Last week was a whirlwind and the fact that I was able to get any blog posts up at all was a downright miracle. This was mostly due to…….my other job.
I haven’t exactly been hiding the fact that I have another job, but I also had not made a public announcement about it either (until now). For a while I felt like people wouldn’t respect me as a legit business if I had this other full-time job that gave me a weekly check, 401k and health benefits. But I realize now that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. So today I’m going to share a little bit about how I got to this place, why it’s ok for me to tell you about my other job, why my design biz is not just a “hobby” and how it can be utterly overwhelming at times.
THE BACK STORY
As a loud, outgoing child I liked to act out movies while watching them (see the cute kid with the tricycle? that’s me!). My parents had a lightbulb moment and said, “hey, this kid might like theater!” I could sing loudly and on-key, so it was fitting. I did the community theater/summer stock non-professional thing through high school, at which point I started to dabble in building scenery and stage managing. I still say I couldn’t act my way out of a paper bag, but don’t ask my folks because they’ll tell you I was destined to be the next Bernadette Peters.
Jump forward to college (Florida State University – go seminoles!), and my pursuit of a degree in Theatre. I quickly became interested in fundraising, marketing and management courses and decided that theater management was something I was more interested in than acting. After graduation I moved to Washington, DC to be an intern at Shakespeare Theatre Company. Throughout the next few years I worked at STC, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and Atlas Performing Arts Center before settling down at The Kennedy Center. I spent 2 years in the Special Events office, and for the last 4 years have been the Asst. Theater Manager. While I was in the Special Events office I became interested in graphic design (something I had dabbled in during college, but never had any professional training). The director of our department was very encouraging and let me design a few event pieces before I moved into my native theater management specialty. I took a few classes to learn some of the more computer/technical aspects of design, but the artistic part seemed to come naturally so I decided to embrace it.
STARTING A COMPANY – NOT A HOBBY
This is when Hitchcock Creative Inc. was born. It is a real company. As the daughter of a CPA/Businessman, I incorporated my business right away. I opened a checking account, learned to use quickbooks and projected my expenses and income to make sure I was actually going to turn a profit. Sure it’s just me and sure that “studio” I refer to is really the 3rd bedroom in our suburban house, but I’m a young company so I make no apologies. I can charge the rates I charge because I’m NOT paying to lease a storefront and I’m NOT paying for my health insurance and 401k plan. I stated this endeavor wanting to provide arts organizations and couples getting married with professional designs at a reasonable rate, and this is how I do it.
At some point I may grow out of the 3rd bedroom and into a storefront. Or maybe I won’t. I don’t consider not growing into a multi-million dollar corporation as a failure. I am a small business, I am successful and I am happy.
BEST LAID PLANS
On paper this all seems to work out and in all actuality, it works fine about 90% of the time. I spend my weekdays in the 3rd bedroom designing, invoicing and running my business (I won’t hide it, I’m currently in my PJ’s – you know you’re jealous). Then in the mid-afternoon, I put on a suit and drive to the Other Job to manage a performance. My weekly breakdown looks something like this:
But what about that other 10% of the time? That was last week. A colleague at the Other Job was out and I needed to fill in and cover their shows. We also had two special shows happening which needed extra meetings and time/coordination to make sure everything went smoothly. Plus a few small fires to put out. Suddenly my week looked like this:
DESIGN JOB VS. OTHER JOB
For the last 2 years I’ve wondered if I’d have the guts/nerve/ambition/desire to truly take my design business full-time. Quit the Other Job, work from home full-time and have more free time to do…..something. Sure it’s do-able, but is that what I really want? I’ve spent the last 10 years working in theater and as frustratingly dramatic as that work environment can be, I’m not sure I’m ready to give it up. Over the last 2 years, I’ve thought a lot about how I need to choose between the two. Then about a month ago, I had a lovely dinner with a designer whom I admire quite a bit and my opinions completely changed. She asked why I couldn’t do both if I had such a great thing going? And I thought, “Huh, well that’s a good point.”
So now, instead of trying to figure out which job I want to do, I’m working on finding a better way to continue to do both jobs. I’ve raised my prices on wedding invitations a little, and I’m actually saying no to some design jobs if I can’t fit it into my schedule. This is allowing me to see that husband of mine on occasion and to take a few minutes to get a pedicure without feeling guilty that I’m wasting time.
IT’S OK TO SURVIVE
Are you teetering between quitting your day job or not? Take a look at the Etsy’s Quit Your Day Job spotlights. I think they are an inspiration to a lot of small business owners who ARE looking to make that plunge. But keep in mind that having both jobs may be exactly what you want after all. And let’s be honest, in this economy it may be what you need.
You don’t have to apologize for making a living.