I enjoy being a freelance designer... well, I must do - because I've been doing it for the best part of my career. Not that it's always out of choice, it's just the way a lot of companies decided to employ designers, on an "as we need you" basis. It works well if the freelancer has a few regular clients and juggles their time between them, usually having more than enough work to keep them busy, but not so much that they are swamped. I have definitely been lucky that way. Sometimes there are lulls and sometimes clients just disappear. The roller-coaster rhythm of freelancing. A few clients have asked me to come and work for them full-time in the last 15 years, but it has meant yet another relocation to a part of the country (or world!) and I did enough of that in my younger days to last several lifetimes, so, no thanks, not anymore. I am settled, just unfortunately in a part of the country that doesn't offer many job opportunities for someone like me! Sometimes sadly, a regular client goes bust, or your best contact moves on or even retires. Sometimes, your old contact needs your design services at the new company.... but you always need to be on the look out for new contacts, always balancing the stress of having too much work with the icy panic of having too little. Freelancing has always been something you need a certain temperament to do, there are no guarantees. So, I am good at freelancing, and I enjoy it.
I used to enjoy it a lot more than I do now, to be frank. It used to be a LOT less stressful. The only materials I needed were layout pads and a ready supply of pens and magic markers! If there was no work, I didn't have any overheads to worry about other than my personal ones. Now I have to keep an up to the minute Apple Mac (and various back-up hard-drives) running the latest full Adobe software and I also have to know how all of it works to a reasonable level because I am pretty much my own IT department. All of this got a lot more expensive when greedy Adobe demanded you pay them a monthly fee to 'access' their software.... no more economising by running on older discs. So, now it costs a fortune to sit around with no work. I also used to have the luxury of a huge calendar on the wall and all my deadlines were inked in and carefully juggled so that everyone got their work on time and I got to have evenings and weekends - sometimes - even days off. Then all of that changed, the very technology that made it so convenient to work from home also imprisoned me. It took away the need for pre-planning as far as clients were concerned. Pretty much every job a freelancer is now offered has the same deadline:ASAP. If everything you are offered is needed 'as soon as possible', you could be forgiven for imagining that would make juggling the work easier, but the reverse is true in practice. It has also become the norm for clients to ring the morning a considerable amount of work is needed for an afternoon deadline. No checking that you are available because that is a given... I am never far from my Mac, how could I be? So, these days I am juggling the demands of people on several continents with differing timelines and everything has simply become a great deal more stressful. I wonder if I actually enjoy freelancing at all, anymore?
Do I really 'enjoy' the freedom of working in my pyjamas? The reality of that is sometimes waking up to the sound of a client on the phone and the first time you get a chance to comb your hair or even go to the loo is when the job is emailed off at 1.30pm? Do I really enjoy my only face to face contact with another human being on many days, actually being the Postman? I never turn on the Skype camera because often my tiny back bedroom/studio is such a mess and it's occupant even messier looking. Why make an effort when no-one ever sees me? Then there is the constant cycle of worrying about doing paperwork. That has never been my strong point; keeping up with invoicing, chasing payments, book keeping, filling out Tax Returns, making sure I meet those six monthly Tax payment deadlines. There are definite bonuses to being self-employed and working from home.... but more and more I wonder how much longer I can go on this way. I often feel isolated and harassed these days. I no longer enjoy freelancing.
There, I have said it. "Said" it in black and white. I don't even know if I will publish this, but I need to see those words written down.
I wrote all of the above a few months back, just for the release of writing out what I was feeling. Between then and now something unexpected happened. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I was offered a great full-time job with a local (ish) company and even more unexpectedly, I accepted. I will be starting a full-time design job in the New Year! The last time I worked for anyone but myself was way back at the very beginning of THIS Millennium!!!
It will take a bit of mental adjustment... I doubt they will welcome me rolling up for work in my pyjamas, for instance... but it is beginning to sink in, that it will bring stability back into my life. Something that has been missing for so long. Routine, 9-5.30 with weekends, able to make plans with friends, take holidays that I don't have to constantly push off into some never-never fantasy future - because I can never turn freelance work down (just in case they find someone else to do it!). In the last 18 months I have had regular dreams that I die at my desk.... alone in this little untidy house where no-one will come to find me for weeks because friends and family are so used to me having to break engagements (I'm sorry, there is this rush job I HAVE to do). Another rush job, another broken arrangement. Sometimes things happen for a reason and sometimes things change at the best possible time. Serendipity. If I were superstitious I would point to my winning that sweet little Tarot reading doll from Pantovola - the first time I have ever won anything - perhaps she dealt me a less isolated future? :o) Wish me luck
Irmalene the Vampire Showgirl (and her fellow chorus line) have been on a prolonged Hiatus thanks to my Printers stubborn refusal to print out onto quality art paper or card. It meant that my etsy shop had nothing in it for a long time and was also closed for a while. The paper dolls are fun for me to make and also keep a presence on etsy in the long, long months when I am not able to work on physical dolls, so that was quite a blow.
I decided to prepare the artwork for download and so needed to simplify the doll outlines, as I used to hand cut them all myself with a scalpel. So as I was reworking them I also changed the colours and tweaked some details. Here is Irmalene #2, all ready and waiting to be downloaded and assembled in my etsy shop.
The days are tumbling by toward Winter now at an alarming rate. Yet I look at the calendar in disbelief - it's as if someone tilted the box of my year slightly and now we are sliding back down the snowy end with not much to cling on to. It's oddly warm and humid all day until the early evening chill when the sun goes down prompts me to turn on the central heating.... only to lead to panicky window openings and midnight standing in the garden to "cool down" later on! My bedroom is too warm for sleep and yet a chill breeze through the wide open window always finds my right hip before the dawn chases it away again. My hip - never felt that creakiness in my hip before. I'm sliding toward Winter in more ways than one.
The imagined "Time to create" never materialised over Spring and Summer and so Halloween is almost upon us and I have little new to put in my etsy shop. Searching through my old Paper dolls I decided to recolour them, tweak them and make them available again as downloads and "Ludmilla & the Raven" is the fist to be finished... hope you like her :o)
Here is another portrait I have managed to finish. I am finding that another great advantage of "painting" these mainly in photoshop is that it fits in much better with the stop/start nature of my freelance work. With an actual watercolour on paper you need to work fast while the paint is still maleable - not always an option - and when I work in chalk pastel over the top it makes dust everywhere, which isn't great when my computer is in the same room. Plus, in this case, when I changed my mind about the large flat faded edge background, I was able to drop in this scanned paper doily frame and work it into the background as though it had always been there by simply putting it into the layer BEHIND the girl. This is Mali :o)
I'm still experimenting with different textures and thicknesses of art paper to see which gives me the most consistent quality of print out, and then I can work out the pricing and start taking commissions.
The moth frivolity has served it's purpose to loosen me up and shoo away the ghosts of self doubt. It's a strange thing, but once you make a start, doesn't really matter what it is that you produce, you get engrossed and somehow all the clutter in your head goes away and it becomes about the work and you are happy again.
I have didn't have much freelance work on Friday, so worked on a portrait of a friend's son. It started out as a watercolour/gouache painting and then I drew over it in chalk pastels but didn't love the background or the way I'd done his hair... so scanned it into the Mac and replaced them and generally messed around until I was happy. The end result looks to be a hybrid between a watercolour and a linocut or screen print! His mother is also happy, I was relieved to know!
It got me thinking, because this portrait is not fully painted in the "real world", the finished image will need to be a high quality single print out instead of a painting. I am wondering if I could offer a commission service where I do them this way, because I can change the background colour and some other details until the client is happy, they buy the single print out of the end result, but I could also email them the digital file so that they could use the portrait to make their own greetings cards or a T Shirt for a doting Nana.... what do you think?
Moth number 2 went off in several different directions as I wondered if Gouache was even the right approach......went for a wash background but then it took attention away from 'Merv' himself and it was difficult to read the text, so wound up doing a flat Gouache colour over the top (but not completely opaque, so some of the dried wash texture showed through) and the lettering is now a font applied in the Mac... still playing :o)