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What to Do When You Have Downtime

Occasionally, as an illustrator, you’ll have downtime—whether it’s waiting for sketches or final art to be approved, having a hole in your schedule, or just plain needing a break. When that happens, it’s not time to grab the Playstation and veg out on the couch yet or go on that sweet vacation as there are still many things to be done. Here are some illustration chores to consider when you find yourself with a little free time.

Update your website

It’s always good to keep your website fresh and current. If you haven’t updated it in a while with your newest work and cleaned out some of the old, dusty pieces, now’s the perfect time to do it. Also, think about going through your social media and posting some things. That old Google Plus account you have and never use? It misses you. Really.

Chase unpaid invoices

Look through all of your outstanding invoices and see if any are past due. If so, this is a great time to follow up with all those clients and remind them that you’d like to get paid.

Work on a new promo

If you haven’t done a promotional mailer or other promo piece in a while, a hole in your schedule can be a great opportunity to make something special. Take the time to generate something cool and awesome to send out to art directors to try to get new work or just remind the people you already work with that you’re still alive.

Copyright your work

A free day also makes a great opportunity for you to go through your art and copyright anything you’ve done recently. Remember, it’s best to copyright your work within three months of creation, so do it often!

Backup and organize your files

If you haven’t backed up your computer files recently, this is the perfect time to do that. You may even want to go through your folders and clear out all the junk that accumulates that you know you’ll never need again. A well-organized and backed-up computer is a happy computer (or at least one that won’t totally screw you when it dies suddenly).

Longterm project

I always recommend having a longterm personal project to work on. Something that really excites you. It could be anything from that book proposal you’ve been trying to get off the ground or a TV show idea or a series of fine art paintings you’ve been thinking about. Those brief bits of downtime can easily be filled with creating a larger masterwork that truly inspires you and may lead to even better opportunities down the road.

Enjoy

Finally, if you’ve done all those other things and you still have downtime, enjoy it! If your career is going well, these brief episodes of free time will be few and far between. Make the most of them and do something fun! Before you can blink, you’ll be back to working 7 days a week and grinding out those Monday deadlines!

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Neil Swaab is a freelance illustrator, art director, author, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. He's an instructor at Parsons the New School for Design and the illustrator of the New York Times bestselling book Middle School: My Brother is a Big, Fat Liar by James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou. His new authored and illustrated book, The Secrets to Ruling School: Class Election, comes out this September from Amulet Books.

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