This blog is powered by the leading online school of visual arts.

Select Page

Creative Downtime

by Taylor Slattery | September 15, 2022

For most of us, our creative pursuits start out as something we do for fun during our free time. As we start to learn more and further immerse ourselves into these new hobbies, we become aware of their depth and the amount of time necessary to achieve a professional level of proficiency. Gradually, what began as a hobby begins to take up more and more of our time, leading many to enter schools for a more formal education and others to double down on their self-study efforts.

Eventually, all of that hard work pays off when you are finally able to make that transition from hobbyist or student to working professional. When this happens, you suddenly find yourself left with a void to fill. Without school or study to fill your days, and with further creative development taking place on the job, you’ve now got a large block of time available to you.

First, congratulations on having successfully turned your passion into a career. Now that the bulk of your time is spent not only doing something you love, but being paid to do it, you may be wondering what to do with all of that time you used to spend studying. Well, here are some ideas.

Using downtime well

The first option, and something I recommend you continue to do regardless of where you are in your career, is to spend some of your free time learning new skills. While you were still studying, and working towards becoming a professional, your creative time outside of school was spent largely self-guided. You were free to do what you want and learn skills in order to accomplish your specific goals. That is still the case today. The best part is, because you’ve already reached a professional level of proficiency in one domain, anything else you can add on top of that is just a bonus.

You could pick up skills that would complement the set you’ve already got and could lead to future career developments, or head in the opposite direction and try something completely unrelated to your career just for fun. These could even be one and the same. Say for example you are a graphic designer during your day job, but you’ve got dreams of building a YouTube channel and maybe one day doing that full time.

The video production and editing skills you would need to accomplish this would be nicely complemented by the skills you already have as a graphic designer. Even if you never end up making it big on YouTube, your new set of skills will open up additional doors and avenues you can explore as your career develops. You don’t necessarily have to make it big for something like developing a YouTube channel to be a worthwhile pursuit either, which brings me to the next creative use of downtime, which is building an online presence.

This doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of a YouTube channel. Your visibility and the extent to which you put yourself out there are completely within your control. You might just start a blog to share your love of book design or share your illustrations on Instagram. There may be a ceiling to the amount of reach you can achieve on each platform, but the most important thing is to just get started.

Building an audience and establishing trust requires a lot of trial and error which in turn requires persistence and time. Finding different ways to share your experience with an audience online can not only be profitable, but is a great way of actually helping to nurture and develop the next wave of creatives and further the discipline as a whole. Having a group of people who trust your opinion grants you a lot of flexibility in terms of career options and can open doors to opportunities you never would have imagined.

In a similar vein, you could develop a small business that you can run out of your home to supplement the income you make from your day job. Maybe you’re into woodworking, craft beer, or candle making. Creative skills like web design, photography, or graphic design can be applied to any sort of product you can imagine to help you stand out from the competition. Whether that’s an impressive website, killer product photography, or drool-worthy package design, there’s no limit to the ways in which the skills you already have can be used to diversify your streams of income. Like developing an online presence, building a business also takes time and it may be years before you can taste the fruits of your labor.

There’s no perfect time to get started and you’re bound to make plenty of mistakes along the way, so as long as your business doesn’t require a huge injection of capital upfront, it’s best to just get started and learn as you go. You never know how things will unfold at work or if something will unexpectedly gain traction in your personal projects, but if you start now you’ll be in a better place in a few year’s time, whether that’s in the form of experience gained from lessons learned the hard way, or a successful business.

No matter what you choose to do, even if that ends up being none of the above, our brains have a funny way of making connections so anything you do is bound to benefit your creativity in some way or another.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


This blog is powered by Sessions College, the leading online school of visual arts.

NoD Newsletter

Enhance your inbox with our weekly newsletter.