Navigating Hiatuses, Continuing Education, & Creative Fulfillment
A hiatus is a break in employment. This term borrows from the animation and film industry when employees are laid off between seasons or productions. In stop motion, a hiatus generally refers to the period of time after the end of a project (and your employment) and usually does not imply that you will be hired back for the next project unless this is directly discussed with you. 

*note that we do not claim to be financial experts, and you should consult a financial advisor about your unique situation*

The goal: Work toward having a three to six-month savings cushion to fall back on between jobs.
After-tax budgeting: 50: 30: 20 Rule (this link includes a helpful calculator as well). While it's great to get to a point where 30% of your budget goes to your wants/luxuries, it can be difficult when you're first starting out. The 50: 30: 20 can be a good goal to work towards. If you are freelancing and therefore paying your own taxes, 
Don't know where to start with budgeting? Track your current spending! Don't be afraid of your money and your spending. First, learn your current spending habits. From there, start off by contributing small amounts of each paycheck to a separate rainy day savings account and adjust as needed.
*note that we do not claim to be financial experts, and you should consult a financial advisor about your unique situation*

You can save for your retirement on your own through an IRA account.
Most jobs will not have a 401k, so it’s important that when a 401k is provided, you contribute as much as you can...especially if they match. 
Roth vs. Traditional IRA: With a Roth IRA, you contribute after-tax dollars, your money grows tax-free, and you can generally make tax- and penalty-free withdrawals after age 59½. With a Traditional IRA, you contribute pre- or after-tax dollars, your money grows tax-deferred, and withdrawals are taxed as current income after age 59½.
Pro Tip! The best way to be able to save money is to earn enough that you can save money—the best way to earn more money is to negotiate. That’s easier said than done, but always negotiate.  ​​​​​​​
If you are an employee and taxes are taken out of your paycheck, you should already be paying into your state's unemployment insurance benefit. You should qualify for this benefit once your employment ends, assuming you did not quit your job voluntarily. 
It's important to keep close track of your earnings for the 18 months before your unemployment begins. This will make applying for unemployment insurance faster. You should start the application process as soon as you are no longer employed because applications can take a few weeks to be reviewed, approved, and start paying you. You will likely also need to prove that you are actively looking for work while  receiving unemployment payments, so keep track of your outreach. 
Note that the amount and duration you qualify to receive this benefit depends on your state, your previous income, and the duration of your previous employment. 
Many jobs will not provide health care, and even if they do, your employment is likely project-based and temporary—especially while you’re starting out. While it is possible to maintain your healthcare from your employer after your job ends (in California, it's through a program called COBRA), it tends to be very expensive. A change in employment status is known as a "qualifying life event" and allows you to change your health insurance in the "marketplace" outside of the typical annual enrollment window. 
Many stop motion artists get their health insurance independently from the "marketplace" (in California, this is through Covered California).  It’s important to factor in your health care costs when you’re negotiating and budgeting. 
Creative fields are unique in that many of us don’t feel completely satisfied in our create-on-demand jobs. We feel that we need to be making work on our own too, and that can be exhausting. Fully integrating a creative life is important and necessary for many people, but for others creating separation and boundaries between your personal and professional life is a priority. If you’re financially prepared, hiatuses can be a time to take a break or dive into personal projects. 
Pursue projects that fill your creative well when up when you have downtime.
Many industry jobs are pretty specific and will only grow a small part of your cloud of abilities. Most of the time, stop motion studios don’t provide continuing education resources because your employment is project-based, so you need to seek continuing education out on your own in order to advance on the next project. 
Always be prepared for your hiatuses—keep track of the ideas that come to you: these can include anything from story ideas, potential collaborators, materials, techniques, etc.
Don’t wait until you don’t have a job anymore to think about updating your portfolio. Keep track of new work you can add to your portfolio come hiatus time. You can make personal projects that reflect where you want to go in your career. You can also make personal projects that are wholly separate from your career, and they are valuable too. Study things you like and why you like them - they’re most likely where you’ll pull from when your creative well is dry.
Home Studio Tips:

Having a dedicated home studio space or desk is great, but space comes at a premium in most stop motion hub cities. Think about how to keep your space flexible when you’re setting it up/purchasing furniture. 
Can you build your desk to double as an animation table? Can you build your shelves to double as a downshooter? When you buy curtains, can they be blackout curtains? Maybe go for rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpet to help you have  a dedicated/flexible shooting/workspace in your home.
Honing New Skills:
Classes! There are some free, grant-based class providers (like Studio Arts in Los Angeles), online Skillshare type classes, artists you follow may host workshops or their own classes, residencies, etc. 

Continuing to Improve Your Craft & Avoiding Burnout:
- Look outside of your industry for inspiration to feed your creative soul!
- Schedule time away and vacations
- Make time for your other interests 
- Take an actual break! It’s OKAY not to go home and work on your own projects—in many ways it’s good to have some separation between your home life and your craft.

Look for ways to integrate your cloud of abilities into your job so it can continue to bring you fulfillment. If you can’t find a way to do this, look for other options for fulfillment—maybe it's volunteering or donating your skills on a limited basis to a non-profit (just make sure you have full creative control). 
Identify the kind of work environment and work relationships that are best for you, and hone your ability to seek them out. Find your team + your mentors!
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