Going It Alone: How Creative Types Do Business
by Kristen Fischer
When Penelope Dullaghan set out to be an
illustrator, she had no idea she'd become
an accountant, publicist, computer technician,
marketing director and intern.
Well, who else was going to get her coffee
Welcome to the world of creative self-employment.
There's no boss, and in many cases, no dress
code. But there are-contrary to popular belief-issues
that you just don't face in any other career.
Regardless of whether one scribbles professionally
like Dullaghan, writes books, creates websites
or paints canvasses, the people doing this
for a living will tell you just the opposite
of what you'd think their jobs are like. They
"Balancing my time and attending to
each role isn't something that comes naturally,"
says Dullaghan, a South Carolina-based artist
who has worked on projects for eVite.com,
The Indianapolis Star and Resort Condominiums
So much for the hobby of "just doodling,"
Tapping In to a Creative Tap Out
Dullaghan says her days are busy - so busy
that the business side of things can overshadow
her creative side.
"Sometimes you just want to paint, and
don't feel like dealing with, say, press checks
or client feedback or self-promotion, but
at the same time you don't want to let any
of those things slip behind," she says.
"Balance to me also means learning how
to take downtime. When you're self-employed,
you really own your success (and your failure),
so it's very easy to work yourself like a
dog and forget to refill that creative cup."
That's what many creatives said in Creatively
Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal
with Career Ups and Downs. The book, written
by copywriter Kristen Fischer, shares insights
from more than 65 creative types across the
globe. The goal of the book is to make creative
types aware of the trials they may face, and
help them see by example that they can thrive
"There are so many gifted people that
get sidetracked by the trials of this business,"
Dullaghan says. "They don't think they
should feel devastated after a rejection,
or they think they should know exactly how
to do everything that running a business entails.
The result is awesome creatives who abandon
their creative dreams, thinking they're not
good enough to pursue them, when in fact,
that's not true."
Battling the 'Lonelies'
For Andrea Scher, a jewelry-maker from California,
the hardest part about making her colorful,
chunky beaded jewelry is battling the "lonelies."
"I cried almost every day for the first
year or so [of being in business]," says
Scher. "I considered quitting. I thought
about sensible 9-to-5 jobs and the working
the counter at a café. Anything to
escape the lonely feelings I had and the accompanying
angst. Not to mention the financial stress."
Underneath her loneliness was fear. She loved
her business but she was afraid of going broke.
She feared she was crazy for thinking people
would buy her necklaces and earrings.
Years later, and now a certified life coach
helping others battle the creative self-employment
demons, a more successful Scher knows that
the problems she faced were not the end-all-be-all
of her creative career. They were part of
Experiencing Down Cycles
M.J. Ryan, an author and consultant based
in California, says many creative people do
not understand that there are ebbs and flows
to the creative course. When artists and writers
go through a down cycle, they feel empty and
can think that is the end. Or that they're
not good enough. Or that it's time to run
back to corporate safety.
But that's not true, says Ryan. She doesn't
offer a step-by-step plan for gaining self-trust,
but does say the best way to build it up is
to play on past successes. If you're starting
out as a graphic artist and have not a client
in sight, for example, think about the art
show you successfully exhibited at during
college. Any success, even if not related
to your field, can be used to motivate. Once
you're motivated, you can put yourself out
there a little. Will rejection come? Sure.
But as Ryan emphasizes, it is all part of
Confidence and trust in oneself will naturally
build as success is tasted, offers Ryan.
And so for those who have already taken the
plunge, they're learning that they can use
their library or bookstore to find out how
to set up an invoicing system instead of panicking
over numbers. In Scher's case, building a
support system helped her battle loneliness.
"If creatives stick with it, they can
succeed in their businesses. They just need
to be aware of what kinds of issues they'll
face, and seek out that voice that tells them
it's OK to get stuck or down. And then find
ways to help themselves," says Fischer.
"Hopefully my book will do just that."
Kristen Fischer is a copywriter
living in New Jersey. Creatively Self-Employed:
How Writers Deal with Career Ups and Downs
is her first book. For more information, visit