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Advice: How to NOT burn Yourself Out?

I'm sure alot of us have had times where you really want something but don't have enough money to get it. Thus you open up commissions and such to raise money for yourself to get to that goal.

I admit to this but I've unfortunately come to the point where I simply can NOT juggle art commissions, 2 part time jobs, and going to college part time. As much as I'd like to make a little extra money to help towards my tuition and groceries, I REALLY don't want to take in more commissions to raise up that money since I still have a few outstanding commissions myself. That and I feel a bit burnt out from working so much not just on arts but in life in general.

I'm just curious if anyone had any advice or tips on how to keep yourself from getting to that point. I'm doing a little better now with managing my two jobs and school (since it's nearing the winter break) but I still feel exhausted as all hell and just end up being a lazy poo who wants to relax with a bit of gaming or a book to read. :( I do keep my commissioners up to date as much as I can and thankfully they are understanding of my predicament. (At least, that's the impression I am getting.)

Thanks for reading guys! I hope to hear some good advice that can be shared with everyone in the community!

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 26th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
I'd close your commissions temporarily (give yourself a rough "reopen" date if it'll help, even if it's middle of next year), and determine if you want to refund or complete what you have left to do, and get your remaining client's opinions on refunds or completed work (if you've already taken money, that is).

Burn out sucks. :x I was getting really close in mid-October, which is why I closed then, and it gave me a chance to get some of my personal stuff done too.

One thing I had to teach myself was it's -okay- to have a break now and then even if it's just a few hours to yourself, and even if you're in the middle of a list of commissions. It helps to refresh you. Just keep in touch with the commissioners.
Nov. 26th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
This is why I only take one commission at a time. That way I don't feel bad if I need to take a break. Just do the one and then take as long of a break as I want, until I'm ready to do another.

Also, I'd say if you get burned out on commissions easily, limit yourself to doing higher-priced items (or raise your existing prices a bit). I've heard of many artists who burn themselves out doing only lower-priced items because they think that's all that'll sell. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't, but if that stuff isn't your cup of tea, you WILL burn yourself out doing it. Make your work worth your time to sell!
Nov. 26th, 2011 03:15 am (UTC)
Time management. Make sure you aren't putting thirty hours into one day. Do not procrastinate if a schedule is made. Try and do some work on commissions everyday. Creating a rhythm will help keep to a schedule instead of putting the commission off to the next day... and the next day... and the day after that, etc.

Start off taking only a couple of commissions at a time to gauge how long it takes to finish a commission. It is different from spontaneously drawing in a sketchbook. Something that might take thirty minutes to draw might end up taking a couple hours if it was a commission job as there is communication with the client, the inevitable revisions and lag time between the artist and the commissioner.

Find ways to motivate yourself. Alternatively, find out the real reason that you are getting burned out. It might be what you eat is making you sluggish to the people you are hanging out with being incredibly negative.
Nov. 26th, 2011 03:40 am (UTC)
Completely agree with Sovy.

Another thing: Figure out an amount you're ok with (1-5 commissions at a time) and keep to it! Me personally, I can juggle five commissions at a time and if I feel well enough, I'll sometimes take on more or some smaller goodies like sketches. Everyone is different though, I used to juggle ten at a time and most feel more comfortable with one or two.

Burning out happens though and it's normal, it certainly happens to me where I need to draw for myself a little bit. What you don't want is to burn out so bad that you don't work for months on end.

Nov. 26th, 2011 04:24 am (UTC)
If I'm feeling incredibly burned out (or getting there), I reduce my commission work time to an hour a day (I work full-time during the week), and use the rest of the evening and weekend to relax. If you can afford to close up shop for a week or more, try getting away from the internet - it may relieve some stress of burn-out. I've done this in the past and it works very well.

If you have to keep working but can feel burn-out setting in, try to take only one to two pieces per opening, and see if the lowered queue helps any as well. Like Sovy said, it's all about time management and balance. It's possible to fit in commission work with a schedule as full as yours, you just have to allow yourself not to be too rigid in how you schedule your free time - and allow down-time for yourself!

If you really feel you need a break, take one! Just let your clients know, and if you have an estimate for how long you'll be resting, be sure to tell them. Probably the biggest thing to avoid while taking a break, don't let yourself feel guilty over taking time for yourself to do things that allow you to relax; if you do then the break just becomes a waste and you're just a strung out coming back as before you left. I've made this mistake many times and it's just not a pretty thing at all.
Nov. 26th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
I found what helps me is to treat art as a real job. I take it very seriously, assign it a priority, set goals and expectations...but I ALSO assign breaks. Weekends. Days off. The like.

When I started, it was so easy to think of myself as lazy if I didn't spend my free time working on art stuff. Now, I plan it into my week, and by doing so I don't have guilt when I use my "real" free time.

I also found silly activities like "Dr Sketchy's" (maybe you have a chapter near you if you are 21+?) and art jams with friends really help, as well as continuing my studies in art as a separate thing through figure drawing etc. I also keep "the art of...*insert-artist-I-admire-here*" to help get me started with ideas.
Nov. 26th, 2011 04:43 am (UTC)
I meant to say "The art of..." books. I pick them up from yard sales and thrift stores if not Amazon.
Nov. 26th, 2011 06:58 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if many other artists do this, but this is what I do to keep myself from burning out:

I find that if I work on just one piece at a time, like sketching, inking, coloring, etc. all at once, I get burned out really fast. When I work on the same picture for hours, I end up taking more breaks.

So I started working on each commission in stages, where I sketch one commission, go on and sketch the next one in line, then the next one, until all my commissions are sketched. That way as well, my commissioners all have something to look at while I'm working on the next stages of the art.

Also, I give myself a set amount of how many "stages" I do a day. Usually I do 3 - 4 stages a day, unless doing something more detailed, like shading a really detailed piece.

Since doing this, I now feel comfortable with taking more commissions at once, because I make sure everyone has something to look at while waiting, so I don't feel bad when I'm just working on one person at a time. :) So maybe try that? You don't need to do as many steps as I do since you work two jobs and go to school, but setting a limit might help you to keep from burning out. ^^
Nov. 26th, 2011 09:48 am (UTC)
If you have two part time jobs, why on earth would you compound that stress with commissions? With school also on your plate, any aspect of your life that you can't find balance in will suffer for the others. I think you should stop taking any new commissions, finish what you do owe, and re-learn to just do art for yourself, for your own enjoyment and relaxation or for friends. There is no way I could ever balance doing an advanced degree with doing commissions, so after I finished my last one I closed, and now I stick to doing art when I can ever find time for myself and friends. That way I feel compelled to create for my own volition and not for someone else for a price that most of the time isn't worth the added stress that commissions impose. It can be hard if you've done commissions for a while and get quickly addicted to what seems like "easy money" before, but you're life has some seriously high priority commitments that have to become before art commissions. Unless you plan on going pro down the road, I'd return to just doing art when you can and for fun.
Nov. 26th, 2011 10:13 am (UTC)
Do stuff for yourself.

I know exactly what you're talking about, really burned out on commissioned work myself atm and though it's close to completion, it's hard to just knuckle down and do it AND be satisfied enough with the results to present to the customer.
Did a little work for myself last night and now I feel much better, gonna tackle the commission later.

Be nice to yourself, your customers will understand if their work is delayed by a few days because you need to refuel artistically.
Nov. 26th, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC)
Don't saturate yourself. Set goals, but work regular hours- I work 5 8 or 4 10 hour shifts a week, but have 2-3 days off regularly. This way you'll feel like you aren't overworking yourself. If you're managing 2 jobs and school and commissions.. you probably don't want to do that, lol. Work some commissions in your boring classes or at one of your jobs that might have a few moments free. Idk.
Nov. 26th, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
Assign yourself at least one day a week as a day off and destress. Don't do work and avoid event thinking about work. You may need to modify that based on your own situation as I'm sure the combination of real jobs plus classes might make that difficult.

But speaking from personal experience, that one day off did wonders for my mental health. I used to be working myself into a state of constant stress, which wasn't the least bit healthy.
Nov. 27th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)

I think this actually helps a lot with burnout because if you do bite off more than you can comfortably chew, and/or something pops up that makes you not want to deal with commissions anymore, you have the option of a prompt refund then you don't have to worry about it anymore. Less stress usually meas less burnout.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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