Don’t you love it when a planned, routine project turns a corner, changes form, and, ultimately, becomes more interesting? That’s the case with this story. What started as the January edition of our #ArtistAdvice series (featuring Minted artists sharing their advice about work and creativity), evolved into this: an e-conversation between Jessica Williams and Rebecca Turner. Both are longtime artists in the Minted community. Both work from home. Both said, “Hey, wait a minute, I have more to say about this than just my advice.” And both want to hear your thoughts, so we’ll get to that at the end.
So, here we go. This is the start of what we hope becomes an ongoing discussion with the Minted artist community about what it means to work from home—the pros and cons and all the insights in-between.
Rebecca Turner burns midnight oil in South Bend, Indiana.
Amy Schroeder: How long have you worked from home, and why?
Jessica: I’ve worked from home for almost three years. I previously worked full time in visual merchandising for Johnston & Murphy, and my freelance work built up to a point where I wasn’t able to do both. It was a scary leap to make, but completely worth it.
Rebecca: I’ve been working exclusively from home since 2010 and the birth of my first child. Before then, I worked full time at various “designy” jobs and freelanced on the side.
Jessica Williams with her husband and her dog Finley in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Photography Anthology in Nashville.
What do you like about working from home?
Jessica: I love the freedom and flexibility. I’m able to take a morning off to go to a doctor appointment or take the dog to the park when the weather is nice. I traded in my iMac for a Macbook this year and have even more flexibility—I’m sitting in Whole Foods as I type!
Rebecca: I enjoy the flexibility; I can be at home with my three little kids and also be able to work creatively when time permits. And I like not having a commute!
“Olive Branch” Holiday Card by Rebecca Turner
What don’t you like about working from home?
Rebecca: I miss having coworkers around, people to share ideas and feedback with, or just to laugh with sometimes.
Jessica: Yes, coworkers! I’m a true introvert and find time alone the most fulfilling. But after a week or two of working from home, I found myself craving social interaction and being downright lonely. Loneliness is probably the biggest obstacle I have encountered, and it continues to challenge me. I try to make lunch dates with friends regularly, and work outside of the house when the opportunity arises. Sitting in a coffee shop, just hearing the buzz of people, can really fill that need. I also interact throughout the day with other Minties online. I consider my virtual co-workers some of my best friends. They are amazing for giving advice, bouncing around ideas, or just offering support.
“Wonders” Christmas Photo Card by Jessica Williams
Are you able to separate “work life” from non-work life?
Jessica: At first, this was really difficult for me. I found myself working all hours of the day. There was a certain guilt I felt if I wasn’t working. Now I’ve come to terms with the fact that my day is very different from the standard workday I was used to in an office. Sometimes I work 8-5, and other days I don’t work at all. As long as it gets done, I’m happy with it.
Rebecca: Not really—that’s a big challenge for me. My full-time job (stay-at-home-mom) is basically never-ending and I don’t physically leave it at the end of the day. So it’s sometimes hard at the end of the day to switch over mentally to “artist” and ignore the other stuff that needs to be done. In other ways, though, it’s fun to have the overlap. I like working on sketches while my kids are coloring or doing their own messy creative work.
“Rainbow Cake” Children’s Birthday Party Invitation by Rebecca Turner
If you could change something about working from home, what would it be?
Rebecca: I think I would hire someone to clean my house. I feel like I’m a pretty good mother, and a pretty good artist, but I don’t want to admit the last time I cleaned the bathroom.
Jessica: That’s actually one of the best investments! When I started working from home, we hired someone to clean the house and have never regretted it. I mentioned the loneliness previously, and I would definitely find a way to change that. The idea of working in a shared space or collaborating with other designers is very appealing to me.
How does working from home affect your productivity?
Jessica: My work style is very scattered—I am so easily distracted. I may go to the kitchen for a drink and find myself doing dishes. I struggle with this daily! The best thing I have found is to make a list each day and work to get those things crossed off. My list usually contains work- and non-related items, so I can feed my distractions by jumping around the to-do list.
Rebecca: I would say my rate of productivity is higher because I know I have a very limited amount of time, so I want to make the most out of it. But it’s hard to make enough time to really grow or take on much artistically.
Do you have advice for other artists who work from home or who aspire to work from home?
Rebecca: I don’t feel like I should be giving advice on this subject, but I will say that hiring a neighbor girl (about 12–13 years old) to play with my kids in the summer has worked out great for me in the way of making time to work and is something my kids have loved.
Jessica: This may be advice in general, but I’ve noticed it so much more now that I’m working from home. Try to avoid comparison. Social media has given us the opportunity to glimpse into others’ lives. We can follow our favorite artists, gain inspiration from their travels and projects—then criticize ourselves for not having the polished and perfect life they project. Let’s be honest, though. Social media provides a carefully edited view of someone’s highlight reel. You don’t get to see the frustration and tears that they most certainly experience when climbing toward that success. I sometimes see new designers, who are frustrated that they don’t immediately have soaring success, begin to emulate a successful designer’s style instead of working to find their own voice. Don’t lose who you are in an effort to become someone else. They became successful (not overnight!) because they are unique and original, and a copy is never as beautiful as the original.
“Signature” Foil-Pressed Save the Date by Jessica Williams. “I don’t do lettering,” says Jessica of this design. “That’s my handwriting, and I probably wrote the word ‘save’ over a hundred times before I got it right.”
Do you think there are any misconceptions about the experience of working from home? If so, what are they?
Rebecca: As far as working from home with little kids at home still, I think it sounds like maybe you’re extra productive, like a super mom or something. But, really, for me it’s just a matter of not doing other things, like cleaning or organizing, that other mothers are much better at.
Jessica: I think people are enamored by the idea of waking up without an alarm, the 10-foot commute to the office or the yoga pants dress code. Don’t get me wrong—you can’t beat that. But I found that style actually hurts my productivity and mood. I’ve recently started waking up at a set time and getting ready for the day as if I’m going to an office. My wardrobe is still jeans and sneakers, but the routine of getting ready for the day reminds me to invest time in myself before investing in my work. After all, if you don’t feel your best, your work reflects that.
What questions do you have for the Minted artist community about working from home?
Rebecca: I would love to know how other artist/parents are able to be productive while working from home. Is it a matter of your kids getting old enough that they don’t need so much attention? Is there a point when they are old enough that they can be a part of your creative life/business? I would love that.
Jessica: Are there any processes that you love that have helped free up your time? Tools for time management, accounting, etc.? And have you found any unique ways to combat some of the issues mentioned above? I would love to hear about others’ routines and ideas.
Let’s get this conversation started. Share your thoughts and questions about working from home in Comments below. If you’re a Minted artist, you can join the conversation in the Minted Community Facebook Group. Learn about the group here.
Published January 25, 2016 • Learn how to become a Minted artist here.1 COMMENT