Creative work is different than other types of business. It’s not something you do 8-5 and get results from. You don’t memorize a list of terms and outcomes. You can’t turn it on, and you can’t turn it off. It’s unpredictable, and it’s creativity that is needed to make money in this field. It’s not easy to monetize creative services depending on what you do, and that is a skill in and of itself. Even this takes time to learn. I don’t know people who have grown up and “taken over” the family creative business to continue as-is. It just doesn’t work that way.
I often see the faces of those who hear that I’m drawing letters. I know what they’re thinking. They are wondering why the hell I don’t “do something productive” with my time. But if I say that I’m doing a coding tutorial, then they may understand that I’m learning something new. They still may not fully understand, but it’s still technical enough to understand that it will help me make a living. I have my days where I rest, do housework, work out or anything else when my son’s sleeping. But I definitely take the opportunity to catch up on creative work when I can, as well.
What does that even mean?
Catching up is never done. It’s an itch that is only scratched for a short amount of time. For most, creating is like eating or breathing. And it’s something that is non-negotiable to getting better, having freedom and making an impact.
The unpredictability and variation in this field fuels me as a professional. I love that there isn’t always a right or a wrong, defined time frames (outside of business deadlines), defined workflows, or even roles. Having autonomy motivates me, and having the chance to create my career the way I create a project is challenging, yet liberating.
Another thing I love about all the hustle in the creative field is that it got me here. I’ve been learning and pushing myself since the beginning. Learning how to successfully manage my time and endeavors has improved the quality of my work, accomplishments, and my overall level of happiness. It’s gotten easier to know how to prioritize, so practice and side work has become just as important to me as working for my employer. It also makes me better as an employee as my curiosity and practice grows in quality.
Hobbies sometimes grow into businesses. Drawing letters, for example, may look like just having fun (and it totally is!). But, who doesn’t want to get paid to do what they love? It’s also hard. There is a reason that people make full careers out of drawing letters, making typefaces so that people can read and understand languages and communicate personalities of works.
That’s what I do, and what I continue to strive for. To open doors. To have my work desired, and valued. To inspire others to do the same. To spend my days creating and solving problems. Whether it’s UX work or lettering artwork that enhances a brand, the effort I put into mastering my craft is non-negotiable.
Being Misunderstood is OK
I am someone who is OK with not always being understood. And, I have learned not to care if I am judged when I need to step away from the TV to draw, read, write and nurture my creativity. My husband has gotten to understand me in this way, and for that I’m grateful. We are a great team, but very opposite in our professions. And it works for us.
Try explaining that you’re a user experience designer to someone that doesn’t even use a computer. It’s very difficult. Most people don't even realize the behind-the-scenes strategy and design needed to create a cohesive experience. And, they had a good experience because that's the point of it. When you try to explain that you design those kind of things for a living, they just look at you as if to say “you get paid for that?”. That’s because it seems like common sense.
Creative work needs to be fed or it dies. Great work takes time, and mastery takes a lot of time. Knowing what you want in your career takes time too. Great work is what leads to opportunity and fulfillment. Great work also leads to new pathways.
The more time I spend on my craft, side hobbies can become paid in one way or another. Side artwork can turn into passive income or even a new job if I choose. Paid hobbies open more opportunity for my family. Side work can fuel my job which makes me a better designer and leader. This may not be your way of making money, but it’s mine. And to be creative, I have to always be creating.
It’s also hard for many to understand how many creatives have the ability to telecommute with a good job. With scammers posting “work from home” jobs constantly, one must think that they are the ones missing out. While the Internet is certainly opening this opportunity up for many fields, you can’t expect to look for a remote job just for the sake of being home with your kids. However, learning a craft that makes your skills unique, proving your track record, and setting up a great intake process can open yourself up for loads of new opportunities. The digital space is buzzing with these, but it takes the right reasons to get your foot in the door. There are also many other considerations to make for telecommuting that shouldn't be ignored.
For all of these reasons and more, I think the creative and technology fields are some of the most liberating and also time consuming to be involved in. To be fair, the barrier to entry can be smaller than other fields. This can be both good and bad. But, the best will stand out as their mastery will surely shine through.
Props to Katie Carpenter of Ryn Creative for lending her editing skills and getting me through this crazy week's newsletter deadline!