Tag Archives: working for yourself

10 Things We Learned about Being Self-Employed

~ by Maria Benner

Scott and I have both been working full-time on our art business, Real Art Is Better, for about four years now, and we’ve learned a few things about being self-employed.  So here are the top ten.

  1. Most people were not supportive when we started working for ourselves.  They told us we were being too risky, that we would become a burden on our society’s safety net, and that we were slacking on building a retirement.  This reaction was a big surprise to me, because I was always under the impression that self-starters and entrepreneurs are respected role models in America.  I learned that first we had to prove ourselves to these people, before they would start taking our business seriously.  After four years, some people still ask me what I’m doing now, as if being a Business Manager is not enough.
  2. There is no regular paycheck.  People expect us to pay our bills on time, but when we send out invoices, we have to wait for weeks to get paid.  Most times I have to send reminders.  We have to keep a very close eye on cash flow, and keep a list of IOUs.
  3. Hiring a tax accountant was one of the best things we did for our business.  We were using TurboTax, and I wasn’t doing our taxes correctly.  Also, it’s nice to know that if we need advice about a business decision that could affect our taxes, we can ask our tax accountant.
  4. Speaking of taxes, there are a lot of extra taxes for the self-employed.  We have to pay a self-employment tax, and contribute more to Social Security.  We also found out about the Business Property tax.  Turns out the Municipality of Anchorage collects a tax on business assets if they total over $20,000.  Luckily, we don’t fall into that category, but we were really confused when we received that notice.
  5. We spend a lot of time dealing with administrative tasks like book keeping, setting up our annual health insurance plans, reading and negotiating contracts, collections, etc.  Sure was nice to just focus on my job, knowing that my employer had a team of people working on such tasks, but I guess I’m learning more about the real world this way.
  6. We work almost every day.  In the last two months, we’ve taken five days off.  Sometimes if we decide to take a day off mid-week, we’ll make that happen, but we have to plan ahead.  We had more time off when we worked for someone else.  However, we can work while we’re traveling, so our jobs don’t hold us in place, and we can take more trips.  We just can’t be gone for more than two weeks before the business starts to suffer.  Luckily, we like our jobs, so we don’t need a lot of time off from them.
  7. When it comes to planning our day, we have a lot more flexibility.  We go running in the morning when the air quality is better, then sit down to a nice breakfast, and then get to work.  We end up working until 6 or 7 PM, as a result, but we don’t mind.  During the working part of our day, we are very productive, working straight for several hours, with a short break for lunch.  One of the best things about being self-employed is not having to wake up to an alarm, and not having set hours.
  8. There are days when things are going really well, and we think our business is unstoppable, and there are days when we experience a set-back and have doubts about the future of our business.  Those days are actually beneficial, because they motivate us to think outside the box to generate more income, but I still don’t like them.
  9. Working for yourself means there are fewer filters for your ideas.  Sometimes it’s nice not having to gain someone else’s approval before acting on a great idea.  Other times, it would be nice to have a second or third opinion, so we end up Googling, or crowd sourcing, or talking to friends and family instead of coworkers.
  10. Setting and following standard operating procedures is important.  That’s a given at a company, but when we started our business, we were just flying by the seats of our pants.  We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out and honing procedures.  The learning curve has been huge!

In conclusion, we both agree that we prefer working for ourselves, and our goal is not to have to work for someone else in the future.  However, we constantly have to be on our toes to keep the business rolling.  No slacking allowed.  One of my favorite quotes is, “If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

A Day in the Life of an Artist

Artist Scott Clendaniel working in his studio

People often ask my wife and me what we do all day, because we both work at home on our art business.  I work as an artist full time, and my wife, Maria, is the business and marketing manager.  She also spends about an hour every morning trading stocks.

We wake up around 6 AM, excited to start the day.  First thing every morning is Coffee Time, during which we spend an hour reading the news, checking e-mail and social media, and perusing Craigslist ads while we drink espresso and smoothies.

After Coffee Time I take care of any graphic design work on the iMac, while Maria manages her stock portfolio on the PC laptop.  One of the facets of our art business is being distributors for a custom stickers manufacturer, so some days I prepare bid requests for stickers at this time.  When I am done with graphics/stickers work, I change into my painting clothes and head into my studio.  I check my paint palette to see if the paint is too old, and if it is, I mix a new palette.  While I’m working in the studio I listen to the radio, music, books on tape, or Russian language learning CD’s.  I work for about 90-minute stretches, and take 15-30 minute breaks in between.  Around 9:30 AM, when the sun finally rises, both of us stop working to take time for our health.  We stretch, do push-ups and go jogging.  This takes about an hour and a half.

After lunch, I return to the studio and work for a couple 90-minute sessions.  I try not to rush, so usually I only complete part of a painting, but on days when I’m on fire, I can start and finish a couple small paintings.  While I’m painting in the studio, Maria works on the computer in the living room.  She searches for companies that license art and contacts them if she thinks my art is a good fit.  She also manages my Etsy shop, and my website, contacts bloggers asking them to feature my art, and follows up about potential art sales.  

During my 15-30 minute breaks from painting in the studio I make phone calls to patrons, and reply to e-mails.  Other tasks include photographing my work, checking on my paintings and prints at galleries and shops, packaging and shipping art work, and shopping for supplies.

We stop working around 5 PM, unless I have an art opening, in which case, our work day is much longer because we usually have to hang the art in the evenings, and art openings the next day last until about 9 PM.  We rarely take a whole day off, and try to keep our schedule flexible so we can take advantage of fun opportunities.  Everyday I go to bed feeling satisfied about my work.