For the second half of last year, I worked on a beloved personal project, 100 Days of Illustrations. Having no idea where it would take me or what the end result would look like, I just started drawing. I didn’t do this every day, which I think can stop some people from starting a 100 day project (specifically). I made it my own.
Something I learned when it comes to personal projects—there are no rules. The purpose is to explore, grow, and simply see what happens when you play. What is a personal project exactly? Well, it’s a project that you do for YOU, to find your own personal/creative growth, a new skill, or to simply learn something new! With no client expectations, you are free, free of other’s viewpoints and even your own vision of outcome. Which I know can be an exercise itself! Letting go of what may be is a work in progress. However, I’ve found when we let go of all the pressure, and just do, the best and most interesting results arise. Woo! Yes to that!
Looking to grow in your creativity? Below are some tips, tricks, and advantages in starting your own personal project.
Pick a possible project that feeds your curiosity.
Are you curious about something and it feels so random, that you’re not even sure why you’re currently wondering about said random thing? Maybe it’s watercolor, hand-lettering or writing love notes to your intuition, whatever it is, this may be the perfect opportunity to try it out. If you’re not sure where to start or if it’s something you’ll really enjoy, begin by doing a little research. Feed that curiosity!
Stick to one project at a time.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have one too many ideas. However, acting on all of those ideas at once is just not really feasible or healthy for creative growth. Even if you decide to work on two personal projects, your attention is now divided. Sticking to one personal project at a time will allow you to really dive into the flow, work, and play of it all. If you have a lot of ideas, write them all down, and choose just one to start with. See which one sticks out to you the most and get started!
Find a margin that works for you but let go of the outcome.
Figure out the base of your project and if you have any specific goals for growth. Do you want to work on your design process through a brand project for a possible dream client? Or do you want to do each letter of the alphabet in a unique way to expand your lettering style? For me, it was growing my illustration style through 100 illustrations. Find that overall margin, but don’t be too concerned about the possible outcome. This project should give you the space to enjoy the journey, and be delightfully surprised by the end result.
Find some time each week or day to dedicate to the project.
Depending on your personality, this may be on a more rigid or loose timeframe. Such as, I’ll dedicate time to this project every Thursday evening from 7–9pm. Or (like myself) I’ll make sure I do at least two to three illustrations a week, whenever it is I have time to work on them. Do what feels right for you! However, try your best to give yourself at least 30 minutes per week to keep that momentum and creativity flowing.
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.
Have you ever found yourself in the comparison trap of social media… particularly Instagram? If you’re a creative business owner, then I’m guessing that’s a big YES. A personal project meets no limits or bounds, and that’s simply the point, YOU make (or choose not to make) the rules! If you’d rather do 100 patterns at a slower pace of two patterns a week, instead of every single day, then go for it! It’s your time to explore in a way that works for you.
Post about what you’re up to.
Now I know we just talked about escaping comparison, but when you take a moment to post what you’re up to, you create a sense of accountability. Find an outlet to post about your project and progress online. My personal favorite is, in fact, Instagram. I’ve also posted some of my progress on Dribbble, which is best for design or illustration related projects. If you’d rather not post online, you can find an accountability partner or group. Here you can each share your progress and talk over any roadblocks, critics, etc. Do what feels right for you however, if posting your progress hinders your process, then I’d say skip it. You can always post after you’re done if that works best.
A few extra perks (aside from growing creatively)…
You learn more about HOW you work best.
Is there a certain time of day that you find inspiration? Or do you find working on your project best when you set a 30 minute time limit each day? Working on a personal project can open you up to new working techniques that help you shine. In which, you can later implement towards client work, making the process flow in better alignment for you and your client. Win-win!
You can gain a new skill or expertise.
Most likely, when we try something new there’s a bit of a learning curve. But as we know it, day by day we gradually master and advance in what we focus our attention on. We may even be able to bring this new skill into our business and/or showcase online, or in our portfolio.
A little side story… Growing up I’ve always been artistic, creating and drawing every chance I got. However, I lost some of that drive to draw as I got older. Distracted with design school and life, I wasn’t drawing for the sake of drawing anymore. It wasn’t until I decided I wanted to open up an Etsy shop years later that I began drawing again on a daily basis. Having a corporate design job at the time, I felt a decent lack of creativity in my life. That type of hands-on, exploring what’s in the back of my mind that must get on some paper kind of creativity. As a graphic designer, I was comfortable with designing, but it took me a while to develop my illustration style and overall skills. I didn’t know it at the time but I was doing hundreds of personal projects, slowly building that muscle. I finally started sharing my work on Instagram, and slowly but surely I gained the title of illustrator. People actually started approaching me for freelance work, which I would have never received if I didn’t start drawing again. So if there’s something you want to be doing, just start! Start with your own project that’ll shine to others you’d love to work with.
You can attract more of those dream clients.
By creating on your own terms, your work can draw in your ideal clients by simply showcasing aspects of your project. Maybe your project is custom branding for a type of client you’ve always been wanting to work with. Or wedding inspired calligraphy because you’ve always been curious about stationery. By showcasing your unique style while aiming towards a specific audience, you may just find that dream client reaching out to you!
You can turn your project into a product.
This is something I’ve done a few times with my recent 100 Days of Illustrations project. A few of my illustrations became greeting card designs, prints, and even a tea towel through Shopify. However, this doesn’t need to be a physical product. If your project is more digital based, you can also set up a Creative Market shop and sell digital assets, such as typefaces, pre-made logos, illustrations, patterns, web design templates, etcetera… etcetera. I recently set up my own Creative Market shop, and a few elements from my logo & illustrations packs are from my 100 Days of Illustrations. A few other great online options to sell your art while not having to ship any physical items yourself: Casetify, Spoonflower, Society6, Minted (you’d need to enter their design challenges to start selling), and Envato Market are a few!
All in all, personal projects help you grow as a person, expand your creativity in ways you never have imagined, and may even help you become a master in your craft! Giving yourself the time to feed your creativity and curiosity, you can learn more about yourself, what lights you up, and how you work best.
Are you thinking of starting a personal project? I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to post a comment below with your project or any questions you may have!