Freelancing to avoid burnout

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The dream of working at a big corporation or agency may soon fade out as you realise that burnout is always around the corner. It's scary. It's frightening. It makes you feel lost.

But freelancing is here to make up for that – at least for freelance illustrator Jennifer van de Sandt. Spending her days with her partner and her loyal dog in Hamburg, Jennifer turned to freelancing when she realised big advertising agencies could only lead her to a burnout before her 30s. And whether that is true in general or not, it definitely was for Jennifer, who is happier today than she could ever be in a crowded office environment.

Because that's what freelancing can do for you. Give you flexibility and some peace of mind... Amidst some business-related headaches.

For this Member Spotlight, we are learning more about the story and drive of a talented German illustrator. Get ready to fall in love with her style!


How did you get into the industry?

My path was very classical. I first studied communication design and then specialised in illustration for my master's degree. Already during my studies I worked for different magazines as picture editor or illustrator. So I could already gain some experience in the field.

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

With my partner (who is also an illustrator) and my dog Leica I live in Hamburg and I have my own studio here. As a freelance illustrator I work for companies, magazines, publishing houses or for agencies like Scholz & Friends or Redeleit und Junker. 


If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

To be honest, I can't imagine anything else. At the beginning of my studies it was still my goal to end up in one of the big advertising agencies. But I found it frightening to see how they wear out the staff there. I was worried that if I continued on that path, I would have a burnout at 30. I simply wanted to work as freely and self-determinedly as possible, and that's why I became an illustrator.

Can you explain your creative process?

Whenever I get a topic, I do my research first. This makes the topic clearer and I usually get an idea already. Then I go to Pinterest, Instagram or Behance and look for inspiration there. Sometimes it is a special colour combination, a certain perspective or simply a special language of form. For example, I often work with round shapes, so it's exciting to try something more angular. As soon as I have put together a small mood board, I start sketching and from then on it usually works by itself.


How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

Technology is great! When I was still working analogue, I always felt inhibited. My head was full of ideas, but as soon as I wanted to put them down on paper, I was afraid of doing something wrong and wasting expensive ink or paper. On the computer, on the other hand, you have CTRL + Z. When I finally started to work completely digitally, it was like a liberation. My whole style became more playful, colourful and light. 


What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Breaks and boredom! Actually I always find something to do. When I have a few days off, I use the time for free projects. Often also on weekends. But as much as I love my work, without breaks you feel exhausted at some point. Weekends and time out are simply important to fill your head with new ideas, impressions and experiences. But most important are the days when I experience real and absolutely nerve-racking boredom. That's when the best ideas come. 


What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I'm really proud that I manage to build up something in addition to my work as an illustrator. Whenever I don't feel like using screens anymore, I get involved with screen printing. Here the artistic aspect comes more to the fore and that is a perfect balance to my commissions.

How do you recharge away from the office?

For this I have a very important employee: my Bulldog Leica. She prevents me from sitting at my desk all day long and getting muddy in my brain. You just have to cuddle and play with her regularly, otherwise she looks at you terribly offended. I love to go for walks in the woods with her and go for short hikes.


What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Just hang in there and don't take part in any nonsense. Usually it takes 4-6 years until you earn really well. Especially in the beginning you are ready to take any job, no matter how badly paid. But in these jobs the customers are often so unfriendly and disrespectful that you quickly lose the joy of the work. At some point I decided that I would rather look for a part-time job than work for someone who doesn't respect my work. And the great thing was that I got to know my best client through one of these side jobs.


What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?

I would like to see the creative industries become more aware of their social responsibility. We create images that are often seen by many people. In them we can always reproduce old clichés, or we try to incorporate new ideas and perspectives. For example, someone once told me that my pictures often show thin, white, young women. That's why I try to pay attention to diversity and my clients are beginning to pay attention to it themselves. 


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