It seems backward that I would take a job that pays much less than my professional work for clients. But it turns out that's EXACTLY what I needed to do in order to pursue my passion for the work I REALLY want to do.
I haven't had a real work-for-someone-else job since... let me think...maybe since 1996? That's over 20 years I've been working for myself, hustling for my own pay and doing my thing for clients. But my season of graphic design is changing. I don't care for design challenges and logo designs anymore. I don't care about wedding decorations and the current trends for party decor. My passion is to help more people feel better about their creative businesses. It has been a seed growing inside me for a long time and so one year ago, I decided to cut the cord from That Life to This New Life of Creative Juice.
But there was one small problem: I cut the cord too early. And with a dull knife.
I thought all I needed was a few months to get Creative Juice and the membership/paid portion of MORE Creative Juice up and running. I believed that after a lot of hard work, I could replace the income I was making from design and invitation work. It seemed like a decent plan, but there were a few messy flaws in it that I probably should have seen coming, but didn't.
Flaw #1: Even though I wasn't actively promoting the design work anymore, I was still getting requests for work. You just don't say "no" to income, right? So I still said "yes", because even though there was SOME money in Creative Juice, there wasn't enough to pay my mortgage and everything else a family of 5 requires financially.
Flaw #2: The freelance work was distracting me from Creative Juice business. I made some progress and became more organized and productive over the year, but it was still taking last place in the long list of daily tasks. My attention was first to paying clients, and the rest of the time split between Creative Juice business development and family. There was just not enough time and mental energy in my day for everything.
By splitting myself three ways, I wasn't able to do any one thing well.
I didn't feel successful in any part of my life. I was really stressed about the pressures of my finances. I knew I needed stable income to think straight, but where was that going to come from? If it wasn't coming from my design clients, then was I supposed to...get a Real Job?
The mental gymnastics begin...
First, I had to get over a few things. I haven't worked as someone's employee for over 20 years and even those jobs didn't go really well. Was I un-hireable? (Is that even a word?) Did I have marketable skills?
Second, I had to be okay with reaching out to my colleagues and connections. Did that make me look unsuccessful? Would this job search be perceived as a failure? Was I sending mixed messages to my members of Creative Juice?
Third, I had to actually apply for jobs. That was very weird! In the end, I took advantage of a personal connection and convinced Costco to hire me for a seasonal part time position.
Yes, I work at Costco.
The unexpected dark road of depression.
First, I was happy. Costco pays well for hourly workers and I scored the merchandising shift, which meant I would start at 5 AM and finish up by 10 AM or at 1:30 PM for a full 8 hour shift. This would allow me time to still meet with Creative Juice consulting clients and go to the meetings on Mondays. PERFECT! My plan was really coming together.
Then, I became physically and mentally exhausted. My God, retail and merchandising is hard labor! My arms and fingers are sliced from box cuts, my feet ache from standing all day, my back hurts from lifting heavy boxes. It's quite a change from the sitting on the couch with my laptop all day. Also, getting up at 4:00 AM in the morning is darn early!
I started feeling really sorry for myself.
After about two weeks, I was collecting the grocery carts from the parking lot and was suddenly overcome with self-defeat. I have a college education. I'm 46 years old. I am a creative and productive person with talents and marketable skills. What am I doing pushing grocery carts with a fluorescent orange vest over my coat? I imagined people looking at me and thinking, "Thank God I'm not that woman. She must have hit some hard times to be working here." And of course, it turns out that all my friends also shop at Costco. I dreaded the look of concern they had in their eyes when they saw me. I believe in hard work, dammit. But this was feeling more and more like a huge personal failure. Am I not better than this?
Is boxing up other people's groceries is all I have to offer the world?
It was too much.
I could barely keep my composure in public that day. When my shift ended, I drove straight home, climbed into my bed and cried and/or slept for 24 hours straight. I said terrible things to my husband. I confused and scared my kids. I refused to talk to my parents about it. All the shame and fear and sadness poured out. I am a failure at 46 years old. Is this what I have to show for my kids and my lifelong efforts and following my dreams and passions? I asked the Universe, "Do I have to give up what I love and do well because I can't afford to do otherwise?"
Well, Hell no!
After a solid, three day pity party*, I picked myself back up out of my mental gutter. I reasoned that if I could get enough early shifts, I could actually stop doing the paid design work altogether (which was what I wanted most). Costco might actually be my ticket to mental and financial freedom! No hustling, no billing, no client time records and waiting for checks to arrive in the mail. Sure, it's not anywhere close to my hourly consulting rates, but at Costco someone was going to pay me to show up and clock in. They had to make all the hard decisions, not me. What a relief and a joy!
I finally have freedom
In the book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the creative freedom a J.O.B. can give an artist. It made sense when I read it, but now I really get it. All the time and mental energy I was spending on clients is now gone. I can come home and work on what I love, Creative Juice, knowing that a check is going to appear in my bank account that will cover my mortgage payments and pay for all the crap my kids need from me. I'm SO happy. I'm so grateful for Costco and it's commitment to a living wage (BTW many of their employees are college educated). I really do enjoy the nice people who work there and chatting to all the customers.
My job at Costco finally gives me the freedom to do my real work: Creative Juice.
If you're interested in joining in this amazing group of Creative Entrepreneurs and seeing why I sacrificed almost everything so that I could continue to grow it, please join in our online or live meet-up sessions. If you need a decent paying hourly job, I definitely recommend Costco!
*FYI: I highly recommend the 3-day pity party. It is a critical part of the grieving process, as taught to me by my very wise best friend from college, Amy. This was deemed the healthy way to get over a boyfriend or any other struggle, and I've found that over the years, it works beautifully. Give yourself 3 full days to cry non-stop, eat whatever you want, watch Netflix and add in any other indulgence you need. When the three days are over, climb out of bed and get started again.