Creatively Self-Employed

by Kristen Fischer

Creatively Self-Employed

Every morning, I get on the T (the subway, to you non-Bostonians out there) and go to my 9-to-5 gig. On my way, I see people walking their dogs, running, and just hanging out in Starbucks. And every morning, I wonder the same thing: Who are these people? What is it they do that lets them linger in a coffee shop at 10am, or sit in the Public Garden on a sunny summer day? And, more importantly, why am I not doing that?

My fellow New Jerseyan Kristen Fischer explores the world of “those people” in her book, Creatively Self-Employed. She has effectively learned to become one of “them.” Knowing someone my age has been able to free herself from the cubicle (without moving into a cozy cardboard box on the nearest corner) intrigued me.

Like many self-employed creatives, Kristen became her own boss out of necessity. She was frustrated with her jobs after college, and she was working part-time while freelance copywriting on the side. Her part-time job fell through and, despite not feeling ready, she forged ahead into full-time freelancing, continuing on her “path to freedom.” And, like many creatively self-employed people I know, she occasionally toys with the idea of going back to the 9-to-5 grind. Then she remembers how much she enjoys not waking up at dawn, sitting at Starbucks at 10am, and being her own boss, and the thought passes.

Kristen’s book is definitely not a how-to of departing the cubicle (for that, try Michelle Goodman’s The Anti 9-to-5 Guide, a.k.a., my last book review subject). She has interviewed all kinds of self-employed creatives – graphic designers, copywriters, and artists – who discuss the positives and the negatives of working for themselves. One particularly interesting benefit about self-employment that California artist Marisa Haedike mentions is the concept of job security. She says that 9-to-5’s only create an illusion of security. Workers can be fired at any point in time, which leaves them to the mercy of their employers, whereas self-employed people are always in business. She sums it up quite well: “The hardest thing [about creative self-employment] is trusting that even though you don’t know what’s coming next, it’s all working out for your best interest. Working a [9-to-5] job is really the same experience, you just have the illusion that you know what you will be doing tomorrow.”

The book is full of interviewee profiles, scattered throughout chapters such as “Facing Rejection,” “Trusting Yourself,” “Isolation,” and my personal favorite, the comforting “Going Crazy.” Perhaps I should have clarified my earlier statement – the book isn’t a how-to in terms of how to set up a business, but it is something of a support group for creatives. The interviews highlight the good and bad of working for yourself and discuss the not-strictly-business side of things. There’s something comforting about knowing “it’s not just me,” in terms of feeling rejected or scared, and dealing with the ups and downs of working on your own (and often, by yourself).

There are some practical bits at the end, though, for those of you who are worried this book is a little too touchy-feely for your taste. Kristen includes excellent tips on e-mail marketing, and a great list of business and marketing-related Internet resources, as well as an extensive reading list (some of which I’m sure will make it onto my reading list for future reviews).

For those of you considering fleeing the cube, I’d consider this book an excellent companion to The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. One helps you make a practical plan to get out, and the other helps you get an idea of what you’ll be facing once you actually are out.

This review was originally written for BoDo: Business of Design Online.
Reprinting allowed with permission of author.