I'm sure that balance means something different to everyone, generally speaking though we're all striving for a good work/life balance. It seems to be on a sliding scale or all together elusive and it seems to be a particularly tricky one for artists.
There's a quote that's been going around for a while that says, "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life..." Well that just isn't true now is it?! I am privileged to be able to make pretty things but the actually running of my business is most definitely work and quite hard work at that.
When I'm not at work (my other work) I spend a lot of time doing business-y things that are essential but not fun! There are a lot of early mornings before work and late nights after work, working weekends (that's when most craft markets are) and don't even get me started on Christmas! If you're lucky you have supportive friends & family that will help you package what feels like a million studs when it all gets a bit too much. Everything remotely social needs to be scheduled as far in advance as possible, does it clash with a market? Do I have a deadline? Will I be lying down in a dark room to decompress? You have to make time for yourself, for your relationships, for your family - you know the only things that are more important than your artistic endeavours. I deem a week successful if I have done most of the things on my never ending to do list, I've not had too stressful a time at work, , had enough sleep and spent some quality time with my family! This doesn't always happen and it can lead to guilt, stress and a less productive following week! It's easy to become a victim of your own success (whatever that looks like for you) and you have to stay busy to stay busy but I've been really trying to set limits and having dedicated studio space has really helped me set work hours and get in and out of the zone. Yes it's fantastic getting to work for yourself, do what you love and make some money whilst you're at it but you have to try and put the same focus and effort into the rest of your life. I'm not practicing what I'm preaching just yet but I'm trying to stay mindful of the balance.
I feel that there's also a constant balancing act between your 'bread & butter' and your new ideas, those that may not be lucrative and can take up a lot of time. It's super important for your development as an artist and the future of your business but it's difficult to find the time when you've got orders to get out or a market to prep for. So once in a while you're lucky enough to have scheduled in some experimentation time and then you find yourself with a great big creative blog - it's not a nice place to find yourself, thinking that you've lost your mojo and wasted time and money. There's the balancing of your time & resources - do you spend money on new materials and ideas or book in a market for 3 months down the line and make stock for that? Do you pay for some promotion and put time into updating your platforms or some new tools that'd streamline your making? Do you invest in better display & packaging materials or buy some food? Tough right!
I've already had 10 markets this year, a few pop up shops to stock and more coming. This has meant that I've had to be realistic about what I can actually achieve and be less hard on myself, It's important to me that I get a healthy Netflix quota and get to go to nice places to eat as well as working on my business! My new motto is "you can only do what you can do". So this week after grafting to complete a big restock I treated myself to a working brunch and started writing this blog. I had banana bread pancakes and it was ace.
Sheffield Etsy Made Local 2018 | Photo courtesy of Heather Isobel Photography
Hi! There are a lot of makers out there in the world and most have an "unconventional" work life. I.e. they work alone in their studio or workshop which is often also in their home. There are a lot of makers that have full or part time jobs, families & other commitments which means that they only make in the evenings (and long in to the night) or weekends or vice versa. Saying that you're an artist when someone asks what you do is still met with skepticism and lack of understanding. All of these factors and more can lead to feeling a little isolated and out of touch with the rest of the world.
I truly believe that one of the best things you can do as a small buisness owner/creative [whatever you are] is join a community, whatever that may look like. They can be an endless and invaluable resource. You can have the most supportive friends and family but they often don't "get it". You need someone that knows the stress of listing a million things on Etsy, agonising over photography, thinking of the perfect caption on insta, being downtrodden by a rubbish market, struggling with accounts and juggling every other hat you have to put on being a one woman band. You need someone that understands how much of your heart and soul you put into the side hustle hoping for one day to leave the soul crushing day job because their on the same path. Having someone that can give you an informed and objective view of your business is vital for your personal & professional growth. As awkward and anxiety inducing as it is, find people you admire or people that seem to be at a similar stage to you and ask for advice - this doesn't have to be in person! There are so many online groups you can join and just absorb as much info as you can and apply it. Eventually you won't feel like an imposter and you'll be able to contribute lots of your experiences and top tips too - promise! I joined my local Etsy team and it and has helped me and my business no end!
I was coerced into going to a local Etsy meeting and joined the facebook group too, nearly 3 years later I'm now a leader of said group and workshop coordinator. This has been so great for my self esteem and led to so many fantastic relationships both personal & professional. I had the privilege of attending the Etsy UK summit earlier this year. This is me concentrating hard to take in all of information so I could share it with my lovely team. I learned so much, not just from Etsy but from the dozens of captains and leaders from all over the UK and it was a privelge to have access to this wider community who are on the same mission to educate, support & inspire their own local communities.
Etsy UK Summit 2019 | Photo courtesy of OsborneHollis.co.uk
My biggest advice to every artist/designer/maker is find your people, find your tribe - it takes a village folks!