Keeping Up with the Calligraphers

Choose Your Own Adventure: Life of a Full Time Event Artist vs Part Time

February 03, 2024 Alex Hirsch + Cat Brown Season 1 Episode 6
Keeping Up with the Calligraphers
Choose Your Own Adventure: Life of a Full Time Event Artist vs Part Time
Keeping Up with the Calligraphers
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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we discuss Alex’s journey going from full time business owner to part time, and then back to full time, and Cat’s journey managing being a full time career-girlie, mom, and part-time business owner. While their journeys and their days are vastly different from each other, both of their businesses are successful in their own way. Let this episode serve as a reminder that success doesn’t need to be measured by someone else’s metrics, and most business journeys aren’t linear.

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Podcast, Keeping Up with the Calligraphers

Alex Hirsch, Signs of Our Lives

Cat Brown, Cat Lauren Calligraphy

Welcome back everybody to the Keeping Up With The Calligraphers podcast. I am Cat of Cat Lauren Calligraphy and I'm here with Alex of Signs of Our Lives. And we are back with another mini episode or again, what we hope would be a mini episode. No news that we have for today. So we're just going to jump straight in.

Today we are going over something that we have gotten quite a few requests about for a podcast, and that was talking about our decision to be either full -time or part -time artists in our business and how that looks for each of us. So that is what we're going over today. So Alex, why don't you start? Cause I know you have done both part -time and full -time. So tell us a little bit about that.

Yeah. So I feel like my story is not as linear as a lot of people’s in terms of like, I did this and then I decided I wanted to be a business owner and then I just like quit my job and became one. I kind of did a little bit of a like back and forth situation. So I started my business in 2017. I apparently didn't have enough to do as a full -time teacher. So I decided to, you know, create a part -time business. I think it was...

It's really hard to remember so far back, honestly. It feels like so long ago. I can't exactly remember why I started a business other than it was just like, I really like creating. I really like making wedding signage and I was doing it for friends. And so then I was like, oh, I like want to do this for other people. And like, oh, I could make money and I could just like kind of do it on the side. So it wasn't really like I was like trying to leave the teaching profession at all.

I was teaching special ed for five years and I had finally gotten the opportunity to switch to teaching first grade, be a general ed classroom teacher. And that was huge for me. I was so excited. Um, and I was like, Oh, I'm going to do this forever, is be a classroom teacher. And yeah. And then a couple of years down the line, I, I don't know. I honestly, I can't even tell you what shifted. So this is wild. We probably should have thought about this a little bit more before recording.

But something shifted where I had wanted to move across the country with my husband. We decided on LA because his business had an office out in LA. And I was like, oh, well, perfect. I don't want to teach there. I'm just going to continue doing my business there. So I just wanted to do it part time for, I don't know, I think I did it for two -ish, three years. And then I was like, you know what? I would love to do this full time. So that was 2019. We moved to LA and…

I just wanted to ask really quick, when you were doing the part -time while you were teaching kind of like that first time around, was that mostly wedding work at that time? It was. What was your like main business focus? Yeah, I had not even gotten into events at all. I was just doing signage for weddings and sometimes businesses. Gotcha.

So then fast forward to 2019. You're new to LA. You meet me in a Facebook group. Yeah, summer 2019. We moved across the country. When you move cities as a business, you definitely need a lot of time to kind of like get your bearings just like as a human in a new city. And then to get your business up and running in a new city is a whole other thing, especially if you like haven't really had the time to network with people in your industry or kind of figure out what your business is going to look like, stuff like that. So I took six months to network, network, network, network. And then I was getting some traction, which was great.

Before we had moved and I wanted to go full time, we had saved a lot of money because my partner and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to make income right away with what I was doing because it was going to require a lot of networking and a lot of basically just reestablishing for my business in a new City. So that was definitely not something I recommend doing. And then 2020 was looking so good, everyone. 2020 was looking fine. It was looking fine. And yeah, and then I was starting to work events. I had a bunch of things lined up, a bunch of projects in March and cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel.

So that's why I say it was not linear because I was like, Oh, I actually a need to go back to teaching because there was no way that like events and businesses were going to sustain my business. Cause everything kept opening up and shutting down, opening up, shutting down. Especially in LA where you were. Oh yes. Yeah. That's true. Yeah. Cause you were an OC, which. It was closed. A little different. But LA was like, you cannot go outside to hike. You cannot go outside to go to the beach. So it was just, everything was like shut down. It was just not a good time. Fast forward. I teach in LA from 2020 to 2021 and I'm continuing with my business. I'm continuing to network in LA and recover. Yeah. And still build my book of business and getting clients in LA as well as network with people.

And at this point, you had started already introducing because you introduce events, what, like 2019, like right when you moved, like you started doing that more like just before. Yeah, like just before 2020. OK, so you were doing like a mix of wedding events, kind of starting to phase out of weddings more into events. Yeah, I don't even think I was phasing out of weddings at that point. I think I was just like anything that will create income because I don't think there was a whole lot of like choice to be like, this is how I want to make money. Um, it was kind of like, take what you can get. If I could get wedding signage, amazing. If I could get business signage, amazing. If I could get events, amazing, really like anything that was gonna, uh, provide an income. So, I mean, there's just certain times where can't necessarily pick and choose the services that you're providing, in terms of like financially, if you're not there, you don't have that luxury.

Yeah, I think it's definitely like a luxury now to be able to pick and choose my clients and to say like, yes, I want to work with this or no, I don't want to take on your project or whatever. Right. Which I don't ever say like, no, I can't take on your project unless I'm saying like I'm booked and here's other people. But anyway, so I went back to teaching, you know, a lot of people remember June 2020 and I was definitely like really inspired to go back to teaching as well. So that played like a very big role because I felt like with calligraphy and my business, I wasn't really sure how to contribute to society in any way through art. And I wasn't exactly like doing digital lettering or anything like that. So, yeah, I think there's just like that back and forth.

OK, we're going to fast forward again. We decided we wanted to move to San Diego, so I had a little bit more prep time. It's a little bit easier when you're only two hours away as opposed to a six hour plane ride across the country to kind of like network and build your business and stuff like that. Also, I feel like San Diego is just like such a cute, wonderful community and everyone's like super accepting. As a San Diego native, I can attest. And it's like just like a lot less spread out than LA was. Like LA is just so large, so vastly large, so different in every city, every neighborhood part of the city.

So anyways, okay, fast forward, we moved to San Diego. I was like, okay, I finally, I was getting to the point during teaching. When I was teaching in LA, half virtually half in person, it was hybrid towards the end of the year and I had to keep taking days off for events and I had to keep leaving early for events and I had to keep saying, okay, I can't do this anymore. Like I am getting to the point where I can't sustain both. Thankfully it was a substitute teaching position that I landed that happened to be the entire school year because the person did not come back, which worked out for me because I was in love with and obsessed with the kids that I had in my classroom. And then also just to like stay the rest of the year and keep that income.

But yeah, it was getting to the point where it was becoming like an issue that I couldn't do both. And that's what really gave me the confidence to kind of like push myself to really take it full time again, and try again. And so that's what I did in San Diego. And it just, you know, that was again, like we had savings. I have a partner that, you know, has a consistent income, which makes it like, that's a huge privilege in and of itself to have that sort of safety net and financial stability together. I definitely don't want anyone to think that I just like did it on my own because I definitely like wouldn't be here without having like that huge support. And also like taking the time to really like plan and have those discussions with my partner to make it so like in moving to San Diego, there'd be a couple months where I probably would still be networking and building my books of business.

And then my goals from like 2021 to 2022 to 2023 was having less LA clients because I did have so much business in LA that took me to LA and it was getting exhausting. So that was, that's really been a lot of like my goals too is really just shifting who my clients are and where they are located. I hope that answered that question in the most long -winded way possible. 

Yes, it does. But again, I think just nice to hear like what you were doing, like when things were and like, again, like why you made the decisions you did. Um, cause I think that's a lot of questions that we have gotten. So for me, I have only ever been part -time. So I am a full -time behavior analyst. Um, so I work, I started in like special education, like in the school setting, I actually specialize with really severe behaviors and I'm much better suited to work with the adult population. So I made a couple of career shifts there. Um, I love the work I do most days. As you can imagine based on that, it is just, it is a very intense, a very high stakes job. And so I started calligraphy as a way to do something that was just like fully different. So my brain could shut off.

I have no self control. So then in 2018, I was going to take my PTO to travel to Europe with the Global Autism Project to help support some of the new centers there that were providing supports for people with autism because it is quite literally the Wild West, you know, in all of these different countries, just like varying levels of like awareness, access to resources, things like that. So that's how I was spending my free time.

I had to fundraise $5,000 to go on that trip to help support the center and like all of my things. So I was like, oh, I'll just start selling my calligraphy, I guess. So it started with like Valentine's Day cards and like, I did like a couple of like random canvases and things like that. So it was literally just like, yeah, I mean, whatever you want to pay me for, like just pay me in a straight donation. Like here's the link straight to my fundraising.

So that's how it got started. And then people just kept asking me, like after my fundraising was over. And I was like, sure, like I'm not gonna turn down extra money, whatever else. So I was enjoying it for sure at the time. And then I, again, I'm just still really passionate about my job. I think especially with me specializing in like severe behaviors and working with adults, like that is a very niche within a niche within a niche. And the work that I do, one, to be drawn to that type of work and two, to just be skilled enough. I don't there's not really like a better way of saying it like it is a very specific skill set. So I don't anticipate that I will ever be full time artist only in, in my business just because I feel like I am called to do that work. It's very important work. I have a lot of, I have a hard time just like thinking about stepping away. It feels like abandoning a population that is already like under resourced.. underserved.

So I just I have a really hard time stepping away from that. You know, could that change? I'm you know, my hope for my business is that I will grow it to a place where it could replace that income if I wanted it to. But I am always in a position where I can choose what I want to do. So if I have the opportunity to maybe not do like a salary position, but I think I would still do this work, whether it was like contract work or consultant work or something like that. Like I can't ever see myself stepping away from it – again, just being really important work.

But my calligraphy business fucking sets my soul on fire. Like it's just so fun for me. And there are definitely times where I feel down, get really upset, beat myself up – because I don't have the full time amount of time to do like the backend stuff in my business and like help propel my business forward. So yeah, that, um, and on top of that, I have twin girls that are not even two years old yet, which is like a whole nother full -time job. Um, which is great, but yeah, having to navigate, not wanting to sacrifice time with any of these things, but therefore having to sacrifice something in all of them to do all of the things is where I balance all of that stuff.

And I think just like my decision to stay part -time aside of all of that in terms of like my career. Like as a mom, like it is very important to me… I mean, they're not two yet, so they're not necessarily seeing and understanding what's happening now… but it was very important for both my husband and I. My husband also has a career and also has a business. He's a CrossFit gym owner and then also does insurance sales. But it's really important for us to show our girls that whatever dream you have or whatever passion you have, like they're all worth pursuing. Again, it doesn't mean that you, it might look the way you want it to or whatever else, but just it's really important for us to model that for them. So just trying to make sure that I live that out to the best of my ability. I mean, they're lucky that they have a fucking badass as a mom. It's amazing. Doing all the things. A very sleepy mom is what they see.

But I mean, I think you made good points though, because I think, you know, I will say like my, when I shifted from being a teacher to a full -time business owner, my identity was fully wrapped in being a teacher first. And I had a really hard time transitioning like, like identity wise. And I think, you know, you and I talked about this recently of just like, whenever there's a big shift in your life or big transition. It's like kind of this mini identity crisis. And I think what you're saying about like leaving like a community behind or like a, you know, an underserved community where like, it's so hard to find good teachers, to find good special educators, to find people that will advocate for people who don't have advocates or who may or may not be able to advocate for themselves or even be given the platform to. 

Yeah, like leaving that sort of population is so challenging and could create like such an identity crisis. So I could, I could totally see that being like a really good reason to stay as well. Because I mean, I think about that pretty often and I have done some like volunteering opportunities on the side to like kind of like scratch that itch of like wanting to like teach and like be around kids. Yeah. But it has made me realize like, unfortunately how broken a lot of like the education system is and how it kind of like sucked the life out of me.

So I think that was part of my choice too, was because I do really enjoy like slow mornings and like we're recording this at 11 PM at night right now. Because like that's the time that works best for you because of your girls, but also like it is when like we're most alive. And I think being able to just like, be able to choose that schedule, and not like suffering the consequences of having to wake up at six, seven to get somewhere in the morning and do all the things that I needed to do. That was also like a big part of it for me was just understanding how much I value like autonomy. And I think it probably always goes back to just like knowing what you value and what you want to prioritize in life, right? So.

I agree with all those things you said. OK. So what when you are full time in your biz, give us like a couple examples, because like you said, like the autonomy allows you to have like the freedom of variety if you wanted it. Give us a couple examples of what your day looks like as a business owner, because I feel like one example is not going to do it justice.

Oh, yeah. Yeah, every day is different, which is amazing. Some days I wake up and I co -work with a friend or my husband and we go to a cafe and we do all of our administrative tasks. And that was today, for instance. And then I had a tattoo appointment and so I did that. And then I came home and then we recorded this podcast. So it can look very different. Um, and the administrative tasks is emails, newsletters. Um, I'm putting together a booklet for my chalk lettering workshop, going over my numbers, things like that. Yeah. Sending out contracts, proposals, following. I was following up on contracts and invoices. Pitching. Oh gosh. I, dude, I have been so bad at that recently. But yes, I have a list. I have a list going, but I have yet to take any action on that list. But yeah, and then other days it can look like, you know, I have a, I do a workout in the morning and then I have an event.

I was gonna say, what is your, what's your like Sweetgreen day look like? Oh gosh, okay, so Sweetgreen, I do all the Sweetgreen boards for San Diego, OC and LA, and there are 29 locations now. And I do five foot by three foot chalkboards for each location. And each one takes about an hour, plus all the driving. So some weeks for me could look like six straight days of me going from chalkboard to chalkboard to chalkboard to chalkboard to chalkboard. And all I'm doing is driving and listening to podcasts and calling people and bothering them. Um, sending voice memos. Sending long voice memos to Cat.

So yeah, I think it's, it's tricky because even like in event season, for instance, like father's day is a really big one. Like June is usually my biggest month because I work with a lot of whiskey brands and people associate whiskey and whiskey bottles with men even though more women drink it, all that. Anyways, so that could look like going from like event to event to event and it's like coming home, throwing my stuff in my studio, coming back and putting on a different outfit and changing out an engraver for a foiling machine, something like that. So every day can kind of look different. Sometimes it's like, it just depends how many projects are going on for the week. Some days I have one project, some days I have many projects, some days I have no projects. It really just kind of depends. Depends on the season, depends on how much outreach I've done. It depends how much follow -up I've done.

So yeah, I think our last episode or a few episodes ago, we did one about like finding clients and that is a continuous thing. I would say that's like a daily occurrence, whether it's like sliding to someone's DMs or engaging with a brand on Instagram or LinkedIn or whatever. Those are all just like really important things to continue to do to stay top of mind for people. And that's how I personally have continued to keep projects going. Otherwise, I just think it's magic. I don't really know. I say I don't know, but I do know. It's not magic. It is actually me doing things. But sometimes it just feels like magic because you're like, whoa, the things I did worked.

It was like teaching first grade all over again. Like, whoa, the things that I'm teaching are, they get it immediately. They get it immediately. It's not like the 30th time. So yeah, it's, it's really cool. But yeah, I know that looks so different when you're a mother, as well as a wife, as well as a friend, as well as a full time career-girly. I am. And you do, I feel like you do most of your work at night.

Yeah, I mean, my schedule, I could tell you, sounds damn near the same every day. Like, so I get this question a lot from people about like how, how I do the things. You don't sleep as much as I do. I know that for a fact. I don't fucking sleep. Yeah, so I start my day at 6:30 because I start my work day at 7am. I do that one for childcare kind of options, but also just create time for all of these things in my day. Plus, nobody starts work at 7am. So I've already started like two hours of my day and no one is bothering me, which is nice. So I can like get things done.

So I do work from home for my other job. I do have to do like some on-site stuff, but I mostly work from home. So I work, my girls wake up about like 7:30ish. So I start my day 6:30. I would start my work at 7:00 in the morning. My husband will get them up, get them going until our childcare comes, which is usually about 8:00 or 8:30. And he starts his work day at 8:30. So he essentially has them in the morning. We have childcare until their first nap, which is about like 1:00, 1:30. So I will work till 3:00, which is typically like 3:00, 3:30 is when they wake up from their nap. My husband works till five. So I have them during that time to kind of balance the time he had them in the morning. Once he's off at 5:00, it's family time. So sometimes we go to Disneyland. Sometimes it's just going to the park. Sometimes it's running errands. All four of us. Cat lives very close to Disneyland for anyone who's curious. I do. I live like 15 minutes away and we are annual pass holders. So that time looks different. My girls typically are ready for bed by like seven o 'clock and then seven o 'clock is like dinner slash workout.

And then eight o'clock, I check into my calligraphy business. And that looks different. Sometimes if I have, sometimes I have like weekday events. So if that was the case, I would end my day like 3:30. They typically start at like 5:00 or 6:00. So I would just find someone to take my girls during that time while my husband finished his day. And then obviously he will be with them for the family time and whatever else, but yeah. That's what my day looks like. And then I, from eight o 'clock until I'm like cross -eyed and losing all motor function, cause I'm so tired, is when I end my day working on calligraphy stuff. Sometimes that's 10 o 'clock. Sometimes that's two or three in the morning. It just kind of depends on what I have going on and what deadlines look like and whatever else. So that is what my day looks like.

Honestly, I genuinely don't know how you find the time to do most things. Although I've given you my theory of like I think when you have a lot of things going on, because I sometimes think about college or even when I was a special ed teacher plus a team leader plus a business owner, all the things, plus wedding planning when I was doing that. It's like, when you have a lot of things you could just kind of keep doing, whereas when you have like more space and time. Like you don't have a choice.

You have to be organized. Like the things have to get done kind of thing. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's always been my life. I played collegiate softball. So I was balancing like that plus school plus work and like all of these other things. So I've just like always been like a balancing very busy person with a lot of responsibilities. So I don't really know how to live like any other way. I definitely take a lot on, because I think on top of that, I still do the volunteer work. I am going to Kenya this year to help open a school for kids with special needs. So that is taking up a huge chunk of my time right now, too. Casual, casual things. So that is cutting in, you know, just like in all of my spare time.

But I think… I think the thing that is it's like a mindset thing, right? It's a matter of like, if these are all the things that I truly want to do, like I have to understand that there are going to have to be sacrifices to do all of those things like moderately well, like I'm not going to be able to do all of them perfect or to the way that I want them to. And depending on what is going on, like some things are going to have to give space for other things and it might have to be a short term sacrifice. So like last year, right, when I went to Paris for Hannah and Dylan's wedding. That was not just on -site work. That was a lot of work ahead of time. And that was like, I knew to take time away from my career, to be taking time away from my family, whatever else. I knew it was something I very much wanted to do. It was very much like a high priority for me. And so that bumped its way up on my priority list.

And so my career doesn't get to move down. Like that also has to be up there. And I wasn't willing to sacrifice a lot of time with my family. So that meant like I was sacrificing a significant amount of sleep and I was sacrificing like my time to work out or I was trying to like fit things together where I could. So like trying to take my girls for a walk, which is not the same as the way I would normally like weight lift or like do my Peloton rides or like whatever else. So there was a couple of weeks there where I was sacrificing a lot of sleep and a lot of things that keep me mentally stable, like my workouts and things like that. But knowing that that was not a long term change I had to make, but my priorities or how I spend my time in my priorities shift based on what's going on.

Yeah, I was just going to say, I think there's some moral to the story is like, while being full time in your business could be someone's goal. Like sometimes your priorities do need to shift based off of what's happening in your life. And I don't think there's, honestly, I think we all do a great job at shaving ourselves. And I think that - I am an expert. Cat is an expert. I honestly, I need to do better about sending you more Brene Brown quotes around all of that. Um, but yeah, like it's just, there's no shame in doing what you need to do to get by temporarily or to get by for a couple weeks, months, years. Like we all kind of do what we want to do. And like, it comes down to like your own personal goals and capabilities and what you're willing to put into stuff and your capacity to even do that. So, yeah.

And I think I touched on it too in our last episode. I have very realistic expectations for the amount of time I allow for my business. I don't compare myself to you. We all fall into the comparison trap, right? And the FOMO and things like that. But I don't expect to make the same amount of money you as somebody that is full time is making. I don't expect to book those things. So like, you know, when you and I looked at our end of the year numbers or whatever, like, I was shocked by them. But it was not because I was like, Oh, my gosh, like, I can't believe I didn't do over 100 events, like, or whatever else, like, I don't expect our numbers to be like anywhere near each other. Because it's not, I have, again, like realistic expectations based on the time and effort I am allowed to put into my business. 

Yeah, I think that is basically the moral of the story is everything's gonna look different for everyone. And if you're part -time right now and you don't wanna be part -time right now in your business and you wanna eventually get to full -time, like amazing, we love that, we're here to support you. And if you, you know, it might take longer than you anticipate and like that's okay. And you know, there's so many things online about like “make six figures in three months” or whatever the hell's stupid scarcity mindset bullshit marketing bro marketing tactics are coming around the corner. And you know, it's not realistic if you want a sustainable business and also you want a sustainable life, right? Like if you do want to get sleep, or if you, if you do want to spend time with family or if you do want to work out or add certain things to your life, like something's got to give. And don't let it don't let it be yourself, like give yourself time, grace.

And I think too, I get this a lot. So I want to state it for the record, like, we are here to also cheer you on if being full time is not your goal. I get people all the time and they mean it in a very positive way. But it comes off very, I don't know. I don't know what the word is, so I don't want to try to put a word to it. But like, I get people all the time that are like, when are you going to be full time in your business? And I'm like, that's not like, that's not my goal. I'm not going to be. That's not what I want to do. That's not for my life. Like, that's not where I'm at right now. Like, I'm not not successful because I'm not full time. Like, I don't not take my business seriously because I'm not full time. Yeah.

So I'm here to cheer on the girlies that are both career girlies and also business owners. Like I am here for you. Like you don't have to be full time to be a legit calligrapher, like a professional calligrapher, event artist, like whatever, like you don't, and it's not everybody's goal and that's totally okay. Don't measure your success by someone else's metrics. That's a quote from something. IDK what, but something. If you know, please let us know so we can credit.

So that is that. So thanks for listening. Hopefully that answered some of the questions you have. If you have more questions now that you have heard all of that, please feel free to reach out to us. You can reach out to us on Instagram at Keeping Up With the Calligs. Or if you want to reach out to one of us specifically based on something that we shared or something that resonated with you, you can also find us on Instagram. I am at Cat Lauren Calligraphy, Cat with a C. And I am at Signs of Our Lives with an S. And our Instagram, our Instagram is Keeping up with the Calligs.

If you're enjoying this podcast, please leave us a review on Apple or Spotify. Tell us all the positive feedback that you have for us and you can reach us in our DMs, submit your stories, feedback, things you want to hear more about, questions you have. We're here to support you and we are making this podcast for you. So please tell us what you want to know more about and we're happy to tell you. All right. Thanks for listening. Bye.