Just about every day, as I’ve done for over 25 years from my home studio, I try to craft words and images that provoke action. Buy this, support that, LOVE these. It’s my livelihood and my passion. And I’ve been so fortunate to do this from my home. Imagine my surprise when Cake & Whiskey Magazine asked me why I do it — the way I do it.
I was included among a team of 20 contributors to Issue Eight’s Work from Home story collection. Just to be listed on the same page with professionals like Maureen Petrosky, author of the Wine Club and a Today Show contributor, Emmy Award-winning celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert Vanessa Elese, and Kristie Arslan, director of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), made me wonder at first if I was in the right room. But I was, and I embraced the welcome.
After reading the magazine cover-to-cover that was the result of an effort that began for me in November of 2014, I’m a honored and humbled to be among the home-based entrepreneurs listed within its beautifully crafted pages. In the In Her Words section, I’m joined by other entrepreneurs who ditched peep-toe pumps for flip flops, conference rooms for Skye calls, and fancy suits for rich ideas. Within Issue Eight, each story is more compelling than the next. It’s a tribute to the spirit that drives those of us who seek a different path and don’t lose sight of the prize — our success, our mission, and our freedom — without every forgetting that we’re only as good as our last project.
Here is my article. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed living this experience:
In 1989, I had been following the path many in my industry found themselves on. Advertising was then, as it still is today, an industry that runs on big ideas, stress and caffeine. I spent many 60+ hour workweeks filled with tight deadlines, stressful new business pitches and lots of hand work in the days before the first Apple computer. Back then, there were a few hearty pioneers in the ad community in Tampa Bay who had launched out on their own, and gone rogue as freelancers. These were the carefree, “I got this figured out” type of creatives that I admired so much, and felt in my heart this was my ticket to a longer life, a more Zen existence at my workplace (a studio in a spare bedroom), and a great way to ultimately be a good Mom one day.
After nearly a decade working for others, I took the plunge. I had a nice safety net in being part of a freelance team for Chase Home Mortgage. I had also worked with art directors who had spun off to other parts of the country, and they took me with them via phone, fax, and the first 2400-baud modem. It took five minutes to transfer a one page Word document, which seemed like magic. Soon, those connections led me to a copywriting position for an agency in Las Vegas. I telecommuted there every workday for the next four years, and life seemed pretty grand. I became involved with the Advertising Federation, and helped found the Creative Club of Tampa Bay. More and more agencies began calling with creative direction and copy jobs. To top it all off, that’s when my ultimate dream was answered—I became pregnant with my first child. Life was good.
In my “before children” bliss (also affectionately referred to as, for instance, 1993 B.C.), I thought working from home was the ideal solution. I pictured long days spent with my perfectly behaved and always healthy babies at my feet, soft filtered sunlight spilling through the window into a tidy room, and me toiling away merrily on a brochure while I sneak in a couple of paragraphs on the next great American novel. I moved out to a delightful old Cracker house in the country, and settled in to do equally well at both a demanding position in my chosen field and in being a poster child for Mom of the Year. Instead, in those early years, the reality was vastly different. I would frantically return phone calls when my children were napping, and hope my little precious adorable would be happy playing in the nearby playpen just 15 minutes longer — just enough time to finish the script, ad or release now due on my desk. It proved to be about as anxiety rich as my days in the mahogany hallway of agency life, but with a twist. I still felt free.
As my children grew along with my competence in my field, something really amazing started to happen. My daughter would wait to ask me a question if she saw I was on the phone. My son would sit quietly at a nearby table to do his homework. That’s when I realized it wasn’t just about breaking away from the 9 to 5 (or often 7 to 10) grind. It was about being “here.” Being with my children. They grew to respect my deadlines and I grew to cherish the quiet moments in between a conference call or the next copy job. We understood the value of each other’s time and took advantage of the free moments when they arose. I relished those pre-dawn hours when I could get nearly a half a day’s work done so I’d be available to sit down to breakfast with them. If one of my children was sick, I could give much-needed TLC and their favorite stuffy, and watch the bus pull away.
Don’t get me wrong…raising children and working at home is not without its challenges. I had no traffic manager to coordinate projects and gather estimates. If I didn’t invoice my clients, I didn’t get paid. And I worked many a late night because that’s when the house was quiet. I did have play groups and nannies and daycare when I needed them, but I also had a lot more opportunities to be there for them. I’m satisfied with being able to zig into the corporate world, then zag out to do my appointed task. Some say it’s the ultimate balancing act, but I would argue that balancing a 9-to- 5 job with benefits and steady pay check and family needs is a much harder juggling act.
Today my children are just about all grown up. We’re down to one at home on her way to college next year. And I feel good knowing I was able to enjoy a bit of the best of both worlds. Could I have gone farther if I stayed in the agency environment? Maybe. But it’s all a moot point. This is the path I chose, and I’m glad I could walk it with my family alongside.