric patterns, and even crosses, much like the ashen-covered observers of Lent. It's enlightening to find that people from all over the world use similar motifs for special occasions.
Their culture too centers around beauty and art. With few material possessions and a transient lifestyle, they carry their rituals and tiny relics, like compact mirrors and liquid eyeliners. In fact, the eye liner serves a dual purpose of beautification and defense against eye infections. The Woodabe consider themselves the most attractive people in the world. And, it is their men, that can spend up to an entire day putting on beautiful makeup in hopes of charming a woman out of her traditional garb for the night.
Three days later, several documentaries, articles and photo essays later, I came up for air. By no means am I original in this inspiration. In fact, by posting images of these handsome men, I found that some of my artist peers had also taken notice of the Woodabe. It was encouraging find that what genuinely excites me, is also inspiring to the professionals I respect and we were able to use this inspiration for future shoots.
While working through a lull, I stay current with the industry on social media but I also use it as tool to dig into mind blowing inspiration. Inevitably these experiences, like finding a North African beauty pageant, enriches my artistry and unique point of view. Part of the reason your clients work with you is your unique point of view and developing your own style can give you a real edge on the competition.
In college, I was given the advice to find a triggering subject that motivates your creativity. For me, those subjects are culture & travel and in this case, social media gave me the opportunity to see the world.
Represented by Big Leo
The photographer credit from my story is : Timothy Allen
African art inspired makeup and hair work by me.
Photographer: Adrianna Favero
Model: Morgan Reid
An old story inspired by North African Tribes
Photographer: Mambu Bayoh
Model: Anna Pembroke
NATALIE OGURA, AUSTIN STYLIST
My days, months & even years are completely unpredictable. In our industry, it’s just par for the course to accept ambiguous schedules, mad rushes, and yes, the inevitable slow season. It’s expected. So when a lull hits, I’ve learned that it’s the perfect time to get busy!
Take a day or two for yourself: Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Get that foot massage to ease the soreness of 10 hr days running around. Yes, read a book. Its ok!
Get out and meet people: On my wall, I keep a running list with the names of people I want to connect with or meet. This is the time to set up coffees in social settings for friendly introductions and creative pow-wows. I’m a huge proponent of face-to-face meetings. Yes, I still call people instead of text or email…
Collect those tearsheets: We work on great projects, but rarely seek out the final products. Take the time to locate those awesome tearsheets. Add them to your portfolio or website and social marketing efforts. If you’re proud of the work, get it out there!
Evaluate your career goals: As the years go by, my styling interests ebb and flow. In the beginning, all I wanted to do was fashion. Then, between my expanding styling palette and the existing market in Austin, I slowly shifted my focus to lifestyle and included a lot more prop styling. These days, I’m interested in doing more kiddo-related styling, so I have to pivot my portfolio to reflect this interest. Down time is the perfect time to take a good look at your portfolio (physical and online) and decide if you are showcasing your styling interests effectively. Which brings me to my next point… testing!
Creative Testing: Have an idea for your portfolio? Go ahead and reach out to your creative community and collaborate. It’s fun, social, and low pressure. It’s a win-win situation all around.
Yes, finances: I know you have just as many receipts stuffed in an envelope as I do! Take a seat at your favorite java house and organize those finances… You’ll be thankful at tax time when you are inevitably slammed on gigs!
LIZ TEICH, BROOKLYN STYLIST
It's funny that I'm writing about slow periods of work during the busiest winter I've ever had. Today is my first day off in the new year (with the exception of the NYC blizzard postponing one of my shoots) and normally I spend January panicking. I worry that work won't be coming in but then when I eventually get over that, I end up making a game plan.
First, I spend the time updating my portfolio with my latest work and catching up on my taxes from the previous year. I make sure my payments & invoices from the previous year are all caught up. I have agents that handle this, but it's something that's always weighing on you as a freelancer and my excel spreadsheet of my income requires constant upkeep to make sure of that when agents are often busy overseeing multiple artists on multiple payments at a time.
To be honest, I don't handle downtime well. My husband makes fun of me for not knowing how to relax, so most of my time is spent trying to grow my business and brand. I have two amazing agencies Agency Gerard in NY and Anchor Artists in Boston always focused on getting me projects and keeping up with my clients, but I still try to keep in touch with everyone myself. Sometimes it's as little as an email or a social media post to keep in people's minds. I'm grateful for this digital age which makes it easy to do that. For example, I once lost touch with a creative director from a former account, but when he moved to a new company, he was reminded of our work together by my social media posts and told his team to track me down for their next shoot. Now, I work with that creative director often.
Five years ago, I created a fashion blog after styling bloggers for a major campaign about 5 years ago and they were all claiming to be authorities in fashion, when while they had great style, they didn't have the actual styling resume to back it up. I decided I had a unique voice to separate myself from people with little to no experience suddenly calling themselves a "stylist." It also gave me another creative outlet that I have total control of; I find that it also gives me the opportunity to create work and new connections when they aren't coming to me in the traditional ways.
Having a blog can be like running a second business, as you have to reach and grow a regular audience, however, it's lead to many new opportunities that I may not have had access to otherwise. Now, I take off time from advertising styling during each New York Fashion Week. During this time, I'm able to take advantage of all the invitations to shows each season. It not only helps me keep on top of what's going on with fashion each season but also in the greater industry while also connecting me with new people. I utilize these new connections for editorials and other projects that I fill up my spare time. This is how I keep busy and my book updated even when I'm not getting paid.
Lately, allowed me to not just be behind the camera, but I've been appearing on morning shows to even in ad campaigns. Recently, I collaborated with a photographer on a shoot for my blog with an athletic brand, Lucy Activewear. That very same week, I also styled and appeared in videos for 2 major brands. The blog has allowed me access to both sides of the camera.
As freelancers, we don't get paid for the days we don't work, so it can be hard to have that hanging over you. These past few years, I've realized the importance of forcing myself to take vacations. A few summers ago, I reserved 2 weeks to go to Vietnam for fun and I lost out on - gulp - 7 jobs. I felt so guilty! Sometimes, I think the best way to guarantee work offers is to book a vacation! Still, the experiences I have while traveling are usually worth missing out on the work because there will always be more once I get home. The hardest part of having time off for me is actually enjoying the down time!