Am I Working on the Right Thing?

Maybe not.

I know. Those are simply fabulous answers! Here’s the thing—we don’t always know if the activities we are engaged in will come back to us in dollars, satisfaction or a “learning experience”.* Every freelance artist or writer I know ponders this very question—and that does not necessarily change with experience. We just do a bit less flailing about worrying and accept that it is part of the dance of freelance.

So here are my thoughts on the yes, you are, maybe you are and you are definitely not working on the right thing right now.

Yes, for sure:

  • Artwork you are doing under contract like an editorial illustration or licensing deal. These are the activities that rise to the top of the priority list.
  • Projects that you don’t necessarily love but will result in someone giving you money for the actual purchase of actual food for your actual family.
  • Promoting yourself strategically in social media, but without being a slave to every little thing that comes along—or making everyone wish you’d just go home and draw a picture already.

Maybe/Maybe not:

  • Developing artwork in anticipation of a trade show or meeting with potential clients—you are pretty sure you are hitting the mark on what makes you, you and you think you have a pretty good idea that the market will respond positively but there’s always the chance that, well—you didn’t. But by not doing anything, you for sure will not get a positive result. This is called risk. It’s what we entrepreneur types do.
  • Adding new work to your Etsy, Society 6, etc shops—it might sell, it might not, but it certainly won’t if no one sees it.
  • Experimentation, throwing paint around, feverishly sketching in your sketchbook. These activities don’t necessarily translate into dollars and cents but without them, there is not a chance you will stumble across something that will.

Probably not:

  • Trolling Zappos** for comfortable tradeshow shoes while partially finished potentially fabulous designs languish in your Photoshop files. Ahem—get to it, sister!
  • Mimicking other successful artists or staying in a lane that is too crowded. Be you, already!
  • Whining about your lack of success. Yeah, that never works.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

-Soren Kierkegaard

I know, that’s awfully deep for me and many, many people would find it hilarious that I am quoting Kierkegaard when I’m usually quoting people like Dolly Parton, Mr. and Mrs. Howell and Dr. Phil. But that’s the way it is, you know? And to answer that first question? It’s all in the looking back.

But I’d hedge my bets on doing your own thing with meaning, authenticity and really good technique.

So that would be a yes.


*Learning Experiences are great but they can’t make a car payment.
**This should only take place after 11 pm while drinking a glass of wine. It’s the rule.

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