Color Style Kyle

Combining art, creativity, design, family, health, humor and books.

Why Vacations and Being a Self-Employed Artist Don’t Mix

Posted by Kyle Design on August 21, 2007

I recently managed to get away to Lake Tahoe, on the California and Nevada border, for an overnight trip. Mountain Getaway Christmas OrnamentBeing an artist/entrepreneur I find it hard to get away for vacations. There is always so much to do running a small business, and the work certainly doesn’t go away while I’m gone. No, in fact it just piles up and increases in urgency.

My mom and dad were artist-entrepreneurs before me and the family joke growing up was “I’m self-employed: I get to decide how many hours I work and I don’t even have to take vacations.” Workaholics, one and all. I was well trained. 65 hour weeks are par for the course.

Bike Wheel Business Card Holder for CyclistsIt is really hard to back off of that, compartmentalize it, and go off, be in the moment and enjoy not working. Obviously, I enjoy working. I tease my family about the license plate holders that say, “I’d rather be biking” or “I’d rather be diving” and tell them to find me one that says, “I’d rather be working”. My eight-year-old says with earnest that she will keep looking, but my husband and older daughter just shake their heads.

But in fairness, it can be very challenging to make a living as an artist. Not only must we be capable of running a small business and marketing a product, but we have to constantly invent NEW products. It’s not like selling the latest software update to Windows where you just grab a neatly shrink-wrapped package off the shelf, stick it in a box and off it goes. Granted, there is plenty of competition for a generic product, but also a lot of brand awareness and built-in need.

But for artists, we have to be constantly creating new looks, products, designs. Then hope that everyone (or enough everyones) out there likes what you’ve come up with. Those who survive are those who have that innate ability to reinvent themselves and their work over the years as styles change. I’ve seen plenty of artists who are so proud of a few pieces and somehow believe that those beautiful creations would carry them for years. In my experience, it is rarely the case.

And if you have employees, which I do, the pressure increases. I have a responsibility to my employees to make sure they have a job to come to everyday. I can’t guarantee that they will, but I try my hardest and take the task very, very seriously. When things are slow, I’m the one who goes without a paycheck. I have a great staff and simply don’t ever want to lose any of them, so I’d rather live off savings while I figure things out rather than introduce doubt into their minds.

Notice that I say “figure things out” rather than “wait for things to get better”. There is no sitting around. Proactive is the only way. I know my staff rolls their eyes at me sometimes because I have so many projects in the works at once – things I’m running tests on, research for supplies, new products I’ll make a sample of then ask everyone what they think. But I’m trying to be ready if the market changes so I’m not be left flat on the floor.

And it is August, the month where I ramp up for the holidays. We order supplies, check our stocks, clean and organize the studio and generally do anything we can to avoid having to do it between October and the end of the year. Anything new not already in the works by the end of August probably won’t happen.

I’m still working on learning to let go a little. But my list is long and the days fly by. Maybe next year we’ll take that vacation to the East Coast we were talking about….

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