Hester Berry – Painter
Why did you become self-employed?
I’ve sold drawings and paintings since I was about 15 and although there have been times when I’ve needed to find temporary employment alongside this, there have been several times when I have needed to take a leap of faith and leave whichever job I might have been in, and concentrate more fully on my art. I’m lucky that my painting can sustain me but I also do some teaching here and there, which keeps me reflective and engaged with others. I’ve never had a 9-5 job and really relish the liberty that being my own boss affords me. Now I have children, I have more demands on my time, but being self-employed helps me manage this in a way that suits me. I do a lot of work late at night when the children are asleep!
What main challenges have you faced whilst being self-employed?
The main challenge is the uncertainty – you never know when the art market is going to dry up, as it does occasionally. This is something I just have to make allowances for – you have to have a buffer for lean times, so find alternative income before you are completely destitute. But equally, you never know when your luck might change for the better, in which case you wouldn’t want to saddle yourself with commitments which might hinder your art-making. Another challenge is self-motivation. This used to be hard, but since I’ve had children, I realise how precious time is and I have no trouble getting on with work, it being one of my favourite things to do! Another challenge is other people thinking that you aren’t working! Because I’m working from home quite often, people think I’m not busy and can make demands or requests on my time. I have become quite strict about this and have gradually learnt to say no, without having to give explanations.
How do you make it work? (Are you full-time self-employed, or part-time?)
My husband and I share our time, one looking after the children while the other works. He is a musician so he is relatively flexible like me. If one of us has a deadline or just a lot of ideas which need expressing, the other will happily give them more time, knowing it all works out in the end. Our priorities are, in order of importance, feeding our family, keeping a roof over our heads, our art. When these priorities are met, we are generally happy and harmonious. Financial security and certainty of the future are luxuries we are happy to waive.
Do you have one piece of advice you would like to share about being self-employed?