I made the mistake of going self-employed in my chosen profession a decade ago now. For the first few years, I made an adequate living. Things looked fairly rosy. Then the work dried up, I couldn’t seem to get new business that made ends meet, and I ended up going into paid work again. Stupidly, when that job made me redundant, I didn’t sign on as unemployed but rather chose to relaunch the freelancing designer/jobbing artworker career.
That was a mistake. I should have gone on the dole until something else came up. Instead, I’ve struggled to make ends meet, relying on Best Beloved to cover the increasing gaps in income. Thankfully, he’s retired on a reasonable pension, so we can afford groceries and utility bills, and the occasional luxury item. But that’s not the way it should be. We still find we’re liquidating assets and downsizing in order to make ends meet.
I’ve made a little money over the past few years, here and there, odd regular jobs, a stint at a small company in south London, but that’s all gone now. I found my creative spark had been snuffed out by increasingly inept and recalcitrant clients who always seemed to know my job better than me. I tried, in vain, to find other gainful employment, outside the creative industries. I spent a month as a temporary worker in a warehouse, and vowed never to go back unless there was absolutely no other option left on this planet.
With some former colleagues, I tried to launch a new business, but that barely got off the starting line. Literally. Despite the best efforts, our venture was let down by various parties, and so it is withering on the vine. I suspect it won’t make it beyond the summer before it’s wound up. A shame, because it seemed like a surefire money-making scheme at the time.
Meanwhile, I’ve been trying for over a year now to find a new job. Unable to, or unqualified for, almost everything else, I have fallen back on “what I know”. I have lost track of how many applications have been submitted, but in all that time I have had one interview (failed, apparently, because I didn’t seem keen enough at the interview…) and two rejection emails, one of which was just yesterday.
It appears I am now, to put it simply, not the right candidate for the only job I can actually do. I’m either not qualified (20 years’ experience in the business don’t mean anything compared to a paper qualification, apparently), or it seems I’m deemed too old (being only a few years shy of my half century). To where do I turn now?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t ask for much in life. I just want to be solvent, be able to pay the bills, and have a bit left over for the nicer things in life. I don’t need a lot, really, to be happy.
Don’t think I haven’t considered alternatives, either. Which, for example, among my various hobbies and pastimes could reasonably give me an income? I can construct and decorate models, but no-one gets rich doing that, and there are plenty better skilled at it than me. I can take a decent photograph, but if there ever was a cut-throat business photography since the dawn of inexpensive DSLRs is it.
So, some combination of those things? Well, I am good at the model photography, if I do say so myself. I put together a portfolio booklet last year, and posted it with a covering letter to various model railway magazine editors and publishers. I had one response, but no further contact. Being the reticent kind, I haven’t followed up as I should have, so another golden opportunity evaporated.
I am still here on Square One.
I simply don’t want to continue flogging the dead horse of the creative and design work. Yes, it’s what I know best, but I really have no wish to continue with it. It bores me, clients piss me off, and no-one pays me on time when I do get work. It’s a thoroughly dispiriting situation to be in, and I don’t really know where to go next.
I know you’re supposed to go and get the work. I know you are supposed to chase the opportunities, jump at every chance, never let a good opportunity pass. Sadly, I am so disillusioned with the whole thing I simply don’t want to any more. Effort expended is effort wasted, at least in my experience. Better to just sit here and watch the world pass me by, rather than struggle on doing something which isn’t really appreciated when it’s done.
My apologies for this most depressing post. It helps to get it out my system, though. Looking back, I managed to miss most of the good opportunities that came my way, and now I find myself conked out, on life’s scrap heap.
Still, something might happen. It can’t go on like this for much longer. You never know what’s round the next bend in the road. It’s why I have adopted the motto “onwards and sideways”, because that’s just what life is like right now.