I came across something today that made me want to stand up and cheer. I think it is valuable enough to repeat—I hope you don’t mind.
But first, the background.
Nancy Nally is the writer of the Inside Scrapbooking blog. Nancy is a long-time scrapbooker pursuing a career in the industry. She writes about her pursuits and the ups and downs of wanting to be an insider on her blog. Recently, in this entry, she lamented the difficulties of creating publishable pages without having access to a local scrapbook retailer and without an unlimited supply budget. Here are her comments:
Do you ever get the feeling that you can’t afford to be a professional scrapbook designer? It is starting to seem to me that trying to build a career in this industry requires making a rather large and risky financial investment, and that the only people who can afford to build a career are the people who don’t need the money to survive in the first place!
Scrapbooking as a hobby has become increasingly costly as the price of embellishments goes up and more techniques are incorporated, which often require the purchase of expensive tools. Scrapbooking as a business (or trying to) is even more expensive because you have to consider the shelf life of products when you use them, keep up with changing styles of design trends, and also use a particular company’s products if you are applying for a design team or entering manufacturer contests. (I know that there are designers who say that it is possible to get published using older products. While I do believe that is true to a certain extent, it is nearly impossible to follow a trend towards retro/graphic design when all the supplies you have on hand are shabby chic floral designs!)
All of this product turnover for trends and purchases for specific projects results in needing more budget to work with, especially if you are in a situation like me and don’t have a local scrapbook store to be able to purchase just what you need as you work. Because I have to do my shopping online and at occasional events like conventions, I have to guess at my future needs and load up on supplies for the foreseeable future when I have the chance. This results in my later having to make additional special purchases if something is then announced that requires the use of specific products, and it results in waste if trends change before all of my purchases are used.
And that is just the actual cost of the scrapbooking itself. The price tag gets even higher when you add in the non-scrapbooking costs of trying to make it as a designer. While some of these things may be “optional” expenses, they can definitely help to market the designer and build their career. Such items as an online presence like a resume and blog, travel to trade shows and industry events, and materials such as business cards, portfolios and marketing handouts to use at those events, all are part of the price of doing serious business as a designer.
With all these start-up expenses, I believe only those with some money to invest can make a full-fledged effort to start a design career. Is it possible to make money, to earn a return on that investment financially? For a select few, I believe it is possible…but only for a select few. A designer can increase their income possibilities by diversifying into teaching or writing. If they become a “name” designer, land a lucrative manufacturer design position or become a product designer, the income can be lucrative. Beyond that though, profits are hard to earn.
After what I’ve seen and experienced in my time around this industry, my advice to other aspiring designers is this: Do it for the love of it, dream that you will someday get something for it, but don’t do it for the money. That’s a bad investment.
I think Nancy asks some honest questions and expresses some concerns that many would-be career artists face. Is it all about the product??
There were assorted replies to her post. For the sake of brevity (snort) I’m not going to copy them all here--just the one that really got my attention. It’s from Erin Lincoln. If you’ve been under a rock or otherwise somehow miraculously missed out, Erin Lincoln is an amazingly talented and hard-working scrapbooking professional. She’s currently a regular contributor to Creating Keepsakes magazines and books…and as if that’s not enough to keep her busy, she has a new book coming out ASAP called *Supply Savvy Scrapbooking* Oh yeah, and she’s a member of the Fontwerks Design Team.
Here’s her response:
Sigh. Would you like some real advice from somebody who has some experience in this situation? I can tell you the numbero uno secret when it comes to getting published. Sure fire. Absolutely 100% guaranteed.
You ready for it?
Here it is....
You sit down and scrap and improve your scrapping.
Simple as that. You filter out all the crap on the message boards (better yet, stay off them...waste of good scrapping time), ignore the trends (including new product), scrap what you want, and develop your own style. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that spiel. Creative vacuums work the best. Is it easy? Errrr...is cutting out chocolate a good way to lose weight? Sure...but it requires discipline. It's much easier to sit and speculate and concoct conspiracy theories about what the magazines want versus how you measure up. Practices that really aren't good for self esteems. Wasn't for mine. Like everything in life, a little bit of hard work and elbow grease goes a long way. Sitting and thinking about it, unfortunately does not.
Why am I posting this? Honestly and truly not to be mean. It's a bit of tough love. And it could have gone on any one of your blog posts, as it is universal. I've seen a lot of people spend a lot of time just spinning their wheels and getting frustrated and wonder why things aren't working. Missing the forest for the trees, I think. Perhaps a change of focus and perspective would freshen things up a bit. And good news...such items are 100% free. :) Just takes a little bit of hard work. Good luck to you.
How’s that for a good smack on the backside? To paraphrase: “Stop trying to anticipate the next trend and get in front of it…and start making your own." We are a creative bunch. Why do we spend so much time watching what everyone else is doing??
I think Erin’s comments are dead on too! (I’m sure you were waiting with baited breath to know if I agreed, right.)
Sure magazines like pages that feature products. Product usage keeps their advertisers giddy. However, I think style really will carry one much farther than product usage. Personal. Identifiable. Consistent. Style.
Get your own.
Thanks Erin! We needed that!!
PS Here's Erin's blog if you want to drop in on her.