Surviving the Day Job.
Last week I decided to quit my Day Job. After seven years of balancing my art and my work, I’ve decided that now is the time to strike out on my own and work for myself. It wasn’t an easy decision. My husband, Maduro, and I will be living on a dramatically reduced income, and in this economy, that’s a bit scary.
But I couldn’t have survived seven years of building a dance career while holding a full-time job without developing a few balancing tricks.
Surviving the Day Job as a Creative
Many of you out there either dance part-time or as a hobby, and when you’re not dancing, you’re spending forty or more hours of the week at your Day Job. Maybe you’re an artist, and you’re working a Day Job to make sure you can pay the rent or mortgage. If you’re a Creative person, the Day Job often can be stifling. All the red tape, bureaucracy, adherence to rules and the way things have “always been done” can really hamper your desire to come up with new and unconventional ways to do your work. Plus, spending more than 40 hours a week at a desk when you could be dancing can be incredibly frustrating.
How can you turn all of that around to your advantage?
The most obvious answer is to leave your stale Day Job and find something else that suits you better. But often this isn’t always an option, and sometimes it’s not even necessary. You might actually like your Day Job… you just need to find a better way to balance your responsibilities. Here are some other tips that might help you escape the mental cubicle, even if you don’t escape the physical one:
- Find an advocate and seek out other Creatives. Surely there are other people in your organization who are Creatives and who are just as frustrated with the Conventionals as you are. Find them. It really helps if you can find people in your organization who have more experience than you; they not only know how to cope with the system, but they have also found ways to work it, hence their still working there!
- Prove yourself with conventional work but take an unconventional approach. It is possible to do your day-to-day work in a creative manner. Try new ways to complete your tasks. You might find that trying creative ways to approach your work will help you excel at it. If you can find ways to better like your work, you will be able to perform better, proving yourself and your management that unconventional methods don’t always have to be scary.
- Don’t be ashamed of your Evening Hobby. Yes. It’s true. I’m a belly dancer. Telling people is, I guess, a little like coming out of the closet. Personally, I’ve never had a problem telling my co-workers that I bellydance. They actually find it fascinating and ask lots of questions about it. You don’t need to hide your hobby at work.
- Believe in your talents, not only as a Creative, but as an inherent member of your organization or company. You can believe and work for the mission of your organization without being completely sucked into the bureaucracy of it. You might have to take some risks to do so, but if that means being able to approach your work the way you want to, those risks will be worth it.
- Have fun at work. Don’t let the sterility of the naysayers infect your personal workspace. Keep things at your desk that make you happy: toys, photos, inspirational quotes, and other things that might be silly to the typical passer-by. Chances are your company doesn’t have a rule prohibiting you from tacking up some awesome photography on your cubicle walls. (…and if that is the case, maybe you should leave that Day Job!)
- Use your “free time” wisely. This is probably one of the most important and yet hardest elements of balancing a full-time day job and a full-time creative job. When I got home from work, on nights when I wasn’t teaching classes, I would immediately jump on the dance business that needs to be completed. When I’m feeling overwhelmed with dance business, I make lists of what I need to do. If going home and working on your dance business starts feeling like a chore, remember why you dance and what about it makes you happy. Also remember that you can’t be a working dancer without taking care of the business end of it. Personally, most of the time, I find joy in completing my dance business in the evenings.
- Take advantage of alternative work schedules. Many workplaces today are offering alternative work schedules. I’ve found that working an alternative schedule has been extremely beneficial for my dance business. I was on a “flex” schedule, which afforded me every other Friday off of work, which meant that I can use that day either to work on dance business at home, or use that day to travel to a workshop, event, or festival without using my precious vacation leave. If your workplace hasn’t institutionalized alternative work schedules, it still wouldn’t hurt to ask your management about it.
Those are just some ways I’ve managed to find somewhat of a balance between the Day Job and the Dance Job. It’s possible to do both, and do both well. It just takes some careful planning and a little bit of risk taking.
Of course, sometimes push comes to shove and you have to take the leap to do what you love. Life’s too short to just like what you do for a living.