Chasing financial security has been the Holy, but constantly elusive, Grail of my professional life.
My talents, skills, and personal qualities best suit me for creative work and socially beneficial projects. So over the last 30 years I have layered on multiple experiences from the arts, community, and tertiary sectors.
Unfortunately for those of us who follow these vocations, precarious work is the norm: underemployment, low rates of pay, short term contracts, and poor conditions have dogged both me and my professional peers as we work in these important but challenging sectors.
Perversely, as my skills grew in proficiency, professionalism and complexity, my income levels remained low and stagnant. Now, at middle age, despite my resume being crowded with juicy projects, I do little better financially than when my skills were at entry level. And when I seek to transfer my skills to better paid sectors, the diverse and bohemian nature of my work history makes most recruiters hide under a desk.
Despite all this, I remain convinced that the status quo can, and should, be challenged. Just because the traditional career trajectories of the creative and social sectors have condemned workers to job insecurity and low pay doesn’t mean it has to be like that. And, given, I have worked on projects producing highly innovative outcomes in the arts and community sectors, why not innovate my own approach to work and earning?
This is what I have spent my life trying to do.
• I’ve studied business planning to the extent I was invited to teach it. • I’ve been self-employed three times. • I’ve pushed my work, material security, and, health to breaking point more than once. And it hasn’t worked.
Yet, for all that I gained significant experience and skills, my income has remained stubbornly low and my stress levels enervatingly high. A bit like constantly sitting for exams I never pass!
Now, I’m trying again. One reason is I don’t see I have a choice. To give up and admit that change is hopeless means resigning myself to living the last half of my life struggling with the consequences of financial insecurity. And I’m not prepared to accept that.
If I must fail, then I’d rather go down swinging. It’s not just about the money (although – hell! – I’d love some more of that). It’s also about honouring the struggles of my younger self, and the strong commitment I made to achieving astate of wellbeing.
I also simply don’t believe that there’s any problem that creativity, intelligence, and determination cannot ultimately overcome. Quite apart from any gloom or panic I feel about my finances, I’m genuinely curious as to what the solution might look like.
In addition, having witnessed too many of my talented, passionate, hard working professional peers suffer on low incomes I would love to pass the solution back down the line to them.
Joys of being self-employed
I also love being self-employed, even though my previous attempts have not been hugely profitable. I love the autonomy, the adrenalin rush of pushing myself to the limit of my capabilities, and the sense of adventure; I just don’t find these things as an employee.
At the end of 2018, my imagination had started to dry up – very rare for me! It had stopped firing ideas for experiments and strategies at me. So, I was relieved to start working with Neville Christie on exploring how to identify seven streams of income and even more relieved to find that the mentoring sessions were fun, invigorating, and interesting.
At this early stage, I still don’t know what the solution looks like – yet. It’s too early on in this latest iteration of my quest. But I don’t care. I know it’s out there and, with Neville’s help, I’m on my to it. More to come!