Working on Personal Projects

Essential advice for the creative mind.

I examine how working on multiple creative personal projects has many benefits, including making you better at your job.

Creative Workspace

Working within the creative industry can be exhausting. Complex briefs, demanding clients and tight deadlines are a daily occurrence.

Anyone with a career in graphic or website design is likely to know the importance of briefly disengaging with a project to come back at it with more focus.

Taking short breaks throughout the day is hardly revolutionary advice for any vocation, but it’s what you do with the time that is important.

My advice is simple; take short breaks throughout the day and, rather than using the time to check Facebook, watch TV or eat crisps, instead use the time to work on a range of creative personal projects.

Working on personal projects will:

  • Give you more focus on your professional projects
  • Improve your skills
  • Sustain your passion
  • Allow you to practice with creative freedom
  • Gain valuable exposure*

Working on Personal Projects

Why personal projects?

While studying graphic design at University, we had the creative freedom to dictate our own briefs. We had carte blanche to create whatever we wanted, as long as it could be justified as being relevant to the outlines given by our lecturers.

As a result of this freedom, I was able to create projects that were incredibly fun, risqué, and ambitious.

Upon leaving university and embarking on a design career, it wasn’t long until I realised that this total creative freedom is something that doesn’t apply in the real world.

Even designers that I have spoken to, who hold senior roles at prestigious design firms all say the same thing, which is, though many clients may have the vision, trust, and budget to allow them to facilitate some out of the box ideas, the essential point is that any designer, at any level will always be confined by the final approval from the client. That’s the job.

So, using breaks to work on projects which have no other goal than to fulfil a creative desire will help you to maintain the passion that propelled you into your job in the first place.

 FACT: Working on personal projects will make you a better designer.

– Big Dot

Why more than one?

Working on personal projects still allows your mind to take a break. I straddle multiple creative disciplines. Having several ongoing personal projects in a variety of categories means that I can switch from a professional coding project to a personal graphic design project or vice-versa.

Ultimately, though, if you are working on a taxing professional commission, simply disengaging with a task for a short period will allow you to revisit it with a greater focus, even if you just switch to a similar task.


Gain Exposure

Personal projects are often far more interesting than professional ones, and this doesn’t get overlooked by the creative community.

The Creative Chair, Hurd Library VR and Toonstruck 2 projects were/are all done in my free time and with no pattern on professional progression. Despite this, these are the projects which have garnered the most recognition from the creative community and professional enquiries.

*It is crucial to remember that gaining exposure should be a serendipitous by-product of your personal project. If your goal is increased exposure, then you have allowed it to define the brief, thus contravening the ethos of the endeavour.

So, as you can see, there are many benefits to working on your own projects during your breaks so, if you’re not doing it already, stop watching videos of cats on YouTube and create something without limitations.

Will Carey

About the Author

Will Carey is the founder of The Big Dot Company and Creative Chair. He started experimenting with digital design in the 90’s, turning it into a business after obtaining a degree in graphic design in 2012.