13 August 2010

Not a sausage

The thing about writing puzzles for a living is – well, it's not much of a living. Sure, the work is really interesting, challenging, and unusual, and it's mostly fun (although there are times when my brain recoils from the merest suggestion that I require it to come up with yet another blasted crossword clue). But I earn less than the dole (or New Start, or whatever it's called nowadays) ... and newspapers are struggling, losing ad revenue, which means they cut things that cost them money, like puzzles, including mine. Not much happening on the book front either.

I've tried selling puzzle PDFs on my web site (not a single sale, in a year), I've tried cold calling (never to be repeated, shudder, but it did get me the Royal Flying Doctor's puzzle book job), I've advertised, I've quoted, I've proposed, and all to no avail. Not a sausage. Well, a few rather weeny sausages. Cocktail frankfurters.

All this has really been getting me down. Significantly down. Closing-the-business, throwing-in-the-towel, getting-a-job-as-a-checkout-chick down. I've tried so hard, for so long, to turn this into a full time, well paying career. Currently it's a part time, seriously crap paying career. I still love it, I'm not giving it up, and I have obligations to my syndicator and a few steadfast clients, but I've got to broaden my horizons.

So I'm falling back on what is, after all, my profession. Graphic design, web design, all that good old designy stuff. Pixels, picas, and proofs. Grids, gifs, and gutters.

However. I don't want to go back to those intense (and let's be frank, somewhat horrible) years of seeing multiple clients every day, insane deadlines, power networking breakfasts, and billing and contract hassles. Well, there's no getting away from deadlines in this industry, they're a given. Just give me the work, I'll do it on time, and pay me. But I need to be flexible - if Wiley offer me another book deal, I've got to be able to take it on without problems or letting clients down.

A few days ago I remembered there's a group in Canberra called Design Emergency. They subcontract designers and editors out to government departments, businesses, and even design studios, for short term projects. Editors with design experience (and vice versa) are a hot property, apparently, which is cool, cos I can tick that particular box. I've spoken with the owner, and it looks like it could work really well - I can put myself up for 3 days a week (I need about 2 days a week to do my puzzle work), and if something big turns up, I simply say I'm not available for a bit.

I needed a portfolio, of course. It felt weird digging out all my old CDs of design work, going back through 12 years ... remembering past clients (there were a lot of them!), seeing who was still in business, who wasn't, who still uses a logo I designed for them, and all that. Finding stuff I'd forgotten I'd done, like this illustration for the Department of Maths at the ANU :

And this logo (from the "no longer in business" category) :

I've even ordered the upgrade for my Adobe Creative Suite (going from CS3 to CS5, for a horrendous amount of money - I skip every other upgrade, so it was about time), so I'll be 'industry standard' again.

So. I've just submitted my design resumé, writing/editing resumé, and design portfolio, for consideration. Hopefully I'll get onto their books. Wish me luck! It's all a tiny bit scary ...


  1. hey. best of luck with this 'new' step.

  2. Lots and lots of good luck!!!

  3. Oh best of luck! They will be lucky to get you, and once you have worked your usual miracles, they will cherish you madly! Hooray for gainful employment

  4. Go girl. The very best with it. You'll be great.

  5. Fingers crossed - and everything else too! I hate that process of making yourself a commodity. Good luck!

  6. Good luck with it all! I hate putting myself out there too, so hope this option works out for you!

  7. Good luck! And I *love* the new blog template!

  8. Have you considered doing a crossword app? I love doing puzzles on my iPad.

  9. It's a lot scary. I wish you much luck in this endeavor. I have had ideas for small businesses but never had the guts to try one. I admire you for trying to make the puzzle career work.

  10. Just wondering if your beautiful art cards are still available? The ones with knitting projects theme? I'd love to buy some more. Good luck for your new adventures!

  11. We skip every other upgrade with Photoshop, too, but it is still pricey.

    My husgand is a graphic designer, too, has done some logo work, website designs, etc., but has turned from that to doing book covers and such. Thank heavens we have our own webcomic to keep him from going crazy in the slow times.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    When is Lulu getting home?

  12. You gotta keep reinventing yourself like Madonna in this economy.

    I have an idea for puzzles - do an iPhone app. Have you thought of that???

  13. I know exactly how you feel. Just an idea - I see a lot of Alchemy requests on Etsy for people looking for website or blog or shop "design" and "buttonS - Since I nothing about nothing in this area I may not be describing this right. But these may be good little income supplements. I know I would pay $50 for someone to make me a shop banner that looks more professional than my home-made one.
    Lots of the time people want a whole "suite" - business cards, shop design, product tags, etc.
    AND THE BEST PART - You never have to actually meet your client! LOL!


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