Navigating Slow Months in Your Design Business

Just like life, your surface design business will have ebbs and flows. Without the good and bad, there’s no balance in life, right? The best months in business make us feel great about ourselves, our income, and life in general.

But what can you possibly do when the slow months approach, whether you saw them coming, or they suddenly came upon your business? Let’s navigate this normal phase of life through the following six points.

Navigating Slow Months in Your Design Business | Sketch Design Repeat
1. Acceptance is KEY

Needless to say, acceptance is a learned skill. It’s hard to achieve at times, especially when it’s something you don’t want to come to terms with. We can go down a spiral road and start blaming ourselves because what we do is directly correlated to how our business performs.

Feelings can be personal and they can make us feel alone because sometimes there’s shame surrounding a slow business period. Moreover, if we see other artists perform well, it can make us feel like an imposter and want to switch off from the world. Have you felt this before? Believe me, you’re not alone! 

How fast or deeply you accept these slow months can come in a couple of ways.

You either saw it coming or you got to a tipping point where there’s no other way to deal with it other than accept it. Whichever flow of life you might be in, acceptance is the first step to coming to terms with removing the shame surrounding you. 

Understand that people around us are progressing at their own pace and may also have gone through slow months, although maybe not at our timeline. No two businesses are the same, so in slow periods you should now that you’ve done nothing wrong for your business. 

Also, it’s fine if you don’t want to accept it right away. We aren’t robots, we are humans, right? Giving grace, as well as being practical, is something you can learn at your pace. I know how at times, I just want to complain and not take action. But when I’m finally done releasing some emotions, it’s easier to accept things. The best thing is that you can safely rely on yourself for its sustenance once you navigate it well!

Navigating Slow Months in Your Design Business | Sketch Design Repeat
2. Explore forgotten or new hobbies

Alright, you’ve accepted it, now what? One way to be productive is to pick up some hobbies. Countless articles claim how amazing it is for the brain to break from a constant routine once in a while. Your hobbies can be related to your art or not — it doesn’t matter as long as it’s something you have fun doing! Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What is an activity that I enjoy but haven’t done in a while?
  2. What is something I wish I learned but never had the time to do?
  3. What is a new skill I’d like to pick up?

I remember when I was burnt out due to the slow months in my career, I picked up acrylic painting on canvas. It’s something I’ve adored seeing other artists do and I’ve always wanted to learn it, but never got time to practice it. Believe me, it was refreshing and surprising how much confidence it gave me. 

Doing activities that stimulate your brain can boost your happiness and confidence – it’s a good way to be productive and add up skills that you’ve always wanted. You could be learning a language, an instrument, taking a class, or simply building acquaintances with people who want to do the same! There are countless ways to muster up some courage and try a new thing or polish an old one. 

However, picking up a hobby that is associated with or close to your business might be challenging as it may remind you more about your business. I sincerely understand.

We don’t want to rush right into a hobby when slow months hit. While some people could benefit from the transition, it could take some more time for others. Keep a tab on whatever it is that you do, it should be in terms of healthy productivity! Let a hobby benefit you rather than drain you even more.

Related Article: Setting Healthy Boundaries
as a Work from Home Artist

3. Take part in some kind of travel

As artists, our art generally requires us to sit in a place, whether it is your cozy sofa or your desk. We need to have a good amount of focus as we coordinate our ideas with our hands. How can you break off this routine, especially when you need a change?

One of the easiest ways to start ‘traveling’ is to simply make art in a different place in your room. You can pursue your newly picked-up hobby in your bedroom versus your desk. While it may not be familiar, possible, or even comfortable, it’s worth a try. With our brains always knowing the pattern of ‘we need to draw’ when we are at our desks, this change can help you feel fresh and new. 

Another way is to go to the outside world. No, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to go somewhere far away (and if that’s the case, Shannon hosts yearly SDR retreats in inspiring European locations), but just exploring your city or a neighborhood can make us seek inspiration in newer places. 

Navigating Slow Months in Your Design Business | Sketch Design Repeat

A cozy café trip, a little self-date on a park bench, or a train ride to a different city are some of the ways where you can be on a budget and still take yourself or your loved ones on a little excursion. A different place helps you have a fresh perspective. 

In one of my recent travels, I challenged myself to sketch outdoors. Perfectionism hit a little and it was out of my comfort zone, but it surprised me how well I could sketch en plein air. You don’t even have to have a sketchbook with you. It could simply be a travel outing or a travel art date, the choice is yours! Whatever you feel called to do, trust me, it makes a great experience!

4. Share your journey with someone

But when I decided to shift my mind, muster some courage, and speak up, I saw so many people come out to support me. I remember putting something up on my Instagram stories once and many artists messaged me that they were going through the same.

So just put yourself out there. You never know how you may build friendships and good bonds with people who care about your art online. It’s refreshing. Likewise, when you see another artist sharing their struggle, you can be that beacon of hope to them. 

5. Try creating a little something

If you decided to take a little trip down the road or travel across the city, I’m sure it rewired and refreshed your brain a little, if not completely. You might even be feeling a little better because you’re in the rhythm of slowness. Your business is not your most important priority right now, and you’re okay with it.

Previously, I discussed taking part in a hobby, so what do I mean by ‘try creating a little something?’ I’m mentioning this because it is crucial! While taking a break from your business is fine, being too detached from it, isn’t. It may disconnect you or even worse, make it hard for you to come back.

Navigating Slow Months in Your Design Business | Sketch Design Repeat

By creating a little something every other day that’s still related to your business, like making little elements for your pattern or sorting out art files, you can still have a sense of ownership and compassion towards your business. It’s tough at times to maintain such a boundary but believe me, it is possible!

One way I apply this is to create fun little illustrations that nobody will see online. It’s just for me, and my quiet time. Some artists also use the slow months to focus on personal projects. You could be surprised by what you discover from it! 

6. Be excited to come back

After applying some or all of the above tips as you navigate your career, you may see a noticeable difference in how you show up during these slow months. It’s about finding a balance of letting go while still being in touch with creativity. The slow months won’t last always, will they? I don’t think so!

You know your business better than anyone else. You will sense and know the transition from a period of rest to coming back very well. Which is why, be prepared and excited! With all the moments you’ve taken to heal, make new things, and move around, it’s finally time to show up and take your design business to its next stepping stone.

No rushing, though! Take it slow. Maybe start by writing a list of things that you left off and what the tasks are. Then, choose one broad goal and break it down into smaller tasks for you to begin easily. It’s time to shine, dear artist!

So, there you have it, six artistic weapons to help you shield yourself and your business when the slow months hit.

You won’t be perfect right away. Each season can look different and that’s fine. It’s just a part of being an artist. We should always aim to be equipped with how we can deal with the best of the best days and also the worst ones.

Finding yourself all pumped up during your best business months while also relaxing as you come back to yourself during the slow months is all you need to maintain the balance in your design business!

Written by Daksha Giri

Instagram: @dakshagiri

Daksha Giri is an illustrator and lettering artist based in India who creates beautiful and unique artwork that is both visually appealing and emotionally resonant. Her work is seen in greeting cards, packaging, giftware & home décor.

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