Without Rockets It's Just Science t-shirt

A Year of Living Humorously

It was a year ago today that I started work as a full-time cartoonist. Read on if you're interested how it's going.

First and most importantly, I have regained some semblance of a life. When I was working two jobs my family got left out more often than not. Now I work a regular 40 hour work week, and things are better. It's true that I spent quite a lot of time on the road this year, but when I'm home I'm much more available. It helps that I work at home and my kids are home schooled.

Financially it was a leap of faith to go full-time in 2008. I had no idea if we could make enough money to pay my bills. And the answer is, not quite. I closed the gap by doing a programming contract at the beginning of the year. I hope I won't have to do so again next year, but the state of the economy is obviously a little foreboding. Don't get me started on health insurance.

I had high hopes for what I could accomplish with 40 full hours a week, hopes I have not fully achieved. Partly I wasn't being realistic. It's not like I was going from 0 to 40. I was really going from about 25 to 40, and so there wasn't that much extra time to spend. But my biggest struggle has been with myself. In the early days I was fantastically productive, but I hit a few mental roadblocks. I went through one month where I could hardly drag myself out of bed. I seem to have righted myself, but it's still a challenge to focus on the most important stuff.

Aside from my increased level of sanity, the big advantages of working full-time were as follows:

  • Sponsorships. It's good money but it requires a lot of time. I've gone on several sales trips to New York, where most of our customers are located. And I spend a significant part of each week chiming in on campaign purpose, design, and copy so that each sponsorship is most relevant to our readers.
  • Travel. I have a personal opinion that, aside from the comic strips, personal contact is the engine that drives our business. So I spent a lot of time this year giving talks and exhibiting at conferences around the country (and in Canada!). When I had a day job I was limited in the amount of time off I could devote to such things. This year I took almost every invitation we were offered.
  • Details. When I was juggling two jobs I dropped a lot of balls. This year my assistant Jana and I had the time to start to get a real hold on the logistics that make a business work. I'm not saying it's perfect, but things are a lot better than they were.

It's all been successful enough to let it ride for one more year. If the finances aren't right at the end of next year we'll have some hard decisions to make. But I'm optimistic about money. I'm also optimistic about my ability to get more done, especially some creative projects.

Of course I couldn't have done this without your support. Book and merchandise sales are what make it all possible, and your frequent speaking invitations help a great deal too. You've also been very receptive to our sponsors, which in turn has made them more enthusiastic about us. You keep up the good work and we will too.

I also owe thanks to my wife and children, who continue to have a more stressful life than they would if I would just hold down a normal office job, and to Gene, without whose funny ideas, sage counsel, and friendship there would be no Unshelved.

P.S. My workday can be pretty lonely here in my home office. Keep me company on Twitter.

Today's @bookblrb

A teeny tiny book recommendation every day

A biography of comedian, voice actor, and Saturday Night Live frontman Phil Hartman.

Read our review of this book
Subscribe to @bookblrb via TwitterFacebookRSS

Email us your library stories