Who Put the Free in Freelancing?

Working freelance as I have almost exclusively since I left Vogue in 1976 has an equal amount of pluses and minuses. Right now, I’m in the minus column, trying to weigh the importance of the next thing I must do–

a/ finalize the copy for the B&B’s web revise,

b/ fix the copy and layout for the Benefit/Dinner for the Kildonan school’s Diana King (she’s retiring, grand dame of dyslexia),

c/ try to find the missing months of income statements on Dennis’ computer in order to finish the income tax prep,

d/ go take a shower or

e/ continue to sit in Donegan’s DoneAgin’s shop as DD’s in the city freelancing himself, helping to shut down the Nate show.

Okay. I know I have to work on the web copy–my associate, Matthew is waiting for it so he can meet the deadline to build the revised site by end of February.

My morning was thrown off by e-mails that came from Lily and her tutor regarding lost homework. Mothering is my full time job, as any mother will attest. Immediately I ditched the shower that I wanted badly, and raced up to school but not before I dashed a statement from the defense that her work was done and I would find it! So great. She found it. I wasted my shower.

But on a more serious note, freelancing is great for the chance to be out on the streets when the rest of the work-a-day world isn’t. Or shopping without crowds, or even catching a Nate show mid afternoon. But as our Cobra from DD’s last job is slithering towards non-existence, freelancing is a curse. We need to work to get insurance. Everyone I talk to is in the same leaky boat–basing all of their decisions on how/where they’ll get insurance coverage, and the whole thing reeks. If I could, I’d do without, but that’s not reasonable; we’re a family and we have “conditions.”

I have freelanced way too long, for anyone to hire me full time, I fear. I have bundles and bushels of knowledge and experience, and I’ve designed my way through some mighty tough client-types including a presidential campaign (lost); I am great at solutions and team-building, both of which must be highly prized, and worthy of a paycheck and health insurance. N’est-ce pas?

Dennis has only recently taken on the mantle of freelance, and though he has labored in the mines of soap opera drama more than I in packaging for Fortune 500s, it looks like he will have to throw himself on the altar and get hired.

In the meantime, I have to meet my deadlines and get on with it. Though really,

f/ the treatment I am working on to put all of this freelancing behind me beckons from the yellow pad in my satchel. Not today, I don’t have the freedom to wander there, I freelance. My deadlines call. Adieu.

The Broken Arm

Lily is a daring, strong skier. She skied once this winter with a friend at Hunter Mt., and zipped down a double black diamond–the toughest run on the mountain. It was her last ski adventure of the season. At school the upper school skis on Thursdays, and Lily opted to snowboard. Day one out, she broke her humerus, the large upper arm bone; she’s been in a sling ever since.

It’s tough to be benched. At 13 it’s even tougher: no dancing (her passion), no running, nothing to do on Thursdays but stay home or go to school and do extra credit work. Unable to do any weight bearing exercise, she was dropped from her Lyrical Ballet class, and she likewise dropped Ballet. I could see her confidence dwindling away.

At home yesterday, Ski Day 5, while cleaning her room, Lily tore through her closet and whipped out accessories long buried in baskets, hibernating there through the winter of school uniforms. She ravaged, and examined the results then threw another look together for a good chunk of the morning until she presented herself for Mom’s approval. Lily looked fabulous–a beret slung back on her head, leather necklace, sparkly scarf, an open-worked sweater, over a grey sequined top, jeans and cowgirl boots with silver toes. Oh yes, and she put on her reading glasses with their smashing striation of pink plastic that shouted, “Look at me”. I couldn’t stop.

How reassuring that the human psyche can design itself out of depression; that even at 13, my daughter can use another facet of her immense creativity to generate smiles, especially her own. As designers, we are blessed with the ability to see things and organize them into pleasing, attention-getting solutions.

She went off to school with the scarf and the glasses



Start Today

Start Today

Feb 7, 2012

I decided today to start myself going, and called my old, dear friend Katherine Snedeker, owner of The Arrangement in Dallas and Houston. I hadn’t talked to her much since, heck, who knows when, yet she called me right back. Good when old friendships get confirmed. I decided to tell her my pie in the sky idea for the next phase of my career.

See, I don’t want to feel like it’s a drag getting old, but for about 2 years exactly, I have been feeling waylaid by age and illness. Illness first, and then the ramifications of illness set in and age becomes a factor. Let’s not get into illness, it doesn’t deserve the keystrokes, but age can be a bummer.

I was fumbling around wondering what I was going to do with my life as recently as last week, with my husband, Dennis, in NYC closing down the Nate Show. He closed down As The World Turns about 1.5 years ago, a job he worked on for 18 years, and his co-workers had gravitated to Nate. Now Nate hasn’t been picked up. Kind of like Pretty Woman, dependent on being picked up.

But there’s lots of us out there who ran thriving design businesses that for some reason or another aren’t in business today—even Nate! For all of what we/they offered, the times, the funds, the energy, the sponsors to keep our endeavors afloat, aren’t there any more. Many of my clients who were designers themselves have closed their doors: Carmelo Pomodoro (AIDS), Bill Robinson (AIDS), Adeptus Arts, Steve Fabrikant, As the World Turns, Ellea Handbags, Drizzle, Glynn Scientific, the list goes on and on. And so do we. We are creative sorts who are far from over or washed up, and feel we have something  to contribute yet in us.

So calling Snedeker who helped my old advertising firm (now closed!) weather the Liz Claiborne retainer at a very critical period in both of our lives, was good medicine. I rambled through my brainstorm. She listened. I laughed at the easiness of talking to my good good friend even after so long. She’s doing so well, it’s great she won’t be closing her doors—but she was never my client, after all.

I also tuned into a webinar about social networking. I really liked it. I got inspired. I decided today to start blogging, and this is my first.

So today is the Book of Birthday’s “The Day of Utopia”—its motto is “An Ideal World can only be Created by Ideal Persons”, an auspicious day to unleash a brainstorm, to renew a friendship, to remember I have things to learn, to venture forth. I hope so. Dickens was born on this day, Feb.7th. It was the best of times…

Martha Voutas Donegan