I am home today with my daughter. She is sniffly and groggy and needs a day of rest. She is cuddled up on the couch and watching cartoons. This is when I am so glad I am feelance/contract/work for myself. This is why I chose this path in the first place. Funny how I have been accused of putting work before my children so often when my motivating factor to do this at all has always been to be there for them. Yes, I work late, yes I work a lot, yes I think about work all the time (tell me one person who works for themselves that doesn’t) but in the end, when it matters, I can drop everything and be there for my kids. Whether it is a sick child or a basketball game or an awards ceremony at school.
The past three months have been wonderful financially, I admit. I loved having that big, cushy check each week deposited directly into my account. I worked hard for every dime, I worked fast and efficiently, did some of the best design work I can do and pushed my skills and learned a lot. But it all came at a price. I got home every day at 6pm. I picked up my kids late. We came home did homework, ate dinner, then it was almost bed time. I already only see my kids every other week. This job cut that in half. To say this was hard is the understatement year. I have missed painting, I have missed my studio. I go in to the studio to check mail, I pay the monthly bills, I cut the lawn and trim the shrubs, I talk to the other artists, I make arrangements for the new windows to be installed, but I don’t get to be there. But when I walk in there instead of being sad, my studio makes me so happy, and I knew I was coming back.
Back in January and February I almost had to give it up. It got that bad. I could not justify the bills at home and at the gallery. My studio mates rallied and each paid an extra month to help me get by. The day I had to tell them how hard things were for me was one of the hardest days I have had in a long time. Imagine looking at the people counting on you and telling them you were failing. Yeah, you know that horrible pressure and pain you get when you are trying so hard not to cry? It was like that. Times a million. But an amazing thing happened. They helped me. They helped carry my load and told me I didn’t need to carry it alone. For the first time in a long time I realized that we are SUPPOSED to ask for help. That it is ok not to be able to do it all.
Let me tell you something. All of you reading my blog for a while might have realized by now I am something of a risk-taker. I am impulsive. I get ideas and I run. That has good and bad consequences. When things work out, the feeling is exhilarating. It is a high like no other. If drugs make you feel that way, i can understand why people get addicted to them. The freelance life is my drug. It makes me feel alive. I love hustling, I love knowing it is my hard work that pays my bills. I love trusting in the universe that is will send things my way. I trust in my gut instinct all the time. I feel it and I do it.
Like last year when I drove by my little studio and it had the for rent sign. Things fell into place. I had a good idea. Someone lent me the money. I worked my ass off to get it ready. I opened my business and after a month realized it WAS NOT what I wanted to do. i was not meant to teach little kids art. I liked it, but I was not passionate about it, not to mention it was no where close to paying the bills. I mean, think about this: I had a decent freelance income with design work and my commissions. I figured I would have some classes a few times a week and that would help pay for the overhead of the studio. Wait. I need to take a minute and laugh at that poor naive girl. AHAHAHAAHAAHAHAHAAHAA…. Lord, she was cute wasn’t she??? Heh. You all want to know what I did to myself? A single mom that was making oh, about $40K before taxes, who had about $1500 in just her home bills took on another $2000 a month in studio bills. “WTF!?!?!” you are thinking. Yeah, no hubbie’s income to count on, no other income at all. Why did I do such a foolish thing? Cause I trusted with all my heart that it would work out. I didn’t count on not liking the concept I had built -( which moms loved by the way. It is a great idea that would really work in this area.) Sooooo, I went back to freelancing my ass off, and doing commissions like crazy. But I was kinda screwed as I didn’t apply to festivals with all the studio prep.
So I was going under month by month. I knew it, but kept thinking it would turn around. It always did. By July I knew I was in serious trouble. I had somehow managed to come up with the $3500 – $4000 each month somehow. I was late on my apartment rent a few times – I am so grateful to my landlord there for working with me. My parents and a friend helped a bit with a loan here and there. But I knew I had to do something. And I had not much time to feel sorry for myself. Altho at night the feelings of failure were overwhelming. Finally I decided to look at it a different way. Sometimes you need to just change directions and make things work. What I didn’t doubt was that studio wanted me there, it needed me there. I was supposed to BE THERE.
So. I put adds out for artists to rent the other rooms. And I found three artists right away. That were perfect. We were a foursome that fit together so perfectly. It happened so easily that I was sure the universe was answering my pleas for help. And things got good. Really good. I started dating a friend that I had known for over a year and found the man I will be spending the rest of my life with. I had the perfect life. I could breathe again. I painted and designed all day, picked my kids up right after school then worked from home. The weeks I didn’t have them I worked all day at the studio, sometimes until late at night. I adored being in my studio. We had a studio show in November and we all made great money. I had a bunch of Christmas commissions. Life was PERFECT. Then I realized at the end of November that I didn’t not have any freelance coming in. A few clients had post-poned jobs. I knew from experience that no one starts jobs in December. And I knew from experience that January is never good. It is like people are waking up from a fog. People have not only been off for a week or more, but their credit cards are maxed out and not ready to order design work or a painting. Belts tighten. They loosen in February. But mid December I more than knew my fate was not good. I knew that the commissions I had in December would only pay my bill thru the end of the month. Trouble was ahead. But I just decided not to worry. Something would come up. It ALWAYS did.
In ten years I have never had a freelance month where nothing came in. NEVER. Until January of 2007. Now Januaries are slow, but not like this. For the first to weeks I kept my optimism. By the 15th I was worried. By the 21st i was panicked. I was calling people, i was sending out my url. I was advertising my commissions, I was seeking licensing. I was sending our resumes everywhere. I was hanging flyers for my art in every coffeehouse around. Nuh.Thing. I had never experienced a drought like that. It went on into February. I had to ask my boyfriend for a loan. Let’s just say that I have issues with asking people for money. I hate it, it makes me feel like a failure. While I can’t say it put a strain on our relationship, it was hard on us. He hated seeing me this way. I was crying every night. I could not understand why this was happening. I had contacted Aquent, a creative placement agency in January. Nothing was happening there. By mid February some small design jobs came in, but I was so in the hole it was like putting a spoon of dirt into that giant hole I needed to refill. Finally Aquent called. They had a job. I didn’t even ask many details, i just asked where to interview. Went to the interview. Turns out I did the website design for the photographer they used. They called him for a reference. Luckily, Jerry Siegel loves me and my work. THANK GOD. I got the job. It was supposed to be for two weeks. My last day is next week, May 9. I am hoping I am their go-to freelancer for a while. I love the company. (Jackson Spalding) I love the people. I love the way the owners treat their employees like family. They are a unique company that I am proud to work for.
But like I said, it was hard. But sometimes you have to do what you don’t want for a while. And the funny thing is, that when I went to do that job, freelance and commissions poured in. For the first three weeks I had to stay up until midnight or later to keep up. It was crazy. But i was so relieved I didn’t care.
Anyway, my point is what? Well, I am not sure, but in the past year and a half I have learned quite a bit. That if you trust in your instincts and leap before you look be prepared for the unexpected. Be ready to change your plans if you need to, that being flexible is a GOOD thing. Know when to modify your dreams, that it is not failure, that is compromise. Remember that while your vision might be very clear in your head, you don’t necessarily know your path to get there. That is is OK to ask for help. That we are not supposed to do any of this alone. We need each other and it is so much better when we can count on each other. That sometimes doing the things we think we want to do the least (like work in a cube) can bring us so much closer to what we really want (like getting your first book deal from a flyer you put up in January).
I am a risk taker and always will be. I can’t change that about myself. I scare my boyfriend, I scare my family, my poor parents must have learned to not think about how I live my life in order not to have worry and anxiety disorders. (I hope my kids live thier life and go after their passions, which if I am lucky will be accounting and medicine – STABLE professions. But they are who they are and maybe one day my heart will be aching for my kids when they are trying to live their dreams. This parenting thing is HARD and each day my kids get older I can’t believe how amazing MY parents are.)
Everyone has challeges in their lives. I just know about mine as an artist. It can be hard. Some days harder than others. But the days where I am doing what I was born to do, when I am creating art that comes right from my heart and that people get, that people love AND I get to be with my kids? Well, I wouldn’t trade any of that for a guaranteed paycheck. No matter how much it was. Because I get to live my life. I really live it. And I can say that I have no regrets. And that is what I want, NEED to teach my kids. Our life is what we make it. Even if we have to pay the price for it from time to time.
Ok, off to paint.