As I found myself back in a professional environment, pressures arrived from every angle to step up my game, "brand" myself, and stand out from the crowd.
Of course, I also had my own set of self-imposed expectations which were completely unreasonable. I would see Instagram accounts doing the same things I was doing, and gaining tens of thousands of followers. I wanted that too! Why? Because at the time, that was success to me. If I could have 1,000 followers, then I would be successful. Of course, when I reached that, in my mind it changed to 2,000...3,000...
I started posting pictures of my handlettering. I bought the latest and greatest pens, brushes, and inks in an attempt to seem like I knew what the heck I was doing. The truth was, I was learning about handlettering from other people who were learning about it, from still more people who were maybe a couple years ahead of us in experience.
I was and am still proud of the work I did at the beginning. I started, and kept going, and it led me here.
The community of artists I met through social media grew. I connected with other amazing artists, calligraphers, and creatives.
Meanwhile...the dishes piled up. Laundry was never clean, and if it was, it was in a wrinkly mass stacked high in a basket. My floors were dirty, so were my dogs. My son was happy, but everything else had fallen to the wayside as I passionately pursued improving my skills, acquiring new supplies, and finding ways to make my skill profitable. I knew this wasn't sustainable, so I had to work harder to schedule my creative time during days when my son was with a sitter and I could have dedicated time to work.
AND THEN...Instagram changed its algorithm, and the art I had deliberately made time to create was no longer visible to a wide audience. I had my second child, and in an effort to balance duties at home with my creative work, I no longer did creative pieces for fun, I only completed commissioned work and occasionally shared things along the way. I was seeing my childless friends leave their day jobs and create art full time, and this tiny voice inside said, "if only I'd known I could do this before I had kids...that could be me."
Ultimately as the demands from my growing family increased, my ability to create and post online decreased. Fortunately, commissioned art and wedding work remained at a steady flow, even growing a little bit each year. My mind is often still stuck in the numbers mentality that social media can sometimes encourage, and I felt like each post with only a 5% reach was BAD. The time I spent creating it was WASTED. No one liked it because I am NOT talented. I should QUIT.
Sometime during the struggle of balancing 2 children, daily house chores, home improvement projects, and custom work requests it hit me....The number of posts I make is irrelevant. The number of followers I have...it doesn't matter. What matters is that I create the BEST product for the person who wants it. What matters is that my work provides money to buy my kids new shoes that fit, food that nourishes, and keeps a roof over our heads. What matters is that I have made friends I desperately needed, all thanks to this little online community.
So to get to the point, this is how I now measure success as a work-from-home mom.
I'm successful if I get my kids dressed, fed, and still make a little time to create a post or support a friend in my small business community.
I'm successful if I've made enough money this month to cover the fee for my website.
I'm successful if I get a text from another businessperson and I'm actually able to help them from my experiences.
I'm successful if I take a whole day off my phone and spend it in the sunshine with my kids, not making a single dollar.
I'm successful if I meet another person and can think of a way to bless them with my art, rather than a way to make something they wanna buy from me.
Success can be a huge, engaged community you've build on Instagram. It can be a big deposit in your bank account. Or, success can be priceless friendship you never would have found without social media. It is all this and more (or less), and while some success comes with a dollar sign attached, for me it comes with the priceless feeling of being able to just be home with my kids and still pay all the bills on time. Realizing this has not only made me appreciate my unique experience as a freelance artist, but also keep me safe from the comparison trap that can be so easy to fall into on social media. There is no one way to measure success, so why try to compare yours to someone else’s?
What are some non-monetary ways you measure success?