Warning: personal post. If you’re interested in what self-employment and chasing dreams is actually like, keep reading. Spoiler alert: it’s not nearly as glamorous as it sounds or looks on Instagram. But it’s still awesome.
So, this is hard. This thing I’m trying to do…whatever it’s called. Being an artist, starting a business, working for myself, being my own boss, chasing a dream, living my calling, enjoying life. It has many descriptors.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I am doing. The best things about it are waking up (for the most part) when I want to, wearing my pjs all day, actually being available to see people I love during the day, chasing dreams, painting all day and making some money too. All of those are huge blessings that I don’t ever take for granted.
But I repeat, this is hard. Like in a more complicated way. Sure, it’s a more ‘comfortable’ way to live life if you’re not too worried about finances. But who isn’t worried about finances on the regular? And it’s more ‘comfortable’ not having a micromanage-y boss to answer to for work standards, but then how do you really know when you’ve done enough for the day? Or that your work is good? Or that it’s at least good enough? What is the standard? How do I know when my social media growth is strong enough or that I’m building this business the right way? How do I know that I’ve worked hard enough when I don’t have a boss making me clock in at 8am and leave by 5pm?
Even though I don’t have a manager expecting me into work at a certain time every day and I’m not nearly as exhausted during the week, dare I say that what I’m doing is harder than that? Harder than showing up at a specific time, working on someone else’s dream for 8 hours and then getting to go home and forget about it all until the next morning?
Yes, I sleep more because I can and I don’t get sick as often because I’m not around as many germs AND I actually sleep as much as my body requires. Yes, I have much more flexibility with how I spend my day. Yes, I get to wear what I want and not feel pressured to brush my hair every day.
But the questions, y’all. Those questions haunt me every. single. day. The ‘how do I know my work is good enough?’ question almost always turns into ‘how do I know I’M good enough?’ I know it’s only been a year since I started this thing. And I know I’ll learn as I go about what makes sense for my business and what doesn’t. But even just a year asking those questions constantly and struggling to find answers can be paralyzing. And emotionally exhausting. I want to be a contributing member of our society, like on a real level. It’s why I studied entrepreneurship in school. I want to participate in job creation and growing the economy, providing competition for what I’m doing and challenging social norms. But gosh on a day-to-day basis? I’m just trying to survive and actually enjoy my life. Imagine that.
I don’t have a boss to tell me I did a good job anymore. Or a regular paycheck coming in that, regardless of how fulfilled I feel, helps me to know that what I’m doing is worth it. I don’t have social conventions protecting me when someone asks, “So, what do you do?” I don’t get to say that I work for so-and-so company and that I do sales and that even though I hate my job, it pays the bills and that’s good enough for now. And then that person doesn’t get to give me the obligatory sympathetic look with the nod that says, “I know exactly how you feel.”
No. What I get now is confusion, patronization, and, sometimes, envy. I have to justify or even apologize to people for taking a risk chasing a dream instead of staying in the comfortable, unhappy place that everyone else has put themselves in. I know that not everyone can do what I’m doing. I have a husband who works hard at a great job to provide what we need. So I can do whatever it is that I’m trying to do. That is a huge blessing, again, something I don’t take for granted.
But what I really want people from the other side of self-employment to understand is that this is still really hard. In crippling, paralyzing ways. The fear of it not working. The being misunderstood constantly. Of not being good enough.
I have learned and am learning so much about myself. I regret nothing (so far) and am grateful for all the mistakes and successes.
I know that I will never be fully understood and I’m not even really concerned about that. I’m more concerned about highlighting all the amazing men and women who have taken a risk to chase after what they’re really passionate about and share with the world. The artists who decided to give having dreams a shot and are focused on supporting their families, while making the world a more creative, enjoyable, colorful place.
This post was not written to vent or to gain sympathy. I’m not angry and I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I want the stigma gone. The stigma that working for yourself is an easy way out. The stigma that only some people can chase their dreams and some can’t. The stigma that we don’t work as hard as people with “normal” jobs.
What we are doing is real. Rachel Loftis Art is a real business with real dreams and real contributions to the world. And so is every other artist’s business. I just want everyone to know that we have chosen this life, not because it is easy, but because it is what we have to do.
I’m wrapping up, I promise. Want to know how to support people in your life who are trying to make what they love? Instead of assuming there is something wrong with them, try this:
- Buy stuff from them, products or services. Need gifts? Or decor? Or fun stuff for yourself? If you don’t have anyone in your life, find artists on Etsy to start. Lots of talented people on there doing what they can to build a life for their families.
- Engage on social media. Even if you can’t buy, encouraging comments go a long way in helping an artist feel like what they’re doing is worth it. If something really stands out to you or encourages you personally, share that with them. I know those comments always make my day and give me a little more drive to keep working hard.
- Don’t ask for discounts. Even if they’re friends or family. Actually I’m going to say especially if they’re friends or family. When you ask for a discount, whether you mean to or not, you are communicating to them that what they have put their heart and soul into, is not worth paying for. If you can’t afford what they’re charging, buy something else from them or don’t buy. But don’t ask for a discount. It’s like a stab in the heart, I promise.
- Tell your friends about them! Even if you can’t buy, you have people in your life that can. You can do this word of mouth, or even easier through social media. Share posts that you love and bless an artist!
Thank you for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything I’ve said. This is my story, obviously I can’t speak for every other self-employed artist but I also know I’m not completely unique in these struggles.
Y’all are the best, tschüss!