I don’t really hang out with other artists in the Surface World; my friends, staff, buddies, chums, acquaintances, sidekicks, and cronies are all civilians who’re gainfully employed elsewhere.
They have jobs.
They get up at the same time and go to the same place and do pretty much the same thing with the same people day after day after day. Even the ones who own their own businesses have their own versions of the hamster wheel to get to.
And they all nurture various degrees of envy towards me and my carefully crafted lifestyle…and rightfully so, because it’s terrific!
So here, in no particular order, are the top 17 perks about being an artist who works from home:
1. No Drama.
The Colonel and I are proponents of a drama free lifestyle. Zero. Nothing. Even in our gallery (which I’m rarely allowed into because it upsets the Groovy Framing Elves™ ), we have no tolerance for “oh poor me” victim talk, or salacious gossip about who did what with so-and-so’s boyfriend, or which chick wore what outfit to what function and looked like a skank, or overwrought conundrums about one damn crisis after another…bah! It’s just too exhausting.
So while The Colonel does a good job of keeping that out of the gallery, in my Action Command Bunker – there’s none of it.
2. No Co-worker stress.
No rampages because Gladys ate Barbara’s celery from the staff fridge, no Lotharios determined to share their latest faux conquests, no keeping up with the Joneses, no brown-toothed boozy cougars breathing damply at you and making things dashed uncomfortable (shudder).
Now the only crappola I have to deal with is when That Damn Cat shows his impertinence by barfing on the carpet when 6 inches would find him on tile. And the occasional cable repair person.
3. No ghastly perfumes or loud colognes. Or eating noises.
After I got my eyes nuked with Lasik and my vision improved, the darndest thing happened: my hearing and sense of smell got better. I think what happened was that my brain got excited by how much better I could see and said to itself “What else have I been missing?!”
In a quiet room I can hear a cat walk on carpet, and I can smell the lettuce in a sandwich 20 feet away. This, coupled with a faster than average healing rate and a dynamite widow’s peak could mean I’m turning into Wolverine, but there’s more downsides to it than benefits. I can hear you crunching through that lettuce from 20 feet away, and I can smell the Tide laundry soap on your shirt too.
And it’s overpowering.
So when certain women over a certain age seem to take a “more is better” approach to scents (HINT: if you can see it, it’s too much) and men are rash enough to actually sloosh on the cheap muck they get for Christmas and Father’s Day, it’s not funny, and we’re not just being difficult…it’s painful.
We even have have a scent free workplace at the gallery. We’ve sent Groovy Framing Elves ™ home to shower if their shampoo is too piercing. Unpleasant for everyone involved, but not something I have to worry about anymore.
4. No interruptions
The biggest bane of productivity is the unscheduled interruption.
At home, the boys are at school and The Colonel is at work, and I can get my sleeves rolled up and slam into it. I couldn’t fathom having to do actual work that requires thinking and evaluating in a sort of open pit with cubicle walls and the din of worker bees (more likely slacker bees) droning all around.
And worst of all about the openness is that it somehow invites others to pop in to gossip, ask inane questions, unload work on you, borrow stuff, ask favors, and all kinds of minutia that pulls you out of your work.
Not here! I don’t answer the door or the phone unless it’s scheduled (it drives The Colonel bananas to see an Amazon package on the steps when I’ve been home all day). There’s no TV in my work area. I don’t have emails or texts or tweets or messages or anything else turned on. It’s me, and my work, and I’ve found that I can do 2 or 3 hours of high value work if left alone…but if I get yanked out of it, it can take 15 to 20 minutes to get my groove back.
5. No crappy office coffee
It turns out I’m a coffee snob. I use a French press; there’s something about the fussiness of the ritual that appeals to me. I grind my own beans everyday. I use a timer set to 4 minutes to get the perfect steep. I measure my water. I use the same cups so I get a consistent result every time. I make two cups and pour one into a thermos so I don’t have to run up to the kitchen to make another cup.
It’s ruined me for lesser coffees…
6. You can embrace your inner weirdo
As artists we’re expected to be “a half a bubble off plumb”. People will allow all kinds of marginal behavior from us, but there are limits.
For instance, when I turned 30 I swore that barring weddings and funerals and gigs where an air of respectability is called for, I was going to wear shorts every day between May 1 and Sept 30, and in the ensuring years, I’ve only missed about 6 days.
I don’t say it’s all treats for the public, but then again who cares; I work from home.
Also, I sing a lot. All day.
It’s been my experience that the Surface People prefer to have this kind of enthusiasm in small doses, and irregularly. I know it drives The Colonel nuts. But I don’t do it to get a reaction; I do it because I think it’s funny and sets up a good work vibe.
I also have one of those heavy punching bags shaped like a torso (I named mine “Kincade”) and every time I walk past it I lay a few crushing hooks into him. It’s good exercise, good practice should it ever come to that, and a terrific stress relief…but terribly disturbing to Surface Folk who’re not expecting it.
7. You can embrace your inner slob
If you work at a job, you have work clothes, and they’re not cheap. I nearly fell over backwards at what a pair of proper work coveralls cost, and if you work in an office it can run to thousands a year very, very quickly.
And everyday there’s the “What am I going to wear today?” routine coupled with the “What’s clean?” dance. And lots of that stuff is dry clean only, which is an expense layered with a hassle.
I have a dozen t-shirts that’re all dark and all the same size (double extra medium…*cough*), as well has a selection of identical comfy shorts or track pants depending on the weather. No decisions to make, no worrying about what’s going to match with what, I can run to the bank or Safeway without embarrassment, and my laundry is one big load.
Of course I have a roguish selection of what a good friend from Alabama calls “fancy eatin’ clothes”…
Along the same lines, I can’t tell you how awesome it is to not have to shave everyday. No, I’m not growing a beard, and yes, I’m an advocate of the daily shower, but shaving is just a drag for almost everyone over the age of 17.
Having said that, I’ve found that like my coffee making routine, a proper ritual of unrushed shaving has a certain therapeutic boost to one’s relaxation and self esteem…but it’s awful tough to do when rushing out the door in the morning to get on the hamster wheel.
The prerogative is supremely liberating.
8. You choose your own work environment
This is worthy of its own article, but in the typical workplace there’s only so much individualization allowed. Since this is the place I spend the most time, why wouldn’t I make it support what I’m trying to do?
Lots of men have a Man Cave, but I have an Action Command Bunker. It’s where I draw, write, and manage my affairs. I have a set of electronic drums, a custom built treadmill desk with a triple computer monitor setup, a swanky Hermann-Miller chair in front of a vintage 1950’s light table that I draw at, my collection of Mint in Box toys from the 1970’s, some exercise gear, and my library of over 2000 books. The walls are a dizzying collage of photos, favorite movie posters, dry erase boards, swords, spears, and souvenirs.
Unabashedly male, unapologetically “my thing”, and just the way I like it. I’m thinking on adding a massage chair too. Maybe a sauna.
Think Nero Wolfe’s office mixed with The Batcave.
Here’s the thing – I’ve spent more time in here than any other place on earth except our bedroom. Why “make do”? I’m past the point of having to draw on the kitchen table (not knocking it – I needed to for years, but let’s be frank: it’s not optimal).
Several years ago I listened to an interview my buddy Perry Marshall did with business strategist Rich Schefren and certain points changed my life…I’ll share it with you as well.
Rich said that his computer and office set up cost $30,000. He acknowledged that it was a ton of loot, and then he said he also had an identical $30,000 set up at his nearby office. Like me, Perry had a frugal upbringing and this news was met with a certain incredulity. Rich said that he saw how it seems at first pass, but then he said that he had a nice car worth, if I remember correctly, about $60,000, and that his wife has a really nice car worth lots more.
He said how interesting it was when people complimented him on his nice car that he spent a total of 15 minutes a day in, but tut-tutted at his perceived extravagance at spending on the tools that he used 8 hours plus every day and earned his living with!
I got it immediately.
I was sitting in a $100 Staples office chair that cricked my back, at a giant desk from the 30’s that my mom had for some reason bought for my dad at a library auction – which was cool, but meant for a typewriter, not a keyboard, so my wrists were giving me The Shimmins. My computer was having fits every other day and I was spending more time waiting for it than working on it, and I was drawing at a crappy $69 folding table.
Drawing sucked, writing sucked, and I found myself making excuses for not working.
Screw that! It was like sleeping on the cheapest bed you could find. You should sleep on the best bed that you can afford!
I bought a new computer the next day – and got one very close in specs to the one Rich referred to for less than $1500, but it didn’t happen overnight: my Scottishness chaffed at spending $1200 on a Hermann Miller chair, so I waited until I found a mint used one for $400. A buddy serendipitously gave me the light/drawing table. A couple of years later I built the custom treadmill desk and version 2.0 is coming soon. I have a triple monitor setup and it has changed my life.
An interesting thing happened: I doubled our business in the next 12 months.
Don’t underestimate how awesome a workspace is that’s kitted out to your whims!
9. You choose your own music
I drive The Colonel nuts when we’re in the car (a pun?). I’m constantly changing the music stations. She doesn’t really care what’s on, “just leave the damn thing alone!”
But I contend that life is far too short to have to finish poorly written books, sit through bad movies, watch clichéd TV, or listen to music one doesn’t like.
Life is far too short to finish bad books, sit through bad movies, watch bad TV, or listen to bad music.Click to tweet
It is supposed to move you: make you laugh, cry, think, dance, arouse, teach, etc. It needed be highbrow – I prefer it isn’t – but if the only emotions I get are boredom or annoyance, I don’t want to bother.
So I fill my days with the 1000’s of songs that mean something to me. I listen to audiobooks when I draw. I feed my head with courses. I motivate myself. I laugh out loud. I dance (sorta). I sing “Born On The Bayou”, “Band On The Run” and “Addicted To Love” in full voice.
And sometimes I want it completely silent.
Just as importantly, I don’t have to try and tune out someone else’s idea of what may or may not pass for music. Most people just keep it on as a sort of background noise.
I don’t have to wear headphones. Or deal with Muzak.
10. No commute
This is what most people think about when considering working from home. I know people who routinely spend 3 hours a day in their commutes. Even an hour is punitive; in an average of 260 days a year that’s over 10 days of pure traveling every year!!!
I don’t know many people who derive joy from it either. In the odd spots in my life where I had to drive, I did what I did when I was on the road as a musician or in later years selling my art – I listened to business and marketing and self improvement tapes, but I don’t know many who’ll even try to get that benefit.
Beyond the black hole of wasted time, there’s also the cost. Most families have two vehicles, two insurances, there’s fuel and maintenance, and even if you choose to ignore it, depreciation is A Thing…it costs most of us $1000’s every year to drive to work.
While I’m not entirely sure that this is a benefit, it can be nice to have The Narcoleptic Dog or That Damn Cat snuggle in for that after lunch nap (see below).
12. The After Lunch Nap
My New Year’s Resolution this year was to make a point of getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day. I always thought that sleep was a kind of admittance of weakness. I’d prided myself for years on going 30 or 40 hours in a stretch with one or two hours of sleep. I’d stay up late and try to function on 4 to 5 hours on average. Then the big crash would come on the weekend and I’d try to catch up, with little success. My weight climbed, I felt crappy, and I didn’t seem to be getting as much done as I’d have liked.
In my reading up on the topic, several historical figures seem to have adopted the habit of catching 20 winks in the afternoon. I’d dabbled in the practice over the years, but have now decided to get serious about it.
After lunch, I set the timer on my iPestilence for 21 minutes and hit the couch, pet in tow. That’s one minute to get comfy, and 20 minutes sleepy-bye.
It’s the damnedest thing. It feels like you’re washing the cobwebs out. I can’t say it feels exhilarating or anything, but the fatigue does vanish.
If you try to get more than about 35 or 40 minutes, it’s usually much worse than not sleeping at all.
There was, initially, a strong sense of guilt in doing this. I felt like a slacker and a wastrel.
The results speak for themselves and I’m happy to say that I’m now taking two combat naps some days! 🙂
In the middle of writing this article, on a Wednesday, I packed a quick bag, kissed The Colonel and the boys, and sped 3 hours down to Calgary for a 30 hour Mental Health Break.
- I caught lunch and had a tremendous couple of hours with Simon, one of my largest clients and an Excellent Chap who was in town from Dubai.
- Then I got together with Scott, the fella I was in cahoots with during our tenure on Season 2 of Canada’s Greatest Know It All on the Discovery Channel.
- We spent an excellent afternoon in the downtown sunshine drinking untold gallons of beer at a trendy patio bar. Before we turned into pumpkins, Scott’s wonderful new romantic interest, Julie, fortuitously appeared and saved us cab fare, and the next morning was heaping bowls of Ramen at a hep little out-of-the-way place for brunch.
- Then all-too-short visit with Troy, an occasional business partner and tremendous fellow, followed by a dash back home in time for dinner and family movie night.
Awesome in all aspects, slight morning headache notwithstanding…
When my idiot best friend, Foo, hit some black ice this winter and rolled his SUV 4 times, I was able to drop everything and drive 8 hours to meet him at his mom’s and chastise him back to health over the next week.
When meaningful people swing by, I can arrange to spend time with them.
When I take my twice yearly Fella’s Weekend it’s never me that has the scheduling problems; I hop on a plane and let the carnage unfold. (I talk big, but at our ages it’s mostly us relaxing, eating rich foods, drinking more beers than might be advisable, toddling around in Foo’s pontoon boat, laughing uproariously, heckling each other unmercifully, and reminding each other of Olden Times.)
Travel for concerts? Check.
Impromptu trips to mountains or deserts or shorelines? Yup.
Home when the boys get home from school? Absolutely.
Because of the way I’ve arranged my career I can accommodate anything I want in my day: workouts, I can bike my kids to school, proper meal preparation, sleep in…anything.
I’m supremely grateful for this freedom…
14. You can live anywhere you want
Even though you’ve probably never heard of Spruce Grove, Alberta, we absolutely love it here.
It’s a city of about 25,000 that’s about 15 minutes from Edmonton, the capital city, and within an hour of us there’re over 1,000,000 people.
In Spruce Grove, we have all the “stuff”: Wal-Mart, Home Depot, SuperStore (a big box Canadian grocery store chain), fast food chains, all of the big banks, a movie plex, a skate park, sports facilities, etc. If they’d give us a Costco and a Chapters (Canada’s big bookstore chain), we’d never have to go to the city!
But it’s small enough to maintain that small town feel The Colonel and I grew up in. The Gals at the bank know us and ask how the boys are doing. I have my favorite cashiers at Safeway.
The center of the city is a huge old growth forest with an unparalleled system of bike trails going through it. I can bike Harding to school and say “Good morning” to the couple of dozen random people out for morning walks, then I can bike over to the pool/ice rink/soccer field/gym/track complex and catch a workout and a swim, then bike back home for a late breakfast.
Speaking of the schools, they’re superb – big enough for the amenities, small enough that the teachers know our kids. For the past 3 years I’ve been a judge at a middle school science fair, at a school our boys don’t go to.
I’m the Drum Sargent in the Firefighter’s Pipe Band and my sons know all the firefighters and the mayor and a good portion of the city council. There’s a new hospital 5 miles away, and I can be at one of Canada’s largest international airports in 40 minutes.
The Rockie mountains are less than 3 hours west. My mother-in-law (The Admiral) is four hours east.
Just about right…
The point is, the chose to live here. Not by happy accident, not by heredity or habit. Choice.
And if and when we decide to move again, we’ll have the same amount of freedom of choice, because as an artist, we can live anywhere – beach, desert, rain forest, mountaintop – though I’d insist on half decent internet access.
15. You can live off peak hours
This is a time management principle that we’ve practiced for years, but it’s perfect for the work at home artist.
In a nutshell, the goal is to waste as little of one’s life as possible waiting in line or fighting crowds.
So make a point of NOT doing things during busy times – do them at off-hours.
When do most folks do their banking? Lunch hour, or towards the end of the day, typically on the 15th and the 30th of the month, and they end up standing in line for a half an hour. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays mid-morning banks are almost empty.
The best time for groceries? It’s not at 5 pm when everybody’s on the way home from work. I like to drop in to Safeway after pipe band practice and beers at 10:30-ish Wednesday evening. The place is almost empty and I can get everything on the list and home by 11:00.
Going out of town for the weekend? Better gas up on Wednesday before they hike up the “demand pricing” for the weekend.
Renewing a driver’s license, registering a vehicle, banking, groceries, government services like passports, doctor’s visits, haircuts, movies, the gym…ALL of this can be done much easier off peak hours.
Of course, the big reason there’s congestion and lineups is for the same reason there’s rush hour traffic: the masses have to live life around the 9 to 5 workday.
The goal is to waste as little of one’s life as possible waiting in line or fighting crowds.Click to tweet
16. I get to be Dad
This is the biggie. It’s the reason we moved to the Edmonton area, because I was traveling here so much and I didn’t want to be one of those absent fathers.
Most days when the boys get home, I’m here. I cook most dinners and we eat every night at the dining room table with the TV off.
The odd time when there’s a problem at school such as a tummy ache, I can go get them.
Doctor’s appointment? Dentist? Optometrist? Class trip? There’s never a problem getting time off work to go do any of that – though disclosure necessitates that I say The Colonel does most of that…but that doesn’t change the fact that I have the freedom when needed; there’s no boss to grovel to for permission to go somewhere.
It’s all about personal freedom; to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want.
We’re put here to find a path that fulfills us. I honestly believe that if an activity doesn’t come from a sense of love or laughter or learning, then that activity is of low value.
And artists, above all, are to be the standard bearers. The world looks to us to inspire them, to teach them, to entertain them, to make them feel.
The artistic gifts we’re given are not supposed to keep us in poverty or isolation; we’re supposed to develop them and forge art that communicates great truths to the world.
The notion that artists are somehow doomed to be poor or undervalued is a corruption of its original premise.
Our gifts are meant to help us prosper!
As with parenting, it would have been convenient if the Powers That Be would’ve supplied us with a user’s manual or something, but of course, that’s not how it works…
And as it also is with parenting, there’s no shortage of people gathering around telling us what we “should do”…
And occasionally, as with parenting, you find a real gem; a source of information and knowledge that isn’t based on gossip, rumors, hearsay, old wive’s tales, propaganda, wishful thinking, or dangerous theory.
In parenting, I had DJ, one of my very best friends for over 30 years. The reason I’m the dad I am is because of his examples, his wisdom, and the fact that he’d blazoned a trail before me and told me where the gold was, and where the booby traps are.
For artists, I wanted to be a sort of DJ – to provide encouragement, facts, lessons, wisdom, and warnings about pitfalls.
I wouldn’t want to tackle being a dad without DJ’s advice, and I sure wouldn’t want to try being an artist without knowing what I know.
QUESTION: Would you offer to take me out for a beer and sandwich to pick for the chance to pick my brains for a couple of hours?
Then get The Fast Start Art Marketing Primer.
It’s what I’d tell you face to face, and it’s cheaper than buying me lunch…
Check out the Fast Start Art Marketing Primer!
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