Thing-A-Day 16: An Effing JOB

Like many creative types these days, I’ve had to get a day job.  It’s not that I’m getting fewer projects, it’s just that fewer of them pay much, if anything.  When faced with the choice, I always go for the well-paying projects first, then fill my remaining time with the projects that pay in web traffic, nebulous future sales/commissions or “cred.”  Unfortunately that’s been most of them lately.  I’m pretty good about not taking on jobs that realistically won’t give me much of either.

My new job isn’t bad.  It’s mostly tech-y admin stuff and it changes on a regular basis so it’s not too boring.  I also really like everyone I work with and I can make ends meet by working only 25 hours a week.  Even though it doesn’t sound like much, 25 hours a week will basically eat up four full work days when you add in lunch and commute time, which doesn’t leave much time for creative projects.  It makes me kind of tired and stressed.  Prepare to see this blog get a little crankier.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re all: “this girl is going to completely reneg on her thing-a-day responsibility!”  I did consider it but no, I will continue to make a thing-a-day. BUT, I might not post it every day and the rules may relax closer to their original incarnation. On days like today when I don’t get home until 10:30, I will probably not make something AND photograph it AND post it AND tweet it.  Sorry, but I need to not make myself crazy.  I have enough doing that for me already.

Today I took photos of my yoka in various poses.  Then I accidentally dropped him and the very tips of two of his toenails broke off.  You can’t really tell but it’s enough to bother me so I made replacement toenails tonight.  That’s my thing.  Whatever.  I’m going to bed.

Making Your Extra Income Work for Your Business

Unless you have truly hit upon “the next big thing” and your business takes off without any effort from you, you will likely need an extra source of income while you get started. Up until this fall I was a full-time teacher, so it would have been fairly easy to keep teaching part-time while starting my business. But teaching requires a lot of take-home work, and uses up a lot of mental energy even when you’re not on the job. It’s also not the kind of work that I could ultimately apply towards Sweet Meats. Mine is primarily a product design business, so I wanted to support myself financially in a way that would also open up new opportunities in my current field.

There are four valuable things I’ve learned in my search for relevant extra income:

  1. The key to moving into a new industry is to start with the areas that bridge your current field and your desired field.
  2. Sometimes you can create a job where one doesn’t already exist.
  3. The value of a job is often measured beyond how much it pays you. A job that pays very little, for example, but provides excellent networking opportunities, relevant lines on your resume, or exposure for your business can be much more valuable in the long-term than one that simply pays the rent.
  4. Be symbiotic with your friends.

stitch loungeTo elaborate: there is a sewing studio in my neighborhood called the Stitch Lounge, where you can take classes and rent time on their equipment. I originally looked at it as a place I might be able to consign some of my homemade creations, but then noticed that they didn’t have anyone teaching a plush or pillow class. So I approached one of the owners with a plush class proposal. It turns out that someone had recently asked her to add a plush offering and with my background as a teacher (including a semester of Home Ec.), I was hired right away.

As a source of income, Stitch is not particularly lucrative. I teach 2-3 classes a month, which only amounts to a couple hundred dollars. The opportunities for networking, however, are worth much more than that. Before I had even taught my first class, for example, the owner who hired me referred me to her friend at PSY/OPS, a local type foundry, to help them develop some of their letter forms into decorative plush objects. Not only does design consulting pay more than than teaching, PSY/OPS is a fantastic client to include in a product design portfolio.

the present groupProduction work for friends is also an excellent stepping stone to design jobs. My friends Oliver and Eleanor, of “The Present Group,” sometimes hire me to do production work with them on particularly complex pieces. Likewise, I have also hired them to help with photographs or production when I get swamped. Though we’re basically just doing each other mutual favors, working together like this allows us to confidently refer each other to other clients and provide examples of the work we’ve done.

One final note about extra income: it takes a while (usually at least a few months) for the networking mill to bring enough referrals your way to make ends meet. It is therefore much easier to quit your full-time gig if you have a bit of a savings cushion or a partner who can help support you for a while. That said, if you put yourself out there and you’re good at what you do, the work will find you, I promise.