Most of the people I talk to are on some sort of self-employment journey. They may license their art onto products (or are try to), they sell their fine art in galleries and/or on line, or they cobble together teaching on-line and in person, selling digital products, or painting custom art.
And as long as all the pieces fit together into a living that can sustain you in good times and bad, then all is good, right?
I attended AdobeMax—The Creativity Conference
last week which was a multi-sensory, FitBit steps busting, stimulating conference beyond the usual trade show or touchy feely workshops I’m used to. There was pulsing techno music, seizure inducing strobes and more day-glo colors that I’ve seen since my college years (and that was just introducing Questlove and Ron Howard as the keynote speakers).
In one of the many sessions offered, I attended “The Gig Economy is getting Gigger” *, a panel discussion aimed at how to manage and balance your freelance business. And according to these smart people, they predict that within our lifetime, ** over 50% of the workerforce will be freelancers instead of traditional employees.
I found that number a bit staggering since it has been my experience that not everyone is cut out to run their own business. And if you’ve read my blog for more than five minutes you know that this choice is not for the faint of heart. But if half of the working population is freelance, will it become easier to do so or will it degrade to the point that we will all be grabbing at whatever scraps “the man” throws our way?
Dang—anybody as depressed as me right now?
But there’s a thing I’ve noticed. Maybe it’s an American thing (anybody want to chime in on that theory?) but every time someone shows promise in a certain area (music, art, plumbing) the reaction is “You should sell those/You could make money at that/You should turn pro” or something else that commands you to monetize whatever it is that you have shown proficiency in. (But if you like plumbing you should definitely
do it for a living—that’s where the real money is!)
We have this cultural idea that the only value in the thing you do is what is it worth out in the market—and if you are not planning on “making it big” then, well, you should change your thinking, so you can “make it big”.
But what if you don’t want to?
Or you have no prowess to start and run a business? What if you don’t want the often lonely and uncomfortable feelings of always pushing a rock up hill. What if you want to have regular hours and built in collaborators and people around you that do some of the stuff way better than you can and you get to excel in the piece that you are hired to do? And what if you want, in exchange for your skills, a paycheck every two weeks so you can actually plan how you will run your life within your means instead of wondering what the next royalty check looks like?
Is that so bad?
Oh, sure, “job jobs” are not a sure thing these days. They are hard to come by at times, they tend to come and go more frequently than they used to and invariably someone WILL reheat fish in the break room microwave, but maybe you’re better suited for that life instead of always thinking about the next project and the next elusive client.
Maybe you don’t have to buy into the “The Only Goal is to be an Entrepreneur” myth in order to have a nice successful life. Maybe you can be employed and have a little side hustle that brings in a little more coin, OR you could have free time to actually enjoy creating art
without the pressure of “making it big”.
Crazy, I know.
So what are the advantages of a “job job”?
- Regular income that you can plan on.
- Collaborative work environment (you hope anyway) and exposure to alternative ideas.
- Being part of something bigger than you can grow yourself.
- Professional development—not just gaining knowledge about technical advancements but working with people who know more than you and can serve as inspiration for your next career move.
Think about that and be honest if you may be more suited for traditional employment or if you are built more for self-employment. If you’ve been freelancing for a while, don’t look at a job as a failure. Look at it as an opportunity to up your skills and come home at the end of the day knowing that you did what needed to be done and you don’t have to spend all night worrying what you have to do tomorrow to keep the roof over your head.*** If you’re employed, trust me— the grass over here is not always greener. In fact, there can be more dry patches developing than you can reseed in time for that lush lawn to grow.
And what we all know for sure is, nothing is forever. You can always go one way or the other (well, mostly) and make it work. Just be true to who you are, what your skills are and be honest with what you really want out of life.
And somebody will be super lucky to be the recipient of all that good stuff you have to offer.
*Of course, I thought it should have been called “The Gig Economy is getting Giggier
” but they didn’t ask me.
**Not sure if they meant my life time or the life left in the decidedly younger attendees at this particular conference, but whatever.
***I’m talking ideal scenarios here, not about the jobs with the cray-cray boss or the impossible schedule that makes you cry each night on the commute home. Not that I know anything about that.