Today I was a fashion illustrator, yesterday I was designing products for a company, tomorrow I will be a shop owner in the morning, answering emails and Etsy messages, and then I will work my boutique job during the day. On my weekends and days off from my boutique job, I am a blogger, researcher, painter, social media diva and a post office queen. I will most likely fail at the end of this week to fulfill all of these rolls, just as I have every week since my company started to grow. It is impossible and there is no balance but you can make it work with a lot of hustle.
I recently read a post by my good friend and mentor, Grant Spanier, called Living for Monday. I highly recommend this read if you think you want to quit your job, you’re hot out of college, you’re waking up from a nap (I’m always lost when I’m waking up from a nap…is that just a me thing?) Okay, regardless of where you are in life…read that post because I think everyone can find something valuable in there.
Okay so you’ve read the post. You have to, to be able to stick with me here.
I’m lucky because Grant has shown me all of that advice first hand. He really lives all of those things and I feel very lucky to have him as an example. I can remember a few specific phone calls that I had with him when I was fresh out of college. I had absolutely no clue which door to open next. I didn’t even know where the doors were. All I knew is I had this far off dream of becoming an illustrator. He was the first person that helped me believe that goal was not an unachievable fantasy. I think his words were along the lines of “You know those do exist right?” Instead of making me feel stupid for wanting to become an illustrator, he made me feel stupid for not doing anything about it. I needed that push from him and the few others that echoed him.
What I did after that was nothing short of insane. Looking back, I literally can’t believe I had the discipline and determination I did to start my company and shop but I’m so glad I did. I sat down everyday for hours and hours on end drawing something everyday. There was no shop, zero emails, zero blog features, zero likes and certainly no money coming in (all things that seem to be external forces of motivation for me now)…FOR A LONG TIME. But I absolutely fell in love with what I was doing and my perspective changed on almost everything. Once I started doing all of the things I had been dreaming about, I felt like I was Living in the terms Grant describes.
It’s not that simple for me. The journey was a struggle (and still is) and once those external forces of motivation were added in and my shop was opened, things became complicated. There was a lot of work for not a lot of money. To be honest, I was working for free a majority of the time because I needed exposure, needed to build a portfolio and I was dumb. Eventually, I learned. I learned about deadlines, budgeting my time, when to say yes and how to say no. I learned the weirdest things like how to properly stage and edit a photo on my iPhone and important things like how to build my own website and how to have a presence on multiple social media platforms. I learned that honesty will get you very far but so will faking it in certain areas.
My job today is not what it was a few months ago. I call myself a designer now because it’s a better term for what I do rather than illustrator. When I sat down to draw my first sketch for my soon-to-be Etsy shop last June, I never could have imagined that it would have evolved into what it has. I’m designing all sorts of stuff (still can’t talk about it yet…tell you about it later) things that I don’t have a “degree” in or that I’m qualified to design. Here’s a little secret for you, I am not qualified to do anything that I have done because I have no idea how to use any design programs.
That’s what frustrates me though, and yes, I’m finally getting to my point of this whole thing. What has held me back most are the conversations I’ve had with other people about my job.When I’m meeting someone new it is naturally one of the first questions that comes up, “What do you do for a living?” I ABSOLUTELY squirm and frantically look around for help. I’m not even kidding. You can ask anyone who knows me, it’s embarrassing. The reason why I squirm is because of the questions that follow. After I have answered I’m a fashion illustrator and I have an Etsy shop, it goes a little something like this: “How many hours a week do you actually work?” “Is that full-time for you?” “Do you really make money doing that?” “So you draw people for a living?” “So you went to art school?” I shut down after that and I back out of the conversation every time because I’m very defensive when my career choice is put into question. I would love to answer I BUST MY ASS to make this job work out for me and no I don’t work normal hours but that doesn’t mean I don’t work a lot. I have STRUGGLED on this and no this isn’t full-time for me, I work two part time jobs just to help fund my dream of creating a letterpress stationary line. I did not go to art school but that doesn’t mean I can’t paint a picture for pete’s sake. I would love to answer back, “Do you enjoy your job because I adore mine. I made it up. I designed it to be what I wanted it to be.”
I know that about 50% (maybe more) of those questioning me are genuinely curious to learn about what I do, but the others…not so much. So I challenge you, if you are not Living for Monday and you don’t know what that feels like, encourage someone who is because it is not always what it looks like (I actually do eat a lot of donuts though, that part is really,
Thank you for reading. I always love hearing your thoughts.
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I’m Katie, the brand strategist, designer, dreamer, and entrepreneur behind Artful Brands. Dreamy typefaces, clean layouts, and soft color palettes are my love language— but more importantly designing strategic brands that book.