Amidst all the doom and gloom being spouted about the economy at the moment, I’d like to offer a ray of hope.
Redundancy, although feared by most people, can just as easily be the proverbial kick up the bum many of us need to escape from the “comfort trap” we’re stuck in.
About 15 years ago I got made redundant.
My response was to start my own business – something I never would have done otherwise.
I’d always had an interest in drawing but confined it to my local Artists’ Society.
Often one or other of the members would “sit” for anyone who fancied painting their portrait.
I’d never tried portraits before but I gave it a go and found I was quite good at it.
Copying photos of people soon became a hobby.
At the time I had a “proper job” and sometimes workmates would ask me to paint their children or grandchildren.
I hardly charged anything – maybe just enough to cover materials.
People used to say “You’re wasting your talents working here. Why don’t you paint professionally?”
Very easy to say.
But when you’ve a mortgage to pay and 2 young children to support it’s not easy to sacrifice a guaranteed salary.
So I carried on as normal – until the “R-word” reared its ugly head.
I was scared but I did it anyway.
I set myself up as a portrait painter working from customers’ photographs.
Working for myself brought several benefits.
No boss breathing down my neck telling me what to do.
I could decide when and how to do my work instead of clock-watching.
And I’d escaped all the office politics and inefficiency.
But the thing I REALLY, TRULY appreciated more than any other was the absence of that twice daily travel to and from work.
First in the morning, then again in the evening.
Looking back I realised how I’d HATED that long bumper-to-bumper, 45 minute crawl to travel about 3 miles through rain, hail, snow and fog.
Noone could begin to understand how grateful I was to be free from all that.
The other thing I remember vividly about “going it alone” is difficult to explain.
It’s a feeling that somehow you won’t be accepted in your new role.
Or is it that you don’t accept yourself in your new role?
You don’t feel like a “real” person.
I remember seeing a very famous film star being interviewed on TV.
He said he was glad to be rich and famous but couldn’t really understand WHY he was.
And he was sure that some day he’d get “caught out” as a fraud because anyone else in the world could do what he does.
That’s kind of how I felt.
When you have a JOB it’s easy to think of yourself as a sales clerk or heating engineer or postman…
Someone else has said that’s what you are so you believe it.
When you’re self-employed it’s vitally important to believe you’re good enough for people to pay you for what you do.
Your customers will believe that you are what you say you are.
It’s important that you do too.
Now, when someone asks me what I do for a living, I’m quite happy to say I draw cartoons.
Because that IS what I do.
When you start up in business you have an idea what you want to offer.
But it’s important to remain flexible and let customers point you in the right direction.
For example, I started out painting Child Portraits, then I added Wedding Portraits.
A customer asked if I could paint their dog, so I added Pet Portraits.
For some fun and creativity I started to draw Cartoon Portraits and a lady asked me to add a birthday greeting.
Then another customer wanted an appropriate gift for a 1st Wedding Anniversary.
The official material for a 1st Wedding Anniversary is PAPER – making a cartoon drawing IDEAL.
So customers have guided me through Child Portraits, Wedding Portraits, Pet Portraits, Birthday Cartoons and 1st Wedding Anniversary gifts.
Who knows where they’ll lead me next?
Always listen to your customers.
They know what they want better than you do.
I hope I’ve managed to make my message of hope heard over all the doom and gloom.
Yes, times are hard but you don’t have to roll over and die.
If you are redundant and can’t find a job, perhaps you can create one for yourself.