Work from Home as a Creative | Amarilys Henderson | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Intro to Work from Home


    • 2.

      Real Goalz


    • 3.

      Saying No


    • 4.

      Time Management


    • 5.



    • 6.



    • 7.

      Watch Yourself


    • 8.

      Finding Flow


    • 9.

      Being the Boss


    • 10.

      Passion to Inventory


    • 11.

      Power of Play


    • 12.

      A Few More Final Tips


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About This Class

Working from home is the dream! And. Working from home is so tricky! Cramming our passions into structure is like trying to herd cats in a pen, but it's not impossible. 

This class proposes that the way to work efficiently is by not working like your typical officemate. As your own boss and as a creative person, your priorities and passions look quite distinct because you shape them!

We will flip these three common ideas on their heads:

  • Manage your time
  • Set up your workdays with classical structure
  • Do the work that brings in money

And turn them into creative concepts:

  • Focus Management
  • Finding Flow
  • Passion to Inventory

This 35-minute chat is fun to watch and easy to re-listen to as we condition ourselves into vibrant, working entrepreneurs!

Amarilys Henderson has known the juggle of motherhood and career, while strategically stepping towards new, fun frontiers. She is the an artist, author, and instructor to 100K here on Skillshare. Her career highlights include publishing, writing, and/or illustrating three books (for Quarto and Dayspring), designing a fabric line (through Paintbrush Studio Fabrics), creating paintings for dishes (for Mikasa) and speaking at Alt Summit... all within 14 months.

Meet Your Teacher

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Amarilys Henderson

Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

Top Teacher

Hello! I'm Amarilys. I process on paper and I problem-solve with keystrokes.

As a commercial illustrator, I've had the pleasure of bringing the dynamic vibrance of colorful watercolor strokes to everyday products. My work is licensed for greeting and Christmas cards, art prints, drawing books, and home decor items. My design background influences much of my recent work, revolving around typography and florals.

While my professional work in illustration is driven by trend, my personal work springs from my faith. Follow along on Instagram


Learn a variety of fun and on-trend techniques to improve your work!

See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Intro to Work from Home: Hey guys. I just want to level with you about being a creative that works from home. People ask me constantly how I get it all done. We are wild spirits, and we're curious, and we're easily distracted. Use those things that nine to fivers call weaknesses and turn them into strength. I want to teach you three mental shifts that I've learned in making myself more productive and more focused to create the kind of work and lifestyle that I've always wanted. I'm Emma Henderson. I am a surface designer, I'm a mom. I teach, I paint, and I want to teach you what I've learned. 2. Real Goalz: My aim is not to make you feel less than, or intimidated, or you're not doing enough, I really want to free you from feeling you're running in circles, to do what you need to do, get it done, be productive, and enjoy being able to do what you want to do from home. I understand that there are a lot of things involved with having your own business. Being an entrepreneur, in my case, I'm a creative mompreneur, a few extra challenges, but it was those challenges that have made me be better at it, be very intentional at it. We're going to redefine, re-frame some of those ideas, so that they feel something you can jump into happily, and not another task on your to-do list. I will often, within a week, work on three to four areas of my business. I work with both my right and my left brain quite often, and they're going back and forth into creativity and logistics, and fun, and strategic, and I've often been told that a lot of the things that I'm good at are actually not things that you should be good at. For instance, juggling a lot of things, I don't hibernate, I don't have one industry that I'm really known in and just kill at. These are things that I actually like about my career. I love variety. I love being able to bounce from one thing to another, and the way that I do that is with a lot of intentionality and remembering what I'm grateful for in this particular job. I'm also quite choosy about who I work with. I've had some business failures, some things that did not work out, and looking back, I see the common thread is that my heart really wasn't into it. I don't do too many graphic design permissions anymore. I don't have my wedding business anymore, where I do wedding invitations. I decided I just really wasn't into that hustle, it's a completely different level of hustle, than I'm comfortable with, that I enjoy doing. It's not that I pull the plug when I don't feel excited about it anymore, I really tried to listen to the nuances of my own gut of where I'm being led to, because I do think that there is absolutely a force that guides our creativity, and guides our steps, and I want to honor that. 3. Saying No: I just really use my best discernment to say no. It's more important to be able to say no than to say yes. That is actually what makes people successful. We make a big deal of yes and welcoming opportunity. That's really fun and exciting to talk about and scary and facing your fears and there's a place for that. But what might be actually scarier is to say no, to cancel that thing, to show that, you know what? I didn't have enough ticket sales coming in for this. Its not coming together its not happening. It's better to redirect this event or this thing that I was going to do. Feeling like you have egg on your face, risking that, and being okay with that is incredibly important because it is accepting what the world calls failure as part of the process. That's a good thing. 4. Time Management: Right off the bat, I want to talk about time management. Huge topic. First of all, I hate the words, time management. I just really hate the term. I remember reading a blog post, it must have been like eight years ago by Wayne Stiles where he talks about how we can't manage time, so stop trying to, and it's so true. Since when is time your [inaudible] that you could just tell it when to go, when to stop and when to obey you. It's just not something that we can control, that we can therefore manage. Besides whoever goes up to want to be a manager. I like to re-frame this whole idea of time management to focus, managing my attention span, managing my focus to be what's most important. Things happen and things change constantly, I have a sick kid. I'm out for the day. But I have found ways that I can adjust to it because I know what is most important for that specific day, and I also have been nurturing, the discipline of being able to focus on what that is, whether I feel like it or not, and finding a way to find joy in what I'm doing at the moment. This is something that is a skill that is definitely nurtured, but I want to give you some tips to navigate that as you try to be more and more focused with all this time and freedom that you have now working on your own as perhaps even your own boss. 5. Priorities: All right, so as we start to re-frame this whole idea of time management to being focus management, to being focused on our priority or what's needs to be done. Let's first start off with your to-do list. On the day before I start my week, it might be for you Sunday night as it is for me. It might be Monday night, whatever that is, write down your list of to-dos, write everything. Whether it be soccer games or meds you need to pick up or projects you need to make or contacts you need at call, prospects you need to work on whatever that is, write it all down. A lot of people like to call this a brain dump. Under the Resources tab, you'll find a printable if you'd like to start your dump list right now. You can also post it in the projects or maybe a selfie, maybe a video, talk a little bit about how you are processing all the things that you have to do. Now, you've got this massive list of all the things that are giving you anxiety and making you think. I want to be sure not to forget this thing. It would be good if I and there's that. When you look at this list in the pit of your gut, you're going to feel what is most important. Now it might be based on timeline, be it that it's due soon. It might be based on season. For me, I have such a thing as a trade show seasons when preparing for a trade show or this season, it's really important for me to prepare this offering because in a couple months is going to be a great time to roll that out. It might be priority because, you know, it's really important and you keep putting it off. It might be a priority because it's going to be a financial generator later. It could be just the heart of your work. It could just be creating portfolio pieces, whatever that is, make that your number one. You're going to know once you get it all out, you're going to know which is the most important. Once you find that number one, you're going to feel the pull of a number two, because you're going to feel the tension of, this is also really important. You make that your second priority. You'll find that in your to-do list, you will start to develop a lot of things that go with each other. For instance, if I'm thinking about preparing a class like this, preparing the outline might be something, or maybe I want to ask more questions of people around me. If this is a necessary topic, What else do you think I should offer? Make an Instagram post asking those kinds of questions? All that stuff is on my brain dump. But all that stuff is number one, let's say it's all one project. As I write a number one on all of those, same with priority number two. Priority number three will kick in maybe midweek. If you have time for it. You can categorize your dump list things into priorities using the same cheat sheet that is in the Resources tab. 6. Leftovers: Now the thing is that you're going to have a lot of things left over on your list and those things are left to one of three places. They are sent to the dump day basically afternoon I reserve for all those thing. They will be sent to next week or they will be completely crossed off. Our biggest enemy is not actually an inability to accept what the top priority is. It's being lagged on by the weight of all the things that we're not going do that are not for us to do. I encourage you to embrace completely exing out things on your list, even though they were on your to-do list and they were on your mind, decide if it's time to just say, you know what, this is just not going to happen. This is just not that important or I need to make this more important and I'm going to put it on next week and it's definitely going to be my one or two. 7. Watch Yourself: Secondly, as you look at your week, I want you to monitor yourself. Everybody has these rhythms and flows that they work through their week. You think of the word Wednesday and you already have an idea of a mood that you're in, like, oh, Wednesday. I know Wednesday, or maybe Monday feels very productive, or maybe Mondays usually are sluggish because you're really just trying to get going with your week. Notice those differences in yourself. Not only by the day of the week, but also the time of the day. I've gotten good at recognizing when my most productive time of the day is, and it is mid morning for sure. From 10:00 to noon. I am warmed up. My coffee is working its way in me through my blood and I am excited for what's ahead in the day. I encourage you to not only monitor your week, the times of the day, little splices or chunks or seasons of the day. We're chunking down basically our time. But also, notice how people that you're connected with, react on certain times of the day. Check your Instagram and notice when people are most active in watching your posts, check your e-mail and notice that, the other 10 times people e-mail you on Tuesday and Wednesday. Nationally, it's just known that Americans have the most productive time between 11:00 and 1:00 on Wednesday, right in the middle of the week. That's when you'll receive e-mails. It's when you'll get dings and all kinds of notifications. As I know that, I am just amassing all this data, this understanding, so that then I'm planning my week to not go against the grain of what naturally occurs every week. Take your priorities and disperse them among your most creative times, your most productive times, and then add in dashes of the other things in other pockets. 8. Finding Flow: Here's my example. On Mondays, I'm usually raring to go because Sunday night, I have created my plan for the week and I'm feeling like, "I know exactly what I need to do, I want to do it." Monday morning, I pretty much do what I want to do. I'm not getting emails so much, I'm not getting requests for, I don't know, quotes or artwork. It's really a small window of time where no one's bugging me and I get to do what I want to do and I'm excited to do it. Monday morning is a good time for me. I might be slow in getting into it, but it's my time. I make that my portfolio time. Monday afternoon, I'm ready to get on priority number one. I'm just like, "Enough time on me, I need to get on priority number one." Then that goes into Tuesday. Now, Wednesday I have an engagement that I've deemed important, so I put that on Wednesday morning. Then Wednesday afternoon, I know that I'm going to deal with email. I tend to do email towards the end of the day so that I'm not only thinking through my response, I am a slow processor and that I want to internalize what I'm listening and just pump out a very concise answer instead of replying right away. I tend to do that at the end of the day and it also makes me feel right before my kids come home that I did that thing, I sent those emails. Things are in motion for tomorrow and for future work. Thursday tends to be a portfolio day for me. For whatever reason I love Thursdays, they're creative. I tend to do creative stuff then. If it's a priority, let's say creating a class or if it's portfolio time, something like that, that's my day. Friday is my catch all day. Friday is the day that I look back on my plan and I either pick up priority number three or I pick up the crumbs of all the things that I left behind. For instance, on Tuesday I was supposed to prepare all my tax documents. I didn't make sure I masked all the proper mileage and checked on my sales tax, that's going to get done on Friday. I'm not even worrying about it Wednesday and Thursday because that's going to be done on Friday now. Take that dumped list. It's like a lot of little puzzle pieces and put those puzzle pieces into groups by color, by kind. Then you'll be able to construct your week throughout using those puzzle pieces. I hope that analogy makes sense. 9. Being the Boss: Another mental shift we need to make as people look at us, as freelancers or as working from home. When I think of being my own boss, it sounds like a really exciting idea, and it is. But there is a special feeling we have towards bosses, good or bad, mild or not. It's someone who has authority over us and that's hard to hear. It's hard to take cues from that person saying this is what we need to do. This is what should be most important to you. This is what you need to do today, and this is what we love and this is what we don't. The thing is that when you're your own boss, you are that guy to yourself. It gets real personal, real fast a way to like yourself as a boss is to actually set up as many parameters as possible so that you can not be so mad at yourself. Let me explain. When you're in a 9-5, you have someone who creates these boundaries for you. You know exactly when you punch in and when you come out of work. Maybe you work over time, whatever. But there are expectations laid out. There are time perimeters, there are project parameters. All these things are already in place. There are expectations of how often you go to the bathroom. They obviously don't expect you to load the dishwasher while you're working. There's things like that that are already in place, but when you are your own boss, none of that is there. You have to create your own boundaries. It's like creating a little fence, a little play pen for you to play within and know that you are safe, and that you are doing a good job. Because being your own boss also means that you don't get those quarterly or annual reviews, or that pat on the back from time to time. Unless you take social media high fives really seriously. There's no one who's actually assessing your work and saying you're doing a good job. Way to go, keep it up. The way to do that is to systematize. When I talk about systems, I'm talking about things that run automatically, programs that help you stay accountable, things that help you do your workflow better. That is a system. It's basically something in place that keeps you from having to be the boss of that thing. Systems are never ending because you will find more and more things to systematize as you move on in your career. Begin systematizing the things that you hate doing. Because those are the things that you'll become the worst boss to yourself over. For instance, finances, bookkeeping. Like most freelancers, I use a bookkeeping app called GoDaddy Bookkeeping. I think it's called Outright. It links to my business checking account and it automates a lot of things. I do have to go through and comb through. Maybe use QuickBooks or something like that to create invoices. Those things are really helpful, that's definitely a first step. A next step would be to have a regular time when you're doing this, whether it be on the app or on your computer, you have to have that house keeping time set in place. One way to do that is to send yourself reports weekly. You put on your boss hat and you look through all the things that were spent that week, your analytics, I don't know. Your profit and loss, what clients are performing the best, whatever those things. You look that over and just the effort of doing that, the practice of doing that is very free because you know, you're doing a good job, so you get your gold star. Another thing that'll help you immensely is a calendar. I use my calendar to not only tell me when I have appointments, but I also block off time that I need for my most important work. You know what your most important work is, I'm going to suspect that it is in creating content of some sort. I create art pieces, that's my inventory. We will talk about that later. I need to block that time off because if I don't actually make it an appointment, it will slide into the cracks. These priorities that often get overtaken, they're overtaken by things that are urgent. When someone else is knocking at your door and bugging you to do the thing, suddenly that person has become your boss. I encourage you to think of yourself as a CEO and actually consider what does a CEO do? Does the CEO spend hours a day on Instagram? Does a CEO spend a lot of time doing these smaller tasks that we allot a lot of time into, and replace those with systems. 10. Passion to Inventory: The third shift I'd love to encourage you to do, particularly if you are creative, this is going to apply to you, is cultivating your passion to create inventory. Those are big words. What I mean by that is that being creative and making your creative work your living, you find yourself between a rock and a hard place often where you're trying to do work that will pay the bills, and work that you are really excited about, and what's going to end up happening is that you started out on your entrepreneurial journey so that you could create more work that you're excited about. As you get more clients or as you seek more work out, you are going to be more and more focused on the thing that generates income. This is usually seen as like this negative tension between bread and butter jobs and passion projects, but I choose not to see it that way. I think something that we have in common though in seeing these two philosophies is that you want to put your passion first and your income second, and that sounds really idealized when you're trying to make bills and fill the pantry. So what I encourage you to do is to double up on your work. When you ask my kids what I do they just think that the only thing that I like to do is paint, because I paint when I'm feeling something, I paint when I'm bored, I paint, when was last time I was bored? I paint for work, I paint for fun, and I paint to cultivate my own passions, and creativity. So that's a lot of painting, and they see that, but for me it's all very different, and I think you can understand that. Particularly, let's say as a graphic designer, your work is very client directed. What's funny is that we start doubting ourselves for instance, when someone comes up to me, let's say via email, comes to me and asks, hey, we saw this piece that you did and we like, we want you to do something similar to that but we want this, can you do that? Then I am sitting at my desk and I'm just like struggling to figure out, what is it that they like? Do they like this, do they like that? What is it that I can pull out of it? That problem came about because I lost sense of what I like about my work, and what you like about your work shines through. That's why passion projects, what I mean by that are pieces that you put out into the world for no other reason except the you love what you're doing. That's why they have so much life in them, because you actually invest life into them and so I encourage you to put those pieces first. It's not just to keep you sane, it's not just to keep you from creative burnout which we all legitimately fear, but it's because this work is going to generate work a year from now. So you need to be creating this artwork as your inventory. If you keep creating inventory portfolio work based on what clients want from you, you are going to lose sense of not only your creative voice but they will too, and those clients will slowly fall away because you have lost that spark, right? You're going to keep getting the same kind of jobs and get sick of whatever it is that you're working on. So either the clients will run out or your passion will run out and you're going to be stuck,and I don't want that for you. It's very important as a priority, something that's a revolving thing, be it once a month, that's your priority for the week, or something that you commit to doing on a regular basis in a certain time slot every week to create work that's all you. People won't know how to ask you to do something unless they've seen you do it. 11. Power of Play: I remember when I started painting what I now call watercolor playgrounds, they were these wild landscapes guided by design methods. I would just think of color and line, and just go back to the basics and doodle. I posted a class about it here, on Skillshare, and I look at these watercolor blobs that I made and just interpret what they could possibly be, or what I could turn them into with markers, or more watercolor, or other mediums as part of a challenge that I gave myself, and I do really encourage those creative challenges having that accountability on social media and say, "I'm going to do this thing," and then having to stick to it. Yet another class of mine, I had a stick to it. I printed out my watercolor playgrounds as inventory just the same just because honestly I wanted to bulk up my portfolio and I liked them, but I didn't see how they could be on things as I thought about different industries, like greeting cards, gift, I just didn't really see this as I would say, walk-around target. But I was really humbled, amazed, surprised. It was wonderful to see the response that I got from these pieces. I had a dream client. Quite honestly, I didn't know they were dream client until I looked them up after they walked away and I was like, "Oh, my goodness." That's what they liked. They liked this weird stuff. If you are finding yourself creatively stuck, just start doing things that you think that people will not like. As you're doing that before anyone freaks out, do call it a series, it might stick out to your followers, to your clients like, "This is different." You just call it, I'm just doing a series experimenting in this way. Throw in some of your usual work, and it's fine. Don't feel like you need to be stuck in just whatever genre or niche you've planted yourself in. These different experiments, these new ways of creating whatever it is that you want to play with is maybe not going to open doors in the industry you're already in, but open other doors. So whether you choose to divide that down the line and say, "Well, this is my this work and this is my that work," you don't need to worry about that, but do start creating work just for the sake of creating it because this is your inventory for next year. If you are a graphic designer and you're thinking, "I wish I had more work like this." Do more work like this, and those clients will see that and maybe gravitate more towards that. To bring this all home, I think of Madonna, the singer, the artist. I do really respect how long her career has spanned, how much she has changed. Madonna's ability to evolve and have completely unpredictable album covers, I mean, anybody else raised in the '90s may be totally shocked how she swung from one way to the other, but it was still so very much her. I see that as a great example of someone who has longevity by evolving. We tend to believe that as freelancers, we can't change our minds too much because people don't know what to expect. But as long as it becomes something that you're growing into, that's a pattern and most importantly, is done excellently, it just elicits respect no matter what. You might have some people who may not care for your new style or this new series, but it's definitely going to open up doors for new people to be attracted to you. 12. A Few More Final Tips: As we approach these three mental mind shifts, as we work on our own, more and more, not thinking of time management, but rather focusing on what's important. Working with our natural flows and what we organically already do and creating work that is rewarding to you, to cultivate the work that you're going to get later. I want to leave you with some very practical no-brainers that you've heard before. But you need someone to tell you again because I need it constantly too. Leave your cell phone in another room, if it's too distracting. Give yourself work hours. Define what are times you work and don't have your phone around you, if that is going to keep you from working. You might need this pep talk again, or other pep talks. Lookup podcasts and things that motivate you, to make sure you are working. Lets not watch Netflix while we're working, or if you really want to, then define only one or two tasks that you're allowed to watch Netflix on while you're doing them. Let's say something completely brainless that you do constantly all the time. For me, it's cleaning up scans. Define a work space area, especially for you guys who have kids at home, you're going to need a space that over time they will respect as your workspace. Have a warm-up routine where you start to work. It might be the silliest thing. It might be like lighting a candle, sitting on your yoga ball, stretching. It might be a particular song or dance you want to do before starting the work day. There's something about creating a habit, whether it's related to what you do or not, that you do at the beginning of your work session to kind of click your mind into knowing we're working now and this is what we're going to do. Lastly, at the end of your day, create some buffer time. I find it really difficult to switch from one mode to another, and it's good to give myself ten minutes or a walk to the school to pick up my kids, to just put away what I haven't done for the day, write down all the things that you meant to do and didn't get to on that day and that's going to be on your list for the next day, and let it sit there. I hope that was all helpful for you as you navigate working on your own. It is so rewarding to work for ourselves, as long as we're not terrible bosses to ourselves. If you want to reach out to me, if you want more tips, feel free to ask me questions. I am here. I do respond to your questions on the class and on the board. I really enjoy feeling a sense of community with the content I just throw out there and hope is helpful for you. I love to hear that feedback. You can find me on Instagram as watercolordevo. Watercolors spelled the American Spelling with O-R, and then D-E-V-O after it. My website is the same, unless you want to venture into spelling my name, that will also work,