V-Insider: Top Tips For Emerging Creative Freelancers
Starting out as a creative freelancer can be anxiety-inducing. How do you handle the stresses of establishing a career in a turbulent industry?
We spoke to Vidsy Co-founder and Head of Creative, Archie Campbell, about the challenges he faced as a young creator, how he manages his mental wellbeing, and how his approach has evolved with experience.
What was it like starting out in the creative industry?
“Starting out, you face this massive pool of opportunity. So the hard thing is knowing where to dive in. I remember getting so nervous about what I was doing and I really feared messing up. Eventually, my confidence grew and I began to understand how the freelance world works.
I remember it felt great to finish something for a client. However, I took projects really seriously and didn’t always receive the level of response I wanted. I soon realised it wasn't personal and brands work with hundreds of creators at a time. You learn to develop a thick skin and take it all with a pinch of salt when freelancing."
“For me, the stress always came from not knowing what was around the corner. When I was on the job I felt confident but without work, that’s when I struggled.”
How did you manage stress and uncertainty when you were starting out?
“For me, the stress always came from not knowing what was around the corner. When I was on the job I felt confident but without work, that’s when I struggled.
I dealt with any anxieties by always being available, it was replying to emails all the time, it was always being willing to work, it was finishing at 2am the night before and starting at 6am the next day. That was fine for me. However, that wasn’t a sensible way of living and was the reason I’d burn out. Looking back, I could have been much more sustainable.”
Why do you think the creative industry can feel so high pressure?
“It’s because it’s inherently subjective. Every time you create, you’re putting yourself out to be judged. And it can be easy to focus on criticisms, rather than successes - especially as a young creator.
Additionally, being a creative person is not a nine-to-five job. It might be working nine-to-five, but you’re always thinking. You’re cycling and you get an idea, you’re on the tube and thinking about how you’re going to change that video, or you see a clip on the TV and have a lightbulb moment. It’s an all-encompassing lifestyle.”
What do you do to keep in control of your creative wellbeing?
“What comes with time is, while your creativity doesn’t wain, you build more process around creative work. You learn how to tackle it while knowing your body, figure out your own best way to get to results.
Personally, I follow a simple philosophy of clarity, confidence and communication. Clarity, to make sure I’m clear and direct with people. Then confidence is knowing if someone hired me, they believe in my talent, and I shouldn’t doubt myself. And communication is simply being transparent with who I'm creating for.”
Has your approach to creating changed then?
“Yeah, the key thing I learnt was simplicity. This is especially true with the short-form content Vidsy creates. People often try to put too much into an idea. So now, with everything I do at Vidsy, it’s about condensing. If you can be bold enough to get something into 3 seconds that you originally thought you needed 30 for, it shows confidence.
If you can break a concept down to it's simplest form, that's when you know you've got something good. There’s a great quote: “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter”. And it’s true, the more time you have to work on something, the shorter it should be."
Do you think it’s different finding creative opportunities in 2019?
“Social media is a blessing and a curse. The cool thing is there’s so much opportunity out there, the problem is the demand for creative work is increasingly high. Every hundred opportunities have a thousand applicants. It’s difficult to create a name for yourself and get in front of people.
The other challenge is you have people always updating and sharing success online. For me, the key thing to remember is that everything shared online is the highlights reel. You never see the weekend without work or struggling with a pitch or the missed rent because that’s not how people want to promote themselves. It’s a shame. There’s a bravado to only show off your best work when actually every job you get should be something to feel proud of.”
”One of the biggest challenges I faced was putting things on my shoulders, then adding more and more while not taking things off.”
Do you have any advice for managing stress in a creative environment?
“One of the biggest challenges I faced was putting things on my shoulders, then adding more and more while not taking things off. Always feeling like there is something hanging on that I have to sort out. For me, to manage this it was the world’s simplest thing: prioritising and making lists.
We can only keep three to four different things in our head at one time. So if you have five, your brain is overloaded. And the fifth could be a simple change to a video but added onto the other bits you need to do, it can feel overwhelming. As soon as you write it down, you realise the big problems were not as big.”
How do you unwind from stress?
“I find when I go to bed my mind can be racing, so I like listening to comedy shows because it takes me away from it. But there’s a bunch of different apps, tools and techniques to help. Anything that distracts your mind and takes you away I find hugely beneficial. Especially, if you live in a city like London, with sounds, sights and smells from everywhere, you just need a distraction to get to that calm place.
There used to be a lot of taboo around mental health and taking time for your wellbeing. But recently, especially over the last five years, there’s been growing appreciation that everyone works differently. So if a technique works for you, that’s fantastic.”
How do you fit in down time?
“So, I really like the feeling of working under pressure. It motivates me. I like taking problems and turning them into solutions. Monday to Friday I will go hard - you throw any problem at me and I will try to find a solution. But I’ve learnt to take me time for myself on the weekend.
This is just me though, not everyone works like that. And that’s great because it means everyone can have their own way of unwinding. Just as there are heaps of opportunities to work, there are heaps of ways to work and unwind.”