Creative Careers in the Arts



Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Kristen Fischer, Author and Creative Self-employment Expert

Plus: Trusting the Creative Process

By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated June 10, 2018


Kristen FischerKristen Fischer is a creative self-employment expert, author of Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs, and owner of her own copywriting business.


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: Tell us about your 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: 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. 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 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: 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.

©2007 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.


Trusting the (Creative) Process

By Kristen Fischer | Updated June 9, 2018


When I began my career as a copywriter, I never thought I would go through so many ups and downs. Each time I experienced a down — a client didn't pay up on my deadline, my work was rejected, or projects didn't come in — I thought that I must not be cut out to be living my dream.

Now I know that nothing could be further from the truth.

As time wore on and I overcame down cycles, I learned from experience that there are built in ups and downs that come with the creative life. Survive a few and you'll see that it's known as the creative process. It's OK to experience doubt and frustration, especially as a right-brainer in the sometimes left-brained world of business.

I became fascinated with life as a creatively self-employed person, and chose to interview more than 65 others like me to explore the trials and triumphs of this career lifestyle. While compiling my book Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs, I confirmed that the back and forth of creative self-employment is normal. Everyone was experiencing it. By finding support and knowing that there were going to be hard times, other creatives like me excelled.


Experiencing Down Cycles

M.J. Ryan, an author and consultant based in California, says many creative people do not understand that there are ebbs and flows to the creative course. When artists and writers go through a down cycle, they feel empty and can think that is the end. Or that they're not good enough. Or that it's time to run back to corporate safety.

But that's not true, says Ryan. She doesn't offer a step-by-step plan for gaining self-trust, but does say the best way to build it up is to play on past successes. If you're starting out as a graphic artist and have not a client in sight, for example, think about the art show you successfully exhibited at during college. Any success, even if not related to your field, can be used to motivate. Once you're motivated, you can put yourself out there a little. Will rejection come? Sure. But as Ryan emphasizes, it's part of the process.

Confidence and trust in oneself will naturally build as success is tasted, offers Ryan.


Creating Your Support System

An easy way to support yourself is to reach out for a connection. You can do that my meeting others who understand, or are in a similar field to you, or reach out silently. (I love the library for books on business and the psychology of success.)

For Andrea Scher, a jewelry-maker and life coach from California, building a support system helped her battle loneliness.

"I think it's important to build a community of support, whether that's colleagues, advisors or coaches and consultants, or friends," she says. Her blog, www.superherojournal.com, lets her reach a large audience that is continually inspired by her risk-taking. In turn, she receives comments of support from people of all walks.

Indeed, creating your own support system is vital, a perfect counteraction to battling a down time.

"Finding good mentors and coaches is important for any entrepreneur, and it's always good to get the outside perspective of someone who can look at your challenges and opportunities more objectively than you can look at them yourself," says Ben Dattner, an organizational consultant based in New York.

"Framing things positively, as opportunities rather than as crises, is likely to help you become more resilient in the face of inevitable setbacks and disappointments."

© 2006 Kristen Fischer. All rights reserved.

Learn more about Kristen Fischer's books on Amazon and Web site kristenfischer.com.

Next Interview: Kathy Rembisz, Children's Author and Artist