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Map: To getting out of a career slump

Maps: Our series that puts an intelligent lens


This week, getting out of a career slump.

A note from Sam: This week, our freelance creative Ruby PH wrote about her experience.

I was in the throws of my first six months as a freelance designer, my first couple clients were ok. I had no idea how to price myself correctly, I had no systems of communication or business practises. I just had to figure it out as I went along. I got by pretty well, but money was something that was on my mind as a potential challenge, getting new clients is a nuanced skill I hadn’t mastered. 

I landed a new client through word of mouth, my biggest project to date. Unfortunately, at every point in the project, my ideas were met with negative feedback, and every invoice was so hard to send. It seemed like they didn’t even want to work on the project. After that, I had to face cancellation of work, a few promising leads that fizzled out and another client who was as challenging as the first. I felt so downtrodden, especially since my work is rooted in my ideas and creative practise – that string of not so great moments made be believe my work wasn’t any good, and I feared my cashflow would start to dwindle if I couldn’t get my shit together. I had some other things in my life that were making me stressed as well, which wasn’t helping the situation. It all seemed to spiral at once. 


Obviously, I had to figure something out and get back into a groove of producing good work for good businesses. So I set up a plan to fix my slump. I spoke to my mum who’s a recruiter, my brother, who’s a financial advisor, and some of the really great people I’d previously done work for.

I asked lots of questions to any new professionals I met in my industry and tried to learn as much as I could

I reached out to my creative friends and they helped me get out some of my stress and anxiety just by listening. I started hitting up events and speaking to new people as often as I could. One person I sat next to was the owner of a really cool creative company, and I ended up working on a 6-month project with them. I took on the task of putting out some original work while it was quiet on the client-side of things. I made sure to make things that sparked curiosity, and that I was really passionate about, sure enough, the clouds cleared, I found some new people to work with who loved the projects I’d been putting out and got myself out of my career slump. 

Identify what you’re feeling and give some thought to what’s going on in

First — Identify 

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  1. Identify what you’re feeling and give some thought to what’s going on in your life that might be affecting your work. 
  2. Have a chat to your boss/manager/mentor/significant other/mum. Someone you trust, and who’s opinion you value. Let them know what you’re feeling and what you want to do.

Second — Plan 


  1. Create a plan of action, say 3 months, what do you want out of that? What will happen if those needs aren’t met? 
  2. Speak to your boss about it, and get them on board. 
  3. Take a mental health day, communicate beforehand, and reset. 


Plan — Some things to do 


  1. Go to upcoming industry events, take yourself or your colleagues, meet some new people, listen to other professionals and enjoy some work related free food and drinks. 
  2. Go for mentorship coffees, and even colleague coffees. Learn some new things from them and share your own experiences. 
  3. Participate in business development, work on contributing to company culture in a new way. 
  4. Upskill, this might take a while, and even an investment, but if you’re feeling like you’ve reached your peak, find a new one and learn how to get there. 
  5. Take on a new responsibility or project and get stuck into it. 

Third — Evaluate 

  1. Take the time to sit down for a self evaluation and a meeting with your mentor again. Talk about whats changed, whats not, whats good, whats bad. Get it all out. 
  2. Rinse and repeat, or figure out if what you’re doing is actually right for you. 
  3. Pivot if necessary, if you’re ultimately not happy, what’s next for you? Where do your interests and skills overlap? How can you get to that position? 
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