Freelance to Studio Growth
I’m so happy to celebrate SayoStudio’s 15th year communicating science. 15 years is significant, but more than that… this is the year I fully shifted from SayoStudio being me, to we. I’ve been joined by an amazing group of colleagues who have become friends. They inspire me and help me to grow. SayoStudio, once a figurehead for my solo career, now represents graphic design, animation, sound design, and illustration talents all focused on communicating science. Beyond these skills, I’d like to think that we’re joined by a similar passion, to live life to its fullest and find a way in this crazy world to make space for ourselves and those we love.
Many years ago, I started out my SayoStudio blog
as a way to promote… let’s be honest… as a form of therapy. With a new baby and a 2nd just a twinkle, I started out writing about my experiences as a young Mom trying to figure out how to juggle it all. I heard somewhere that I should have a blog, but no one told me (or I hadn’t listened), that it should be geared toward people who want to hire you (what? SEO?). So I wrote what I knew, which at that point was the struggle to make space for multiple passions: science, art, kids, and the space to be myself. I was a mid-career science illustrator who had managed to succeed on word-of-mouth, but was desperately trying to learn to be a business person.
Looking Back at Raising Kids as a Freelancer
If you look back at our archive, you’ll still see my posts about balancing kids and freelance. I have grown beyond that phase, but I feel it’s important to keep the history for those who are still navigating their own path to work-life balance. Because honestly, even after 10 years, there aren’t writers out there speaking to the reality of living life to its fullest AWAY from work, while also striving to work at the forefront of their field.
As one of the few women-led science communication agencies, I feel a responsibility to bring these issues to light. To admit to the difficulties, the joys, and the benefits of recognizing the humanity we all share.
Today, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to reflect on where I started, to where I’ve come. My kids are now 9 (almost 10), and 12 (almost 13). They’re more independent now, and for those of you with babies, I assure you that the mythical phase where it gets easier is real. However, those of you who have followed me for some time may remember my existential crisis as my eldest approached 10… was this my last chance to connect (see, balancing kids and small business)? How could I work at the peak of my career? I’m happy to report, that we’re doing OK. My kids are growing, struggling as they should, and are still able to connect with me, and I them. Every day I give thanks for that.
Science Work-Life Balance
Many of you that read this today may be scientists, burgeoning science communicators, or pure science advocates. Whether you’re struggling through a postdoc while trying to decide if you can tell your PI that you need paternity leave, or looking at the bleak opportunities thereafter that offer some semblance of respect for your total self, or a single-parent struggling to expose your child to dreams you were never able to indulge, I hope that you find some solace in this post. You can make space for yourself, and you deserve space for you and your loved ones.
Over the past two years with Covid-19, we’ve survived the most excruciating time in generations. Some of us better than others, but all of us living through a time of fear, and dare I say, rightful paranoia. I hoped that we’d come out on the other side with compassion for others, patience with ourselves, and a bit of extra time to take that much-needed walk with our loved ones. Instead, it feels like we’re all on hyperdrive to make up for lost time. But lost time for what? Is it lost time for our kids who have missed out on soccer games and sleepovers? Or is it an imaginary goal post set by stakeholders, that should have been retired 2 years ago?
I ask this not to belittle the hardships of others… You may ask, sleepovers, soccer games.. who cares? But isn’t this the goal of society? That we may raise our kids in a remarkably short-lived bubble of security, that they may live without our fears and worries, and discover who they need to be?
Returning work-life balance to the small studio
I apologize for my transgression. Bringing myself back to a reflection on work, small-business, and work-life balance… I give you a glimpse of where we’re at. In the past year we’ve increased our income 100%, but we’re still learning how to pay ourselves (studio head Trinka Kensill and myself) as expenses rise equally. We’re in the strange position of not having consistent work for our team of science communicators, while at the same time not having enough redundancy to fill in when someone needs time away. It hasn’t been easy, and we’ve had our missteps.
At times I’ve even asked why am I doing this. Really, I was successful on my own. I was making respectable plumber’s rates :-). But then I remember how overwhelmed I was, how my kids asked me if I had worked late again because I was short-tempered. Now, I reflect on my current work-over-load, knowing that I have the support of others with a common goal to create a space of mutual respect, room for growth, and support.
I hope that we can continue to support each other. There will come a time when this transient SayoStudio family sees members moving on to new opportunities. When that time comes, my goal is to congratulate them, and remember how they inspired me when my own motivation flagged. How they brought new ideas, new perspectives, beautiful science art, and energy to our SayoStudio science communication studio.
Focus on the present
For now, I’m focusing on working to create a space where we’re supporting each other, picking up when someone is down: whether that’s caring for an aging parent, supporting a partner through a hard time, or just taking needed space for ourselves. I choose to be optimistic that a business can thrive that chooses to treat each other well, and encourage each other to be the best that we can be in all aspects of life.
In conclusion, :-), thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for your support, and thank you for sharing our dream of science literacy, curiosity, and compassion for one another.