Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016 Career Goals

I am, first and foremost, a caricature artist by trade.  This means that I travel from corporate event to wedding to after prom to college event drawing funny faces for the masses.  This, by its nature, makes me a small business owner.  I work for eight different agencies, but I don't receive pay stubs and have to manage my taxes on my own.  For those of you playing the home game, that means I fill out a few additional forms along with my usual taxes and pay quarterly taxes instead of having a base amount subtracted from each paycheck.  It's crazy being on that end of the business game, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

In 2015, I saw my caricaturing business grow.  Before August 2014, I also worked part time as a character designer. When I struggled to find balance due to overwhelming amounts of gigs and commissions, I left character designing for good to focus my attentions on caricaturing. It is this move that added three new agencies to my list of contracting companies and allowed my job to really grow in 2015.

While I love my job and would consider myself a fairly adept artist, there's a lot I could work on.  Here's where my chart comes in:

According to the career portion of my chart, I need four attainable goals for 2016 to become happier with my work.

According to my pentacle chart, I had several goals I wanted to work on.  Some were left over from 2015 and all the moving we did, such as keeping better records. Social media could probably be expanded on, but digitalizing event caricatures and getting signage is probably pretty high on my list.  That's four! Retirement options sounds more like financial, so I don't have to toss that one but rather move it around for now.  So let's proceed forward with the four above.

Keeping Better Records

While I do my own taxes and keep sufficient records, I know there's so much room for improvement.  The thing about being a contracted sole proprietor with a set market and agencies you work for is that there's very little that applies to you in small business classes, typically aimed for someone in the start up phase.  I don't need to take out a loan - my business was built when I stepped into it.  I don't need to rent an office - I work on site.  Things get tricky when trying to separate what information I need from what I don't.  So I've mostly ran my business off of what I was taught when I first entered the market and what other caricaturists have told me they do.

In addition, I did fulfill some of the goals for this in 2015 and found out that some of the things I originally wanted to do to keep better records simply didn't apply.  Much like the small business classes, even some of the things I thought might be essential or needed just didn't work at all. I made the all-too-typical mistake of approaching record keeping as an artist when I should have been approaching it as an entertainer.  You'd think I'd know that by now.  While I may not have improved much in this section last year, I at least learned that.

I know there's some of you out there that are shaking your head at me for not doing this sooner.  Trust me, as an OCD Virgo II ISTJ, I'm shaking my head at myself!  What matters is that I'm getting on top of it now and that I'll be better prepared for 2016.

My focus this year is digitalizing all the things I do by hand. I'm very aware I take an old world approach to things that could be much easier, simpler and faster if I just found corresponding computer programs.  I still save hard copies of receipts and keep a hand ledger. It might be time to look into not only going digital and storing them off my hard drive.  The idea is to keep it cheap and/or completely free but still save time and money in the process.  Here's what I've come up with so far: 

Live Digital Caricatures

When I made my big purchase for 2015, a Cintiq Companion 2, I primarily wanted it to speed up my turnaround time on commissions.  April and May are busy months for gigs and commissions, and the time crunch was really hard to juggle. The Cintiq made it immensely more manageable. However, as a Companion, I have the option of unplugging it from my computer and taking it places.

That, my friends, is key.

Digital caricaturing at live events has been a huge hit since pretty much forever. The Companion 2 gives me a chance to capitalize on it.  While I'm not sure I'll be able to offer digital services this year as I know the equipment needed can be on the pricier side, I'd like to at least be digital ready by 2017.  And that means doing research.  Here's what I think I'll need to do to get digital ready at my job:

Expand Agencies, Venues and Reach

I'm aware of how broad a topic this seems, but I think this adequately expands on my "social media" point with plenty of wiggle room for all the things I'd like to do in this area.  As an entertainer for parties, how you market yourself is everything.  It's how you get jobs, make new connections and fuel your business.  It's also something I am positively horrible at.  I'm confident in what I do, but I haven't mastered the "tell other people about it" side very well. Probably something I carry from my old theme park caricaturing days where (a) you didn't really have to tell anyone about it outside of when you were present at work and (b) the staff discouraged individual marketing through the job.  I mean, you signed a non-compete at the beginning of the year, so personal marketing really wasn't a priority.  I should probably make it one.

I love all aspects of my job, but I especially love the live drawing part.  I would like to focus on expanding that. It's a little difficult when many agencies understandably bar entertainers from taking pictures of guests and clients, but I think there may be some workarounds here.  Let's see what I've come up with:

Procure Signage

My set up for work is super lightweight and I pride myself on that.  My trusty old jean book bag from high school (Yeah, I know, that was over a decade ago. Shhh.) fits my 11x17" paper perfectly along with all of my markers and even my lighting, yet stores neatly away under my chair.  My easel folds up in seconds and files itself into a portable lightweight narrow case that I can sling over my shoulder.  I'm really only left with the giant board as the bulky item and even that has a hand grip so I can tuck it under under my arm.  I can easily and conveniently carry everything without concern for however long I need to do it. I have had gigs where parking is a few blocks or even upwards of a mile away. I could park close, put the emergency lights on, unload, store, park my car, walk and then set up or I can just park and set up.  Especially for the events where I'm likely wearing heels, the lightweight set up of just walking from my car one time definitely has its advantages.

However, my setup, for as lightweight and portable as it is, has its disadvantages too.  Namely, the fact that most people have no idea who I am or what I'm doing.  Now, contractually, it's up to the client to provide signage and notice of my presence.  I've seen some pretty creative ways my clients have come up with solutions to this problem.

But for those who don't have the access to something like this or who were unable to plan ahead or who hired last minute, it makes it a little more difficult. I mean, I don't expect a birthday girl's mother to print out huge signage to signify to the guests that I'm there.  And while I'm more than happy to talk to guests and encourage them in my chair, signs are the best way of signalling that I'm open.

Any signs I get will need to be light weight, portable, and easy to hang on their own or stand free. They may need to hold up to wind and should probably be at least laminated so that they're partially water resistant in case of rain.  They'll also have to be flashy enough to get people's attention without having my name or any specific brand on them.  After all, I work with eight agencies plus I do my own work, so I'd rather not have to get nine different signs.  Plus, I'm not always the only artist at the event. The sign has to represent us all, whether that's just me, two of us or four of us - or more.

Ideally, I'd like something that I can set a little away from me and something that attaches to my easel.

I'd also love to get "STOP! I'm the last one!" signs for the end of the line(s) when it comes time. Cutting the lines is so essential to customer satisfaction.  However, it's something that's really hard to do when your back is to said line and you're focusing on individual guest experience.  So I'll need to dig in there for at least four of those.  I have some signs that do say that, laminated no less, but they've been slowly disappearing over the past couple of years.  Either artists I work with can't return them in the mad rush that is trying to pile all of your stuff together at the end of a gig and get out of the way of cleanup or they've been lost to guests who set them down somewhere else.  I've definitely lost one to a crazy gust of wind.  It was there, then it was five feet from me, then it was at least 500 feet and in a tree.  Nope, not climbing a tree for that.

Anyway, long story short is that I need a few signs made.  These signs are going to take time to design, money to print, gigs to test them at and potentially money to reprint if things don't go as well.  With that in mind, here's my plan:

And so concludes the 2016 career goal planning!  Let's now sum this up in a way that I can track my progress:

Career Goals - 0% Complete for the month.
(Pictures and some notes on this month's progress)

Keep better records [specify monthly goal]. – 0% complete
Digitalize party caricaturing  [specify monthly goal]. – 0% complete.
Expand to reach more agencies, venues and a wider audience on social media  [specify monthly goal]. – 0% complete.
Procure signage  [specify monthly goal]. – 0% complete.

Coming up:
2016 Financial Goals

To my audience:
What are your career goals for 2016?

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