Creative Careers : Kristen Fischer Interview
Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews
Author Kristen Fischer
By Molly Anderson-Childers
This month I interview creative self-employment expert Kristen Fischer. Author of Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs and owner of her own copywriting business, this busy woman took some time out of her packed schedule to discuss her book and other creative matters with us.
Q: What was your first job as a young woman?
A: My first job out of college was as a newspaper reporter for a weekly newspaper. After getting my degree in environmental science and not wanting to go into the field, I decided to find something I was good at. I knew how to write; so I pursued journalism. I never thought I'd wind up staying with writing, though at that time I dreamed of being a full-time writer.
Q: What path led you to create this fabulous career? How did you make the leap from day job to dream job?
A: After working as a reporter, I decided to try to use my degree and wound up working for an environmental firm. I was writing their reports. I gained great technical- and business-writing skills there but knew my heart wasn't in science. I took a part-time job as a copy editor at another newspaper and built my own business on the side. It took about a year before I was busy enough to go out on my own. I still have many steady jobs that give me that foundation it's way too scary to just rely on one-time jobs!
Q: Would you like to tell our readers a little bit about your exciting new book?
A: Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs shares stories from real-life creative souls who are dealing with putting their work out there, marketing themselves, rejection, loneliness and trying to build thriving businesses.
It's not a how-to book; rather, it uses examples and anecdotes as a form of support to help creative people press on with their endeavors. The goal is for readers to see they are not alone in these trials that are completely unique to the creatively self-employed.
Q: Please discuss some of the challenges you faced while writing and publishing this book.
A: To be honest, I never wanted to self-publish. That was a challenge in itself. It was difficult to get over the fact that I couldn't get an agent to take my idea. I contacted several agents that loved the proposal, but said the book wouldn't have a wide enough market. After I got over my disappointment, I decided that I wasn't going to let them decide if my dream would come to reality.
I used iUniverse.com to self-publish. Thanks to my book editor, Kristen King, it wasn't as hard as it could have been. But it's tough doing it all yourself: production, artwork, promotion. I knew I could do it, though, since I had so much success putting my own business together.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of being creatively self-employed?
A: I relish being able to go out for tea in the middle of the day, or being able to nap when I want. I love being able to cuddle with my cat when I need a break from writing. Hopefully, my book will help people stay on their authentic career paths. These are all simple things that make it worthwhile.
It took me a long time to publish my book. Being a writer was a given, but being an author has always been my dream. I'm excited to continue writing, and I also have a new chapter of my life on the horizon. I love writing, but working with books is my real passion.
Q: You also own your own copywriting business. Please tell us more about it.
A: I do it all writing about everything from the HVAC industry to the financial industry. Many of my clients use me to write their websites and brochures. Some of it can be a little dull but I like the challenge. Plus, all businesses can use my services, so I will never be out of work!
Q: Do you have any advice for artists or writers who have lost valuable works of art? Theft, plagiarism, and vandalism do occur in the creative world how can artists protect their work from these "crimes against art?"
As a writer, I'd advise you to try to get everything in writing. If you see this sleazy behavior, fight it. There are avenues to sour someone's reputation who deserves it. I hate to say it, but I've been victim to this sort of behavior and that's why I rely on "Writer Beware" sites.
Q: Your website has a lot of resources for artists who want to sell their work professionally. What advice would you give to a writer or artist who is just starting out with a tiny budget and big dreams?
A: Luckily, creative careers can have little overhead. Sure, painters need supplies, but if you plan and don't just quit your day job, you can easily set up a business with little startup cost. There is a strong misconception that you need many years and thousands of dollars to do something creative I didn't. I got a part-time job when I had some clients so I would have steady money while I built business. It's not rocket science. You just have to be smart about it.
For people just starting out, read and learn as much about your industry as possible. Find mentors. Connect with people. Use your strengths and set goals. Don't let fear get in the way; and if you have problems with that well, read my book!
Most of all, if you want to have a real business, treat it like a business. You will have to market and network; you will have to handle invoices and clients. It isn't all peachy; but it's peachier than being stuck in a cubicle.
Q: Many of our readers are curious about the practical aspects of making a change of such magnitude in their lives. What was the process like for you, and how can they best prepare themselves to stop "working for The Man" and become creatively self-employed?
A: The hardest part for me is time management. I struggle with feeling "stuck" at home, not having coworkers to chat with. For me, the business part came naturally I was good at landing clients. Other areas especially accounting are things I'm not good at. I hire someone to do that. I have a friend who helped me with my websites. Things like that help. Do what you're good at and either learn or hire out for things you're not so good at.
I think another issue is that people think you "just quit." You don't, in many cases. You have to pay your dues. I worked the night shift at a paper and would drive out to the production plant at midnight every night and sit in a smelly warehouse waiting to make sure the papers printed correctly. It was horrible, but it was a practical way for me to build business on the side. Sometimes you have to take a job you don't enjoy, or something not in your field, to plan your "escape," but I think if you do it right, you can make the break into creative self-employment.
Q: Please tell us what a typical day at work looks like for you. With so many different creative interests, how do you manage your time so well? How many hours do you work during an average week?
A: Who said I manage my time so well? Ha-ha, I'm still learning how to do that! My typical morning includes hopping online to check emails, and planning out my day. I try to get out of the house for tea, then come home and work. I take a soap opera break for about 20 minutes or so, then return to work. I break around 4 and nap or do other things, then work most nights after dinner. I work sometimes on the weekend. I find it really hard to take substantial breaks, to be honest. But I also love what I do, so it's not like I dread putting in 60 hours a week. Most of the time, I try to stick to 40 hours.
Q: When you're feeling stuck in the muck, unable to create, or creatively blocked, what do you do to invite the Muses to return and dance for you again? How do you recognize, understand and avoid these creative dry spells and ward them off?
A: Hmm. I honestly don't have this problem in my professional life. I hardly have time to do a lot of "fun" stuff because I'm busy with copywriting projects but I also love what I do, so it's easy to stay inspired and energetic.
Sometimes, I get "painter's block." I like to paint, but sometimes it just doesn't come out. I give it time, and sometimes seek out inspirational blogs or interesting books to awaken myself. I have motivational sayings in my office on the walls.
Q: Any tips on staying creative, fresh and full of juicy ideas?
A: Use your resources, like favorite websites and books. Get enough sleep, and make time for self-care. I have learned this is the most vital.
Q: What is your favorite way to nurture your Inner Muse?
A: Again, self-care is so important. Sometimes just getting out of the house helps me stay revitalized. Napping, reading, getting tea these are all small things that keep me as balanced as possible.
Kristen Fischer is the author of "Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs." She lives in New Jersey with her husband and cat. To learn more about her, visit kristenfischer.com.
© 2007 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.
Molly Anderson-Childers is a a highly creative writer and artist from Durango, Colorado. More »