A Pivot Point: When Funds Are Depleted & You Find Yourself Without A Plan, What Do You Do?

OK so I’m going to document this because I’m in a tough situation. I started working for myself as a graphic designer just over 1 year ago, but I did so without a game plan, without a business plan.

So now I find myself running out of money because I haven’t acquired a strong base of clients. Instead, I have been doing things that I am passionate about, but don’t necessarily make me money.

Yes, I have been working pro bono for many causes, some volunteer such as Quest, some honorarium, such as Olio, because I am seriously passionate about being involved in the creative event scene, and some just because I’m a sucker for things I love, such as shooting event photography, especially live music.

As much as I wanted to believe that all of this work of passion would get me somewhere not just soul nurturing, but also financially nurturing, I’m afraid I’m learning otherwise.

Now, I must accept the reality: love and passion don’t put money in my pockets. I must work.

I have nothing against work, I’ve been working incredibly hard, but now I must start working smarter. I must start valuing my time & my talents:

I have an entire lifetime of artistic experience, starting with drawing as a child
through to various pursuits including screenprinting in high school,
to spending 2 years full time in the college studio learning photography, illustration, painting, video, performance, sculpture, and art history & gaining my Fine Art Diploma,
to reading & writing & editing my brains out through a English Lit & Humanities Degree,
and most recently gaining graphic skills in a Publishing Program that taught me Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash, Final Cut, and a bunch of invaluable info about the printing & online worlds,
which lead to working for 5 years with a digital presentation company where I pushed my design skills to new levels, and added skills such as audio editing, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and tons of video codec knowledge.

Now, I have a ton of skills and experience.

I’ve also traveled throughout Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, lived in Australia and Manchester England,
and not just been an artist,
but got battered bruised and worn by working along the way any way I needed to:
sweating & cooking in kitchens,
digging for landscapers,
grinding pipe for welders,
shipping & receiving for a fine furniture company,
picking vegetables for farmers,
packing for an organic delivery service.

I have a ton of experience, a ton of education, a ton of skills. But I wonder if I have simply lived a life, and not with a purpose?

My purpose has been to live life to the fullest, as all those self help writers and inspirational speakers encourage us to do. I have lived in the moment, falling in love with people, places, music, events, all in the moment, so much in the moment, that perhaps I do not look forward enough into the future to ask ‘where will this lead?’ Perhaps I trust too deeply that by living in the moment, by being truly present, all will be alright.

Now I find myself 36 years old and questioning where I am finding myself.

I even felt deeply unsure yesterday, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, a feeling I hate so much. I hate feeling disconnected.

So in order to work through this pivot point, to embrace it with excitement (thx Pitre!) rather than fear or crippling doubt, I am going to write through it.
Sure, I fear that some people might read this and see it as self-important rambling; but if I don’t treat myself as important, who will?

I might also fear that expressing my weaknesses publicly could put me at a disadvantage for future employment. But it is a fake person who claims to be confident 24-7, besides, the people I respect most deeply are those who are honest. And I only want to work for those who will respect me for this honesty.

Because truly, what I am expressing is not weakness, what I am expressing is my need to share, to be honest, to be raw, to invite you to share the ups and downs with me. I hope you welcome my honesty.

By the way, one of the reasons I want to document my climb from this place of low income and no plan
to a place of financial success and a solid plan, purpose, and direction is that I will be setting up an artists’ resource space one day.

This is a passionate dream of mine.

I love to help people, and I feel like there is a serious void of help for those who are trying to make a success of themselves as artists. I want to help those who need to create, I want to encourage people to create, to express, to get all their shit out, whether good or bad, angry or sad, confused or theoretical, it should be expressed, and it should be shared. I want to help people who are in a difficult place of not knowing who they are or doubting their art, I want to give them options, I want to be able to point them in the direction of people and organizations that will help them, with financing, or with access to equipment & work spaces, to courses & workshops about networking and positivity and production and promotion. I want it to be a place that builds community, rather than a gallery that intimidates the average person.

I draw inspiration for this sort of space from the Vera Project in Seattle. And I hope to work with Behance because the creative community they are building is awesome and the articles they post as 99% are informative and inspiring. I want to share the knowledge that SitePoint provide. I believe that we are much too fragmented, and that much of our confusion and depression and loneliness doesn’t have to be.

Here goes:

I’ve decided tonight that my 1st step is to prepare for the worst, at least in the short term. I have very little money coming in, so I am going to approach the Food Bank. I need to call them Tuesday morning (Mon is a holiday) to find out my closest location for pick up. The number in Vancouver is 604.876.3601

I am also going to research everything that is free. This will definitely include gallery openings! Hello Thursdays!
Aiight, be back soon…

In the meantime, if you have any recommendations for how to survive while broke, or how to best develop a business plan, or just any life/career advice, I’d appreciate it. Even all you smart asses out there. Your attempts to poke fun will give me a laugh, so thanks in advance!

Big love.


One thought on “A Pivot Point: When Funds Are Depleted & You Find Yourself Without A Plan, What Do You Do?

  1. jenny reed says:

    hey Ash. i always admire the soul baring honesty of your blogs…

    being the “safe” future focused person that i am, my knee-jerk reaction is to cheer you on to get a 9-5 job to ensure your financial security and to keep you out of the bread line. but i’m trying really really hard not to inflict my fear of uncertainty on you or anyone else. i tried the freelance design thing and the entrepreneurial wedding photography business and discovered that i am too much of a pushover and would end up working for free (if not covering costs myself). if someone gave me a minutely compelling story about why their money should stay in their pockets rather than handed over to me for the countless hours of work and skill that i put into a project, i would reply with a smile “of course i’ll work for free, i had no plans to eat this week anyway…”.

    all that being said, i have found that your ideas and dreams for the future have always resonated with me. but what really sets you apart from many people (myself included) is your drive and confidence. when we’ve had our photo walkabouts and chats over drinks, i always come away feeling inspired to be more like you, to take more risks, and to put myself out there as vulnerable as that makes me feel.

    i’m sorry to hear that all of your efforts and projects haven’t lead to riches. it feels more and more like people are expected to give their time and skills for free. i don’t know if it’s just that everyone is so desperate for the experience to add to their resume and that employers take advantage of this. Or if it’s just that so many people have amazing ideas and ventures that are running on a shoe-string budget that they genuinely can’t afford to pay people for their talents… It seems like being as talented as you are, and networking and volunteering like you do, that money making opportunities should be an obvious outcome but i just don’t know if that is how things work these days (says my inner 80 year old).

    I read something the other day that may be of interest to you:


    keep plugging along Ash. i know that great things will happen, even if it’s not exactly the way you plan them to.

    love jenny


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