5 Reasons to Bail on the Day Job Culture

wonderwomanEtsy has a “Quit Your Day Job” feature on their blog where they interview an Etsy seller about their life and process. I enjoy these features even if they didn’t resonate with me most of the time.  For starters, I didn’t even have a job, much less a day job.  What is a day job anyway? I’m assuming this comes from the quip artists often hear as a criticism of their ambition to live off their work–“Don’t quit your day job.”

I dislike this idea that in order to be a successful artist you have to be totally commercial and if you weren’t you would have to work in some soul-killing job for the right to make your art at night.  Meanwhile, the entire culture benefits from artists working for free.  But I digress!

After teaching Argumentation and Research and Creative Writing at University of California Irvine and various colleges for eight years, I found myself in England, chronically over-qualified and unemployed.  I had no real job for over 6 years, yet I hadn’t given up on the “day job” culture.  I still scoured want ads, sent out resumes or CVs and went to the rare, humiliating interviews, basically the whole soul-killing process of looking for work when you are a “creative type” that doesn’t fit in the cubicle.  One of my friends shook her head and said “Yeah, the tentacles always show” no matter how you try to duct tape them away.

I have so many creative friends who are in the same boat. The thing is, the internet is on our side.  There has never been a better time to be a creator.  I will blog about the pros and cons, and more small business advice in future posts but this one is for the dreamers among you, the ones who are selling their work, doing it online or thinking of doing it.

Instead of “quit your day job” I’d like to dub this “Bail on the Day Job Culture and Make Your Own Life”, and here are 10 Reason why you should:

biz_cat1. Be the CEO of your life. One of the myriad grunt jobs I’ve had in the UK was processing expense reports at Goldman Sachs. Through the perversity of this situation I learned some money smarts but also that being chained to someone else’s priorities to make a profit no matter what didn’t make sense. I didn’t set out to run a business– in fact that is a topic for another post. My handmade business grew, and when it it rivalled my earnings in corporate hell, I realised I was the one to decide what the business was about, and how big or small I wanted it to be– how I wanted it to fit in my life. That was incredibly freeing.

A coven of witch balls- a recent custom order based on my miniature witch balls.
A coven of witch balls- a recent custom order based on my miniature witch balls.

2. Bring Play back into work. A lot of what I do is admin stuff, packaging and shipping, internet juggling and tweaking, not really spending 24-7 with my creative vision. When something sells well I have to make hundreds of that one thing, but I still have time for playing with my materials. The most wonderful part of my job is actually messing around– making new designs, exploring  processes. While the minority of my time is spent on this, it is the thing that drives my shop.  Everything else I do is to enable this playful space to happen.

3. Schedule your time the way it make sense to you. Running your own business means you know how long things take, when they need to be done and what needs to be done at any given moment. (Or if you don’t  you should! That is for another post). When you know this, it means suddenly time is flexible. The biggest challenge for me has been including my own life and needs in this schedule.  That is new this year.  All my work expanding and contracting time has meant I can make time for myself by changing my hours around.

Odalisque in Striped Trousers by Henri Matisse
Odalisque in Striped Trousers by Henri Matisse

4. Live in yoga trousers.  OK, so I do take yoga and stretching breaks during the day so the yoga trousers work, but insert the schelp-wear of your choice here.  I don’t have to wear a suit like I did at the investment bank, or “smart casual” or whatever other perverse non-uniform an office requires.  Right now I’m wearing fleecy slippers, yoga trousers, a tee shirt with a howling wolf on it, a hoodie a fleece body warmer and my Boudicca glasses chain. I feel well professional, let me tell you.

5. Work for and with people who get you. This is probably the biggest benefit for me. I have had a couple of wonderfully compassionate and fun bosses in my life but I confess most were absolutely insane, like working for the Queen of Hearts.  I’m so glad I no longer have to anticipate the whims of a mad person. I’m still looking for a dependable employee to help me with admin, but on the flip side, almost all my customers are amazingly supportive, likeable folk.  Every morning when I sit down to work, I think of the orders that have come in, or my regular customers and what they love, and that puts my day in perspective. If you start your handmade or creative business and remain sincere, the right customers will find you and everything will feel like a collaboration.

My Five Favourite Handmade Businesses Right Now

Blackcraft Harness by Battie Clothing

I like to support other handmade businesses.  I love the connection between maker and object. The quality, attention to detail and individuality that goes into a handmade object is usually far superior to something factory-made.  When I need something– be it clothing, toiletries or storage solutions, I always look to handmade businesses first, and local if I can find it– meaning, in the UK or at least Europe.  What have I been buying recently?

Gothica Harness by BattieClothing

Gothica Harness by Battie Clothing. I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of this harness which decks out low or square necklines or adds a bit of fetish-inspired mystery to sheer tops.  Battie makes these in plus sizes as well, and these run large so definitely order a size smaller than what you would normally wear, or better yet– ask her! She makes them to measure too.  I’m tempted by the Lovecraft Harness  with removeable hood.  Because, well, harnesses and hoods, handmade from a easy-to-work with seller– it’s a win all round.

Papatotoro Hand-printed storage pods

Storage pods from Papatotoro. Papatotoro use vintage wood blocks and lino cuts to make their storage baskets, handbags and purses.  I use these to store my wire spools, my makeup and sofa-side books.  I have several– they are super sturdy and beautiful, harmonizing in any room far better than a plastic storage crate would. They come in a fascinating array of patterns and colours as well.

Nurturing Soul Lip Balms.

Nurturing Soul handmade balms and creams.  I use the lavender lip balm everyday, and the tattoo healing balm is the bomb.  I can highly recommend it for soothing and speeding the healing process.

It looks like she is on vacation now, but when she returns I’ve got my eye on the shea butter balm.

Cadmium Rose 2

Based in Barcelona, Cadmium Rose is a tribal fusion handmade clothing company. I’ve been wearing their ruffle trousers when I teach American Tribal Style Belly Dance® (my other hat!). They are well made and she offers great customer service.

Eco-femme washable menstrual pads

And sometimes my search for handmade goes global.  Eco Femme washable pads are my new love. They can be purchased in the UK by Feminine Wear. I have long used cloth pads and I needed some new ones. Washable pads are better for your body, the environment and your pocketbook. These are super functional (The sturdy metal snap and protective outer layer were selling points for me). Plus, they are pretty, with colourful striped Indian cotton on the outside, and have a great story attached to them.  They are made by a women’s collective in India and their pad-for-pad program means with every pad purchased, a pad is given to an economically disadvantaged teen girl in India.

I’m always on the hunt for new handmade businesses to support.  What are some of your favourites?

And, I can hear you asking.  Yes, I do accessorise that harness (though necklaces are out.) I wear it with my Scrying Mirror Ring:

Doctor Dee's Scrying Mirror Ring. Unisex Onyx Ring of Hand Forged Copper in Your Size.

I’ve Got a Hammer

Mackintosh Rose Ring.

Rings have always fascinated me. They are the kind of jewellery I wear every day. I collect them obsessively and if I visit somewhere I love, they are the souvenir I look for. But until now, I never made rings. For the past few months I’ve been perfecting techniques which basically involved hammering things beyond reason, doing something called “work hardening” and bathing it all in the sulphurs of hell.

The Fossil Hunter Ring by Feral Strumpet

Tiny enough to be carried across an ocean, rings are some of the only heirlooms I possess.  The most sentimental of jewellery, the ring is also the most intimate. I have a large, antique emerald ring that once belonged to my Grandmother. She wore it constantly– washing the dishes in it along with everything else, and the long, vertical angles of the cut have been worn down, the stone frosted over with her daily labours. I have taken it to jewellers to get it sized to fit me and all have wanted to polish it. No way!

Perhaps because it was the first jewellery I loved– straight from the gum ball machine– nothing seems as perfect as these little circles for the fingers.

I have always made things with my hands– my whole life if I wasn’t making something, I didn’t really feel alive. It’s only now that I make my living at it. Here they are, my rings, from my hands to yours.