How do you know when the time is right? When do you take that next step? Am I ready?
Twenty-five months ago I was told by my employer that they would be unable to keep me on as a full time employee. It was shocking, like a rug had been pulled right out from under me, but it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. I began to realize that even the "safe" jobs really aren't and I was forced to reexamine what I should/could do with my time. It seems funny now but even though I had wanted to be an illustrator since I was a kid, it was only at this point that I started to think it could happen. I had always thought it was something I didn't have time for, something that was incredibly hard to achieve. I was in my own way and this one event helped me to get out of it!
I had no portfolio, no idea what I should do, no real idea of how to start, but the simple knowledge that I would have two days a week to concentrate on art seemed to get me dreaming again. I started to research the art licensing field and everything I learned seemed to be familiar in someway. It just seemed to fit, no other way to describe it. So I jumped in, all in. I started to tell people I was an illustrator, did more research, began creating. I decided to walk Surtex in 2011 and exhibit in 2012 without having one inkling what that might mean or involve. I'm pretty sure to anyone else I probably looked like I had this obsessive hobby, but I knew it was more, I was changing my career.
It's funny trying to describe what you are doing without having all the details. People give you that funny look; sure they nod and smile but really you know they are thinking "this chick is nuts". To be fair, I had many days where I looked at myself that way! How do you keep going without any indicator that you are on the right path? It's not easy, I wish I could say it was, and I don't think I'm anything special because I did it. There were all too many times I just felt deflated and wondered if the time I was spending was truly an investment or if it was just taking me away from the things happening around me. But you just keep going and at some point you've gone too far to go back.
I started to build collections, taught myself how to make patterns, reinvented how I painted. My goal was to stick to my traditional watercolors but try to be as versatile as some of the digital artists I saw. I didn't see a lot of work that looked like mine and it really had me worried that there wouldn't be a place for me. I read that watercolor didn't reproduce well and that manufacturers didn't like to use it, colors were too soft and didn't meet current trends. Something told me to just keep going. All I knew is that I had to get to Surtex. I guess it wasn't much of a plan but it's the one thing I focused on everyday. I whole heartedly felt that if I could just get myself to that show, I'd figure out my next steps.
Surtex was an unbelievable experience for me. The artists, exhibitors, and manufacturers were all so amazing. It was validation that what I thought was right, really did have it's place. I had found my place and never felt so at home. So many times during this process I had felt that I was on my intended path at my intended time. Even though it was a hard two years and I never worked more than I had in my life, I can't say they were difficult. I never felt like I was fighting an uphill battle or that the odds were stacked against me.
So here I was exactly two years after my employment was dropped to part time and I am told once again that I will not be able to stay on in my typical capacity. Costs need to be cut again and my employer will be taking over my duties. This time there was no rug pulled out, no sinking feeling, no question what my next move would be. In truth I had been secretly hoping something like this would happen since returning home from the show. I never could have anticipated how difficult it would be to return to work after glimpsing that world. Financially, I'm not there. Licensing takes time to generate income. I had full knowledge of this when I started and had gone into things with a five year plan in mind not two. I was hoping to save up a years worth of expenses before taking this leap but sometimes life gives us the little pushes we could never take ourselves.
Financially, is it EVER going to be the right time? Probably not, especially not to this girl. I'm practical, analytical, a planner. I long for stability, order, the ability to control all external factors. Isn't funny that a person like that would choose such an unknown as a career? Never understood it myself, must be that whole right/left brain thing I've got going on! Even the thought of using my nest egg, one that was specifically saved for this very purpose, makes me anxious. Despite all of this, I knew as soon as it happened that this also was at the right time. I am trying to have faith that the deals I have in place will be just the ones I need (I can't wait to share!). I am trusting that money will come even though I may not have real figures to plan on. For the first time, I see my time as being more valuable than the dollar amount assigned to it when it is sold to someone else.
From forty hours to freelance in twenty five months. I could have never anticipated this would be the journey I'd be on, but I'm so happy to say that today I am JUMPING IN!