I opened up the virtual doors on my Facebook page for Mama Craftista. If you have found your way here from there, welcome! I set up my Twitter and Instagram accounts, and completed a simple and to-the-point portfolio website to start pulling in freelance illustration work. I received my new postcards and business cards in the mail too, and are ready to be passed out and mailed out to potential clients.
Marketing is the lifeline of any business.
A lot of work on what feels like baby steps. But I honestly feel more ready for business now than I ever have in the past. The ones that have followed my journey from the beginning know how many different transitions (and names) I’ve gone through. It’s been a lot of lessons in life and in business. But after 10 years of ebbing in and out of the business of art and trying to find what path I wanted to take, I feel like I have zeroed in on what I want to accomplish and what I’ve learned along the way:
I don’t have to keep myself in a box.
This is scarily accurate.
The biggest advantage of working for myself is that I don’t have to stick to just one creative path. I’ve tried to do just freelancing, or just selling artwork, but the overwhelming urge to step outside of just that realm got to be too much. I stuck with it because I thought it was the “right” and the “business-minded” thing to do. But somewhere along the line I realized that I can run my business the way I want to. I am the boss, and I can introduce what I want into it. So if that means I extend myself into different realms of creativity, then so be it.
I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, and my art and approach to my career should reflect that.
Circa 2006, sitting on the floor and painting. Some things don’t change.
I don’t think anyone can say they are the same person they were ten years ago. I’ve had triumphs and losses, ups and downs, and of course, I had a child, which is amazingly life changing. I feel more settled and confident in myself now than I ever have in my life. My art should reflect that, and so should my business.
Success does not have a timeline.
And it’s been a loooooong climb.
This year I will be 33 years old. Sometimes I feel like I’ve accomplished almost nothing, especially since it seems like most of my peers are settled into their careers. But you can’t compare your journey with anyone else’s. Everyone has faced their own obstacles to get where they are, and everyone has their own interpretation of what success is. There are many things that I still want to accomplish, but there are many things I have accomplished in these 33 years. I can’t lose sight of that, and make myself feel like I’m “running out of time.”
Despite my protests, working in “Corporate America” has helped my business sense.
Yup, how I feel when I’m trapped behind a desk.
I’ve worked office jobs since college. And I’m not going to lie…they bore me. In my defense, creative people tend to bore easily in stale settings. I feel like that working in an office setting is better for type A personalities that are fine with rigid guidelines and little variation in their day. I’m just not that person, and I’ve worked in offices solely for the steady paycheck. I’ve always been at the bottom of the totem pole, doing the most grunt work. I know that for a few places I’ve worked for, I probably could have moved beyond answering phones and filing papers, but life always seemed to have moved me out of the position before that could happen.
Now, this is in no way knocking some of the companies I have worked for. The biggest advantage that has come with working in the administrative field is that I have been able to work for some dynamic small business owners. I hate to even put them into the “Corporate America” category because they aren’t some faceless corporate fat cats who inherited their business in some stock tradeoff. These are people who have put their blood, sweat and tears into building their business from the ground up. The staff was usually always a handful of people, and the owner was always in the trenches with their employees. I had one boss who I saw standing on top of a ladder, fresh out of a meeting and still in her business suit, fixing the garage door of the warehouse. I had another boss who I caught unclogging the toilet herself! Can you imagine the CEO of some hedge fund company doing that? That’s the beauty of working for an SBO. They are hands on with everything, and it’s inspiring. What’s more, several of the SBOs that I have worked for were approachable and easy to talk to, which made them easy to learn from. I’ve gotten first hand exposure on what it’s like to start and maintain a successful business. And I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity if I hadn’t worked those jobs.
“Corporateness” is a necessity, at least a little bit of it.
I’ve learned that “corporateness” cannot be avoided. As much as I’d like to lock myself in a room and paint and draw and craft for hours, my business isn’t going to run itself. I’ve had tons of working artists tell me that they spend more time on the business side of work than the creative side. About 50% of your time goes to marketing, finances, meetings, contracts, etc. 40% goes towards actually creating so you have something to market and sell, and the 10% left over for some sort of personal life. And because I want my business to expand beyond the realms of just art and illustration, there is probably going to come a time where I do have to put on some dress pants and “schmooze” a bit to rope in a client. I cringe slightly and the thought of it, but if I’m going to make a living doing this, it has to be done.
And finally, my biggest motivation of all…
This smile can get me through anything.
More than anything, I want to set an example for my son. I want to show him that if you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, and be who you want to be.
I look forward to this new chapter in my career. It’s going to mean a lot of late nights and early mornings, but it’s something that I hold dear to my heart. That alone makes it all worth it.