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5 Ways To Have A Productive (and Creative) Summer Break

Making the most of the seasonal down time can help set you up for the rest of the year. Here are a few thoughts for creative professionals on how to make the most of your summer break.

making the most of down timeImage from Flickr
In the creative industries the summer, and especially August, tend to be the quietest months of the year. Making the most of the down time can help set you up for the rest of the working year. After coming on near a decade of working as a freelance film editor, here are five ideas on how to have a creatively productive summer.

1. Update Your Work

The summer is a great time to take stock of the past year and plan ahead for the up-coming new work/academic year.  This makes it a good time to review your business materials. How old or out of date is your website, showreel and business cards? These crucial business items are often left by creatives on the back burner, as they’re usually too busy to do anything about them. But you’ll need them in good shape at a moments notice when a big new client gets in touch and wants to see your work. Take a day or two to revamp, re-create and renew your online portfolio so that it really represents your best work. Reprint your dwindling stack of business cards and get all your ‘stuff’ updated.
How to make the most of the summer as a creative

Also remember to update your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social network profiles so that if potential clients check you out, or stumble across you online, they’ll be able to get in touch quickly and with an accurate understanding of your skill base.

2. Reach Out

Given that you (and many others in creative industries) are now time-rich, it’s an ideal opportunity to get out there and meet people. Get in touch with recruitment agencies in your town and pop in for a meeting to get on their books. Contact some companies that you might like to get in with and see if you can pop in for a meeting and show off your portfolio.  If you have other industry contacts who might be a bit more experienced than you then take them out to lunch, or for a drink, and pick their brains on how you can advance yourself in your chosen industry. Essentially invest your time in sowing seeds and reconnecting with contacts old and new to help set you up for the year ahead.

get ahead in your career with business lunches

3. Go Back to School

The summer lull should provide you with some time to get back to school, get up-skilled and become more employable. If you can, try to take a real summer class at a college or university if you can. You never know who else you might meet with similar interests. Plus, you’ll hopefully leave with some kind of certificate or proof of competency. I think its also worth attempting something which will expand your skill set in more diverse directions. If you’re an editor an acting or directing class might be beneficial. Or even better, a class in theology, accountancy or cookery for that matter. There is an advantage to be had in simply having to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge. Stretching parts of the brain that might have otherwise lain dorment the rest of the year. Plus it will help to demonstrate to clients that you’re not a two-dimensional person.

If you don’t have the time or money to invest in a full time summer course, there are plenty of great resources online. Coursera, The Khan Academy and iTunes U have hundreds of courses available – the majority of them for free. Learn some new skills on marketing, negotiation, business development or something more tangible. Once you start browsing you’ll soon discover tons of interesting courses are available, so get browsing.

making the most of the summer lull
Image from Flickr
Also if you’re going to invest in some paid training series for a new piece of software, think through what the other barriers to entry might be. For example, learning DaVinci Resolve with an excellent course from somewhere like Ripple Training will definitely get you up to speed on the program and the essentials of color grading. However, to really make money being a colorist you will then need to have a calibrated monitor, correctly lit room and  the beefy hardware to support your clients needs…which might be prohibitively expensive. Mastering After Effects on the other hand, might well supplement your graphics design, editorial or photographic skill base and directly lead to more work.

4. Do a Passion Project

Depending on how busy you normally expect to be over the summer months it could well be worth dusting off that old project you started and never finished or beginning a whole new one. If you’ve got a burning passion to tell a good story, the summer might be the best time to do embark on passion project of your own. Plus you might find some really talented creatives who also have time on their hands who don’t mind getting involved too. If you invest your time in helping out on some freebie projects, try to pick ones that represent an area of work that you want to be moving into. If you’ve never had a chance to do a music video, scan Mandy, Shooting People or other online production resources for upcoming music video work. Hopefully you’ll also make some good contacts and have fun along the way. Make sure you walk away with at least a credit and a copy of the finished project to include in your newly updated online showreel.

5. Get Away

BeachThe most important thing you can do with your summer break is to actually take a break. Getting away from work, resting, relaxing and re-charging are all vital for sustaining yourself throughout the rest of the year (or at least until your next holiday). Time off is crucial to making the most of your time on the job. You won’t regret it.

How do you utilize breaks in work?
Share your thoughts & suggestions in the comments below!

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