In July of 2015, I decided to make a huge leap and go out on my own as a graphic artist. I left my 9-5 graphics position and could not have been more excited and scared at the same time. I was confident that I would be successful. I mean, you have to be confident when you make a leap like that, or at least pretend to be. I was definitely pretending. But, the leap took me out of my comfort zone and it’s the best thing I could have done. Two and half years later and I’m a very different person.
I don’t mind being told what to do when I am in an environment that is productive and everyone I am working with is invested in a joint effort. I do mind putting effort and time into a job that is not invested in me. When I left my job I had been disheartened that I couldn’t make a bigger impact within the company. I wanted to do more and have more freedom. It terrified me to think about sitting in the same desk five or ten years down the road. I wanted more in life and knew the only way I could do that was to take some risks.
Deciding to go out on your own and be 100% responsible for your income changes someone in a lot of ways. No one is going to pick up the slack for you or do your work for you if you’re sick and no one is going to pay you vacation time. Starting out — at least for me — these are things I realized that were initially difficult to cope with. I’ve learned that being 100% accountable for everything you do can also be a blessing. When I worked as a 9-5 employee I felt accountable for my work, but I really wasn’t. If a client wasn’t happy my manager dealt with it. If something needed to be done over the weekend then it waited until Monday. Now no one is there to clean up the messes, I have to own them and fix them for myself. This may sound undesirable but, when you reach a higher level of responsibility you reach a point where you start to improve yourself, personally, to match. This is good, it puts you in tune with a whole new level of self-exploration.
Now, let’s talk about expectations: What I am doing now is not what I had imagined. Yes, I am creating art for paying clients, but I also a developed a second income. About 6 months into going out on my own I realized I needed a supplemental income. I was making money but I wanted to be making more and I’d read frequently that it was smart for entrepreneurs to have multiple sources of income. I knew I wanted my second source of income to be something where I could control the hours and pay, so I decided to try dog walking. After a few months, I started to acquire regular clients, now I walk 5 to 10 dogs a day. I love it. It’s been the perfect partner for my design work and still allows me freedom. When I first started walking dogs there was a level of shame I held onto. I’ve always been too worried about what people thought and I worried that people would think I was a failure because I wasn’t a graphic artist 100% of the time. I thought they would think I was a joke because I was walking dogs for a living. There probably are people I know that think what I do is a joke. It wouldn’t surprise me and nothing I do is going to change their minds. What I’ve come to realize is that too many people live their lives doing what they or other people think they should be doing. People get caught up in what society dictates as success. I’m happy and I love what I do, I’m not sure how many people can say that.
There’s so much advice out there and so much you can spend money on to help you figure out what you want in life. My advice is to take risks and learn that going against the grain can be one of the best things you can do for yourself. The journey of self exploration is messy, but I guarantee you it will be worth it.
Art Work Created by Sarah Lieswald
"One of my current art projects is creating illustrations from quotes that inspire me. For the longest time I struggled with making personal art because I felt like everything had been done. The world we live in is very saturated, I’ve come to realize that it’s unrealistic to think that anything you make can be 100% original. What I focus on now is how to make art out of what influences me. Obviously, my influences always need to be given credit, but I don’t think there is any shame in creating art because you are inspired by someone else’s work. We all need some kind of muse."