Setting up at market on Sunday I was laughing with my treasured market friend Natasha Dwyer from Arthur Avenue about how much we love the freedom of our little businesses, being at market and making a living from our creative talents.
We do know how blessed we are for this life we get to lead and it is really fulfilling.
But other conversations over the weekend ranged over some of the harsh realities of making your living from your own creative business. Mostly our customers are fabulous and we can have some really rewarding conversations with them. Sometimes we get the odd customer who leaves us boggled like the one who will see you madly scrambling to get your wet weather kit up to keep the rain our from the storm that has suddenly blown over and then ask for some service – you look over at them, trying to smile and water pours over your head!
The reality is, all jobs have their crappy bits; the times when you’re just sucking it up and trying to make the best of it.
The other weekend I was so thankful to get most of the day in before the forecasted autumn storms swung into Sydney and I had all my wet weather kit up (yay!). The only challenge was, at packup when I needed to be packing down my wet plastic walls and front awning it just rained harder and heavier with no sign of easing (it didn’t ease either for the next half hour or so). I ended up being drench to the skin, through the “rain jacket” and had to drive home like a little drowned rat. That was just one of the sucky moments. You get them.
I regularly have conversations with customers who are working administrative jobs either in corporate or government agencies and look at what I do wistfully, as if it is getting to live some sort of dream. Well I do love getting to make my living from what I make and I know I’m very blessed being able to do that. I know what it is to do work from a range of areas from an IT knowledge worker to an administrator to an analyst to a range of temp jobs that included couriering, stuffing envelopes, desktop publishing and the list goes on. While I gave my all to each of them, determined to learn from each of them, it is being self employed and making my own designs that is most satisfying.
So when I have those times when it is hard I find it easier to tell myself that every job has it’s crappy bits.
I find doing two markets in one day and having fewer sales than a normal day market really hard going. Starting setup at 7.30am and finishing the day at 11.30pm for less money sucks. When it comes to VIVID in Sydney each year if I don’t do the double market – the regular day market as well as the night market – then I get moved to a really slow spot for the day market – halving (or worse as one year proved) my sales. So to financially get through this I simply need to suck it up and do both the day and night market.
As sales are reduced during VIVID it means there’s no budget for help either. Nor can we bring our cars in for bump out because there are too many people around (fair enough) so we have to carry our market kits out to our cars. My kit weighs about 60 kg and there are only a couple car spots the rangers let us use for loading at that time of night.
VIVID comes just as a lead into winter, our most quiet time of trade at market and also covers a long weekend – read two 7.30am-11.30pm days back to back, instead of one long day followed by a regular market day.
The success of VIVID was a surprise to all, organisers and the micro and small businesses around the Rocks, authorities and the government. Like anything it took some time to adapt and make good with it – make the best of it. Yes, I’ve often felt with VIVID that as a micro business owner I’m sponsoring the State Government (and that’s a crappy feeling!) but the reality is, I want this creative life, I want the freedom it gives me and if sometimes government agencies put road blocks in my way it is my choice how I respond to them. There are hundreds of small businesses at The Rocks that get knocked around by VIVID.
The VIVID crowds spend money on food and drinks and precious little else. My constant hope is that it will bring in more interstate and international customers to Sydney and The Rocks and they spend money on more things than just food, their money moves around all of us and that’s a great thing.
I don’t mind people wanting free entertainment, I like that too and it’s easy to understand. I just find the loss of income a harsh reality.
So like all of us with crappy aspects to our work, I’m having to be a Pollyanna and find ways around the regularly changing issues. VIVID is a big one, it impacts six trading days, two of which are crucially important because they are our June long weekend (vital for any sized business catering to the needs of tourists). Getting soaked to the skin at the end of an Autumn market day is easily fixed with a hot bath and a dose of manuka honey with olive leaf extract and an early night.
When it comes to the deadening effects of the daily grind that can be harder, they seem to be going on and go. If you know there are some times of the year that this more prevalent maybe look to ways to break that up? Maybe a girls weekend away, or booking yourself into a retreat, getting along to an exhibition or show you love? What gives you joy? Then consciously do more of that to break up the hard slog time of year.
I’ve found it does take a conscious decision to include activities that add that special layer of enjoyment. It’s meant I’ve had to figure out what gives me this satisfaction and that has at times been a bit tricky but who is meant to have all the answers anyway? I certainly don’t! I’m learning by the doing.
I’ve found the biggest difference is my attitude towards the crappy bits.
I have a snarky customer then I think that something is happening in their life making them that way when they’re at a beautiful market full of creative inspiration. I have sympathy for them – or I look within myself trying to find sympathy for them.
I get rained on at the end of the day when I’ve managed to get the bulk of it in I think of the hot bath and glass of wine I’ll have when I get home and give thanks for the day’s trade.
I know VIVID is coming and it comes every year, I put more savings away in the three months leading up to it and have marketing materials to hand out to the evening customers who are “just looking” with the hope they’ll come back later in the year, maybe even do some Christmas shopping for original and locally made presents! (Pollyanna, here I come!).
And when I’m working away in my little studio with my yummy feeling clay with favourite music playing I give thanks that this is how I make my living.
The key is celebrating the good parts of your work and making the best of the challenging parts. There is no perfect work, no work that is always going to be wonderful and immensely rewarding. A life spent doing engaging work that you choose to find satisfaction with does create a life well lived.