HI friends! Welcome to Freelance Fridays, an interview series where I talk to creative people who have made the brave jump from the 9 to 5 grind into working for themselves. Yay, you lovely, passionate, soulful people. I love you! On that note, all my fellow freelance interviewees are so busy with work that I’m still waiting for their answers to come back in. It’s a wonderful thing!
So, today I will muse a little bit about the dreaded “job hunt” and the part that the Universe plays in it. Here I am being totally transparent with you about my ongoing hustle for good creative work.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I've learned about making a living through my art, is that diversifying one's income is key. Lisa Congdon talks about this in her book, Art Inc. Read it. Seriously, you need this book. Basically, she talks about how it is imperative to "mix it up" artistically in order to make a living from your art. For example, she is an illustrator, an educator, a writer, a painter, etc. And she earns income from doing all these things. When I first got out of college, I moved to San Francisco to become a "Famous Artist" with my painting of acrylic masterpieces. Well, it didn't happen. Does it ever really happen to people that way? I'm sure it's rare. What did happen, over a few decades, is that I learned various creative skills that have provided me many opportunities to earn money.
I’ve been trying this freelance gig for over two years. Anyone who works for themselves knows that there are ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Right now I’m kind of in the middle somewhere. While I wait for client responses, or potential licensing deals to come my way, I’m finding myself scouring the want ads for any opportunities: craigslist, indeed.com, monster.com, simplyhired.com. What a total disheartening drag, right? I’m seeing a lot of postings for GRAPHIC DESIGNER, or VISUAL DESIGNER, or CREATIVE SHOWROOM ASSISTANT. And, in my panic, I’ve been applying for all of these things. The problem is, it’s not exactly what I’m looking for. I’m not super excited about spending 6+ hours in a beige cubicle designing pamphlets, or website vehicles. The thing is, I would love to have a part time gig that affords me time out of the house, (let’s face it, my pajamas are threadbare by this point and I've consumed enough pots of coffee to last me until the next century.)
Ah panic. Dawn, take a breath. Step back. Rationalize. Here’s the thing: I want to do what I want to do! Design patterns, draw dogs, make crafts and paint all day! Isn't there a job out there called DOG DRAWER, PATTERN DESIGNER, CRAFTER GLITTER GAL EXTRAORDINAiRE? I have only seen two such similar jobs (one at BRIT & CO and one at Oh Happy Day) to which I applied, but I guess my timing was wrong. It’s okay! Because timing is everything.
Years ago, while working for Old Navy, I wanted to make the transition from Graphic Designer to Creative Services Designer. Even though Gap Inc. headquarters are located in San Fransisco, the Creative Services department (responsible for all the flagship propping, window designs and showroom environments) was located in NYC because of the proximity to the fashion world, or so I was told. So, I applied for a job with Old Navy Creative Services Dept, in NYC. And I interviewed. And I didn't get the job that I wanted so badly. It was the perfect gig for me and I was totally willing to relocate to NYC! As a child, I was super impressed by Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary’s wacky friend and neighbor on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was a window dresser (thats what they called it in the old days).
I thought about it and thought about it, kept working hard and sent my intentions and woes out into the Universe. Guess what? Imagine my surprise when a year later, the Creative Services team in NYC was moved back to SF. And, since the designers in Manhattan didn't want to leave their awesome city, Gap inc. hired a new team right in my home office! Unfortunately, I was not one of that team. But, the new Director of that team had put out a job description for “Manager” of Creative Services, overseeing all the propping and merchandising to be implemented across our flagship fleet. Hmm. But, I wanted to design and make the propping, not manage it. On a whim, I wrote a letter to the new director (who was the best manager I ever had and a dear friend to this day) that basically read, “I know you need a manager, but what you really need is a designer. Someone to come up with ideas, draw them and have them made. And I, sir, am your gal. Here is my resume, thank you very much!” Holy sh*t it worked. They created a position just for me.
It was the happiest 10 years of employment of my life. Until it wasn’t. Here’s a fun fact I discovered yesterday while going through my old journals from 1994. I had it written on my list of SF goals to become a “window dresser.” Remember this for later.
Jump to 2014 when I resigned my corporate job as the “Rhoda Morgenstern” of Old Navy, and went off to do my own thing.
Here’s the thing. Is there something to it? To the proverbial law of attraction? I have never read The Secret. I don't super believe in luck. I believe in hard work. And talent. And motivation. Maybe a little bit of faith. And the Universe and intentions?
She's a Bay Area writer and educator of the metaphysical. She teaches the idea of being open to possibilities and the Divine to find what you are looking for. So, instead of visualizing and focusing intensely on manifesting your desires and wishes, she teaches us to invite the Universe’s Highest plan. It’s about synchronicity and spontaneity. Tosha says that “actions begin to flow through you and for you not by you. You become a vehicle for the greater good.This is very different from passive resignation, cosmic shopping lists, or even positive thought.” I think I believe this. Here’s a little story:
Last week, I had a minor disappointment in my road to further my freelance career. I spent a few days being sad, and feeling like a failure and thinking hard about my purpose in life. Then, I got a surprise email in my inbox from a woman who had seen my work in the class catalog at the Richmond Art Center, where I am teaching this year. My art resonated with her because of the work she does with the homeless and women's shelters in the East Bay: she teaches and leads art groups to those in need. I alway say ART SAVES LIVES. In fact, I had just said it the day before I received her email. Anyway, she just wanted to talk to me in the framing of a mentor/mentee relationship. She said she needed some inspiration for small projects and asked would I be willing to privately teach or give her some ideas. I thought, how wonderful is this woman! Not only does she volunteer her free time and resources to others, but is willing to pay for a private class in order to learn/give more in her charitable efforts. I thought, I would really like to do something like this. Maybe give back to our community in this way. It might not be a paying job, but it’s so meaningful and full of purpose. It was an idea I had never considered. After a few back and forths in correspondence with her (I sent a list of new creative ideas for her volunteer projects and was about to ask if could attend one of her groups as a volunteer, when….) I suddenly got a phone call from the Arts in the Community faction of the Richmond Art Center. The directors wanted to know if I would be interested in teaching paper crafts this spring to youth organizations at after school programs out in the community. The best thing about this? It’s a paid opportunity for the teachers but the classes are free to the students. I love the idea of free art classes for students. Art should be accessible to everyone! It feels so great to have made something with one's own hands, and I can’t wait to share this experience with the kids. It really is a great program. You can read about it here.
Anyway, I had my first meeting with the directors yesterday, and it looks like it’s a go. So there you have it. Intentions. Designing your own life! Universe!
I am still working hard to find the right money making projects for me: I love custom work, branding for clients big and small, environmental design, surface design, illustration and of course, teaching art to others! I am currently working on an idea that combines all my skills into one freelance niche position that I am going to pitch to some local companies. It worked once before, maybe it will work a second time.
It very much parallels some of my previous work experience and certainly my transition from a corporate full time gig to my current situation. Dropping everything and following one's passion in the pursuit of happiness and is a very nice idea, but not very realistic for many. Plus, it's super scary. But I think it can be done over time. We’ll see.
For now, I’m JUST SAYING NO to cubicles. And if I ever find myself stationed in another one (entirely possible) I’m painting it pink.