8 Dec 2015

Small Business Saturday - Meet the Mum #3

I've found this little questionnaire so interesting so I'll hopefully be continuing with the series either monthly or just as and when.

Onto our next lovely 'Meet the Mum'...

Joanne works on most arty projects, commissions. Please get in touch through her page and she can help you.

What's the best thing about working for yourself?  
I love that I can schedule work around my three children, who are aged 7, 4 and 2 (the youngest two being boys).  If I need to slow down one particular month, I can choose how much work to take on.  And on the other hand, during the Christmas period, I tend to take on more to help towards pressies etc; last year my earnings helped pay for this plus a summer holiday the following year!  The children attend a school just around the corner and its comforting to know I can be there in no time should they need me.  I also get to take breaks from my work when I'm at home if I need to do some chores, pop to the shops, go to the doctors etc.  It's very flexible!

What made you decide to take the plunge?
When my eldest child - my daughter - was 8 months old, I went to work as a Teaching Assistant at a local primary school.  I was there for a year before deciding to leave as I missed spending time with her.  But at the same time, I wanted to be doing something for me, that I enjoyed, and that I could possibly earn from.  Art has always been my thing; I got top grades at school, have taught myself how to use many different media over the years, and have built up my experience by trying my hand at anything creative.  I even did a couple of painting demonstrations at my local Hobbycraft store, and have had my work featured a few times in an art society members' magazine.  So it made sense to carry this on - I don't think I could ever give up my art.  I also had great encouragement from friends and family and this made me more determined!  I am a strong believer in doing what you love for a living, and working hard to make that a reality.
Biggest challenge you face?
Time!  There never seems to be enough time in the day.  More often than not I'll find myself working at the kitchen table or art board late at night when the kids have gone to bed and suffer with a sore neck the next day!  But its worth it.  I'd rather work 'after hours' than miss doing things with the children when they are around.  Luckily I have a very supportive husband who helps take the children to school or out for a few hours to the park etc, so I can have some uninterrupted time to work if I need it.  I've had a few instances of this lately as Christmas is close - my busiest time of year!

What's the biggest misconception people have about what you do?
I don't know if its true necessarily, but I do wonder if people think that anything to do with art isn't a real job.  In fact, over the years I've made quite a handy income from portrait commissions, tutoring, personalised gifts, a few cakes for close friends plus painting murals!  The work is never consistent, of course, and I use this time to work on personal projects...or just to take a breather!  Even though art is probably seen as being 'fun' and not very serious, its still hard work and I consider it a real job even if others don't!  I like to think that the work I create will stay with people for years to come so that makes me feel good.

What one tip you you give to someone who is just starting out?
What helped me to get work initially was getting the word out there; I spoke to people about my work which generated interest (and orders), I created a Facebook page, got business cards and leaflets printed out and took part in demonstrations at art stores and even had a stall at the school fair!  My Facebook page actually started as a platform to share anything creative I've done (and still is, in a way), but now its developed into more of 'shop' where I can add examples of my makes that are for sale, or can be specially commissioned.  So, in short, once you've decided what you want to do, let people know about it!  Of course, there may be other people out there doing something the same or similar, but its all about putting your unique 'stamp' on it.  No one person holds the exclusive rights to a specific line of business, so don't be put off by the fact that there are similar businesses out there; do what makes you happy.

Where do you see yourself this time next year?
This time next year my youngest will be at preschool every morning, so I'll definitely have more time to do more!  I have so many plans for my art business.  I hope I'm not seen as a 'Jack of all Trades', but I do truly love trying out a bit of everything - and being the best I can at it!  I would love to take on more portrait commissions for example, people or pets, and I have lots of other materials such as mosaic tiles and clay that I purchased a few months back that are crying out for attention!  The cake decorating was never really a serious pursuit in my art business -  just another creative thing I liked doing for close friends and family - so this will make way for larger-scale projects such as wall murals and larger paintings.  I have too many ideas and not enough time to put them into action!  But its good to know I have a good supply of possibilities to draw from - springboards into a whole host of other areas.  I have also recently started up my own adult dance fitness classes - a mix of Ballroom, Latin and Salsa - and hope this class (plus a few more styles I hope to add to the timetable) will have taken off.  I used to teach dance a while back, before having children, and have recently rediscovered my passion for it.  Dancing has a very calming, but also uplifting effect on me.
How do you juggle motherhood, work and your own business?
I have to admit, it's not perfect!  I personally don't know anyone who has an easy time juggling these things.  For me, the stress and worry is the main thing; I worry about not having enough time, I worry that I'm neglecting the kids if I work when they are around, I worry that I worry too much!  And this in turn causes the stress.  I know I put an awful lot of pressure on myself, but I've become better at making time for myself, usually when my youngest is napping.  I'll grab a cup of tea and read!  I find having a day-to-day routine helps also; it helps me and the kids know what's expected and keeps things running smoothly.  I guess not having a full- or part-time job aswell as my own businesses helps, as I don't have to arrange childcare or rush to catch a train first thing in the morning etc.  And as I said before, I have a wonderfully supportive (or is that long-suffering!) husband who will take the children and give me some space if I need it.  I do feel very strongly about having time to oneself, even if it is just to sit and reflect on things, not to necessarily work.  

What one thing do you want your children to take away from seeing you busting your groove?
My daughter is very aware of the fact that I work from home, and that people pay me for my creative services!  She is following in my footsteps with her art, and I think she has dreams of doing something similar one day!  The boys aren't as clued up on what I do, but I guess I'd love for them all to see that following your passion is possible and that you can make a living from it.  I never would have thought years ago, sitting in my school art lessons, that one day people would pay me to make artwork for them.  It really is such a lovely feeling.

How did you get into what you do?
I've loved art since a very early age, and the love for it will always be there.  When I was about 11 or 12 I sent some illustrations to a greeting card company, and completely unexpectedly they replied and asked me to design some mugs for them!  I think my mum still has them in a cupboard somewhere.  I remember getting the cheque to pay for my services and being completely overwhelmed!  I was amazed that even someone as young as me could make money from something I loved doing every hour of the day.  I'd spend hours in my room drawing and painting - many of my friends and family own a few works of mine!  Over the years I've spent hours drawing, painting, reading art books, attending exhibitions, even tutoring young children - I like to absorb as much creativity as possible.  I am a naturally creative person and it would be difficult to do anything else that didn't require that trait.

Brief description of what you do.....
Self-taught artist with many years experience that works in a wide variety of media across a vide variety of genres!!  And a dance teacher on the side - I am quite into my fitness
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