Even though sometimes I start to feel overwhelmed between working IN and ON my business, I still make time for fun side projects at least once or twice a year. You would think that, as a designer, I would exercise enough of my creative muscles, but sometimes, it's nice to just design for myself.
As business owners, we get so caught up in doing work for our clients that it can take away from our passion. Don't get me wrong, I still love designing, and still love working with clients. But, to me, a personal project is like your cheat meal after a week of eating healthy.
If you haven't done a "just for fun" project before, you should try to make time for one! It doesn't have to be directly related to what you do in your business, or even be something you sell. I know I'm not the only one that struggles with what to do with "free" time since it can feel like we work (or our brains are on) 24/7 as entrepreneurs. Though a personal project still takes time + skills, it can be a fun outlet, and give you something to do other than work.
Here's a little recap of my personal projects that I've done over the last few years:
The first personal project I ever did was a year-long, weekly poster series, called the 50|50 Series. This was a big undertaking. Every week, I had to design a new poster within certain guidelines. If we're being honest, I grew tired of it about halfway through, but I stuck with it anyways. (Another honesty moment – I kind of hate these designs now.)
But, all that aside, this project was really great for me! At the time of this project, I wasn't enjoying the (little) designing I was doing at my day job. This gave me the freedom to design how I wanted, but also taught me discipline as a designer.
Frank the Chair
I had completed my first design personal project, but wanted to do a personal photography project. I actually used to do photography (weddings, portraits), but then decided to solely focus on design. I still love doing photography every once in awhile as a hobby, so I decided to do a whole project on it.
Frank the Chair started as a monthly photography project, with some Instagram fun thrown in. After one year of Frank's adventures, we decided to turn it into a children's book. I never thought I would publish a children's book, but it was so fun, and I learned a lot through the whole process -- like how to do a Kickstarter, and how to self-publish on Amazon.
What's so crazy to me is that my husband and I thought of this silly project on a road trip, just to do something fun. If I hadn't followed through with it, we wouldn't have ever written and published a children's book! (Which I never thought I would do anyway!)
One Another Series
This might be my favorite series I've ever done. The colors don't go with my house or office at all, or probably anyone's for that matter, but this project was truly just FUN to do.
My faith is an important part of my life, and I enjoy helping churches with their design. But, I wanted to do something really bold + different with a scripture-based art series!
There are several scriptures in the Bible that have the phrase "one another" in them. So, I took about a dozen of them, and made some geometric-based designs with them!
Local Letter Series
The next personal project was a short series that incorporated more photography, but also typography -- the Local Letter Series. I named it the Local Letter Series because all of the photographs were taken locally (I'm very creative in my naming, can't you tell?).
I loved the style of the series -- so much so, that one of the prints is in my house. It was a quick project, it was fun, and it combined two of my favorite things. You can check it out here! This one really forced me to pay attention to details and be creative. I thought it would be SO easy to just take pictures in the area, but it's hard to get a variety of leaves and flowers, that actually look good!
Just My Type of Coloring Book
This is my latest project! I've recently hopped on that "adult coloring book" bandwagon -- it's seriously so stress-relieving. But, so many of the coloring books out there are girly, frilly and have awful fonts in them. So I thought, why not just create my own?
Creating your own project
The beauty of personal projects is that you can play by your own rules -- or not have any rules at all. I'm a Type A personality, so I created "guidelines" for all of my personal projects above. While thinking of the idea of each project, I thought over a few questions:
- What type of project was it going to be? Photo, illustrative, typography, etc.
- How often was I going to release (a.k.a. -- post on Instagram) this project? Weekly? Twice a week? Monthly?
- How long would the project last? A year? A few months?
- Was I going to print out these projects? Give them away? Sell them?
- What were my design guidelines? Only certain fonts? Only certain colors?
Since these were all personal projects, I didn't exactly have a "goal" in mind when doing them, besides just wanting to fully finish each one. The projects were just a means to have fun, and show off some of my skills. The 50|50 Series, even though I hated it, actually helped me grow my business. I only sold a handful of those prints, but people saw my designs again and again, which prompted them to hire me for other projects.
The whole point of these projects is to push yourself, but to also have fun. If doing something weekly is going to be too much, and too stressful, then just do once a month. Although all of my prints are listed in my shop, I didn't create these for my shop. After a few of the projects, I decided that I should just make the designs available for those who might be interested. Maybe your personal project is completely unrelated to your business -- maybe it's a book, maybe it's knitting, or woodworking... who knows?