Working Without Work

Building a Strong Work Ethic

This situation is quite normal. There can be a lot of work at a given time and then suddenly nothing. It is difficult to manage a steady stream of projects while working, especially if you are the one finding, proposing and acquiring work. It is always good to stay on your toes. My Dad always said to apply to a as many jobs as you can, even when you are not fully confident or do not think you are a great fit. You never know, you may just be what a client is looking for. Moreover, it is just a good habit to have the right mindset when transitioning between projects happens - because it happens.

You may start to question your abilities or feel inadequate. They do not need me anymore? I thought they liked me? It is easy to get personal. No wonder people who have worked for years are taken aback when they are let go or replaced. Yet business need to be flexible in order to grow - maybe they can no longer afford you, they are going in a different direction - therefore you need to be flexible, too. So do not take it personal, take it as a challenge to overcome.

Finding another job can seem daunting. But if you are new, the key is to break it down into steps. In no particular order, the following are some ideas you might want to try:

  1. Reach Out to Friends and Family | Tell them about your situation and what you do. A family member and friends can be good references and recruiters. That friend you likes to set you up with dates may be great at facilitating an interview. They may know someone that needs a designer. In short, the people you know, know someone else and thus makes your reach go even farther.

  2. Reach Out to Your Network | Your network can include your professional and personal contacts. Make an update your feed or social media. Market and introduce yourself. Sometimes the people who get consistent work are consistently marketing themselves. It is never too late to start. If you are part of a club or a member of a group, let them know that you are ready to work on something new.

  3. Search Online for Jobs You Are Interested In | The time between projects might be the perfect opportunity to find a better work situation. Every project is a new experience. What did you enjoy about the work? If you could change anything what would it be? Did you prefer certain tasks than another? If you are able, take the opportunity to find something that you enjoy.

  4. Reconnect with Former Clients | This is what I did after I graduated and it worked out! Former clients are still clients, even if you have not worked for years. If the relationship was good and you left on good terms, reconnecting is not something to avoid, but to welcome. You can show them how much you have grown and the confidence you have gained.

  5. Start Local | Sometimes you do not have to look far to find work. Proposing projects at local businesses or applying at city hall are options that I have dabbled in. It is also a great way to have a feel for your community: Are there many designers in this area? Are designers needed in this area? What can I do to get my work out there? Working for your community can help your community is so many ways such as networking and PR. Check it out!

  6. Update Your Portfolio | As mentioned before, free time is an opportunity. A great way to spend it is updating your portfolio. Your portfolio is a timeline of your progress. Sometimes it is better to show than to tell. So show your work. You may gain new clients just by showing them what you have done or been up to. A strong and growing portfolio shows that you are growing, learning, experiencing, working and most importantly: delivering.


And after a while, finding work evolves: You have gained more work experience, you have taken a more senior or managing role, you have applied yourself in new ways. As your portfolio, resume or network adds up, so do your opportunities. Keep building great relationships and a strong work ethic wherever you go. Be known as the hardest working employee. Strive for excellence. You never know when one contact is the reference to a new client.


An Open Schedule

Some people work best with a routine. It is just simpler to know where and what you are going to do for the day. It may take out some of the stress of having to plan and manage every day. After some reflection, it be in our line of work as creatives, that an open schedule should not be as frightening. We can take a blank sheet of paper and make a poster. We can take a chaotic Word document and highlight the points in an infographic. What is to stop us from creating business opportunities with local businesses or designing a project proposal?

Balance to our creativity is discipline. As a designer, I love the balance between chaos and order. A project brief, printing requirements, business goals and hard deadlines gives me structure. Yet the development, reviews, feedback and communication between collaborators and clients are where ideas are formed, built, torn down, rebuilt again, honed and refined. So in this time of uncertainty, build a structure: apply to 5 jobs that I think are interesting, update my portfolio with new projects in two weeks, network in my local community at least once this month - and see where your imagination and creativity bring you. You may get there in a way you never expected. ■

Patricia Atienza