As live event artist who specializes in luxury and corporate brand activations in and around Chicago area, our busy season starts around the middle of October through the end of December and the planning for this time of year begins in August. So from August through the end of the year - I am very busy. In August, I start thinking about what products and services I will be offering for the holiday, ordering in product and supplies, as well as starting to book live events and luxury brand activations that will take place throughout the upcoming holiday season. So when things slow down, leads sometimes stopping completely, it can be difficult mentally and easy to feel a little down about how things are going - especially compared to the craziness of the few months prior when every weekend was booked with live events and your job list was full of orders for the holidays. 2024 will be my seventh year in business and I just finished up my third and most successful season of luxury live events so far doing everything from doing calligraphy on gift tags for MAC Cosmetics to painting on bottles for DIOR to hand engraving for YSL. And then....nothing.
I have learned over the last three years that this lull in January for live event artists and luxury calligraphers like myself is actually a blessing in disguise. The last few months I was on the road every weekend and often a day or two during the week - driving back and forth to Chicago for luxury brand activations and corporate events for the holidays. While I love to travel and working in Chicago is a literal dream come true, I truly miss being home hanging out with my husband and pets especially when the weather starts to turn here in the midwest and all I want to do is lay around in my soft pants and fuzzy socks. This season was so busy and booked with events in Chicago that I missed some fun get togethers that friends and family were having for the holidays but I am not complaining, I am so grateful to be working and doing exactly what I love and want to do with my calligraphy business and missing those things allows for me to prioritize spending time with friends and family in the new year when things slow down. I love to host and have my house filled with people I love so I make sure I do some of that in the early months of the year. I not only use this downtime in my schedule for family time and social events, I have also learned to use this time to work on parts of my business that sometimes get pushed to the backburner or moved down the list of priorities because they can take time and that is luxury during the busy season. Here is a list of some of things I work on when things slow down after the new year...
Work on website copy and enhance the SEO - we all know how important it is to have a website that not only looks good but also functions well too. Updating copy and optimizing SEO takes time but is so worth it in the end when your ideal clients are able to find you online! Writing copy is the bain of my existence - I truly hate it. I have used a copywriter in the past but feel like they didn't really capture what I was working to portray with my brand so from then on I have done the tedious task myself. While I don't enjoy it, I do know how important it is for attracting my ideal clients and that in itself is motivation enough for me to make it a priority when I have the time to do so.
Practice a new skill - last year I was able to practice wood burning and hot foiling to be able to now offer that service to my clients for both in-studio commissions and live brand activations and events. This year, I have been working on the art of watercolor figure illustration and plan to have that service available in time for wedding season this spring and summer and hope to use it for luxury brands during the holidays. I am getting more and more confident in the figure illustration, and try to practice every day if possible. Now I am working on speeding up the process as my goal is to use this skill for in-studio commissions, luxury brand activations, corporate events, and of course live events and weddings.
Organize your space - I thought I had started to outgrow my home studio space but it turns out after three days of purging and deep cleaning - it was just poorly organized. So now I have a fresh clean and organized studio space to start the new year which I feel like is just good for the soul. I got rid of three huge boxes of stuff that I was able to donate so hopefully someone or a lot of someones will be able to benefit from that. I bought a new rolling drawer cart that is perfect for some extra storage and allowed me to free up some drawers in my desk. By going through thing I found so many supplies I had forgotten about or thought I lost. I am a very organized person but we all know how it is to be a creative or even someone who loves to craft - that stuff takes up space and sometimes it feel nearly impossible to contain it all in an organized way and then keep up with it. This time of year is the perfect time for a home office/studio reset - even more so if you work full-time in that space like I do. I don't know about you, but I certainly feel like I work better when the space around me is nice and clean and organized.
Pitch to new and favorite clients - while it isn't necessarily a busy time of year for booking live events, that doesn't mean you can't start planting the seed now and getting your name out there for potential inquiries with dream brands and bookings in the future when they are looking for live event artists. It also never hurts to check in with the reps and brands you have established relationships with. I spent a little bit of time one day just shooting a quick check in email to some of the brands I have done a lot of work with to see if they had any upcoming events being planned for Valentine's Day and to keep me in mind if they needed a calligrapher or live event artist for their brand activations. Due to that simple communication, I booked three events engraving for Hermes at Nordstrom in the Chicago area. I will be at Oakbrook on February 10th from 12-5pm and will be at the Michigan Avenue location on February 13th and 14th from 12-5pm perfect timing for those last minute Valentine's Day gifts so if you are in the Chicagoland area stop into Nordy's and say hello!
Do something creative but just for fun - Because being creative and producing art is our job, it can be difficult to find the energy or time to create for yourself or create just for fun. I think it's important to be low-stakes creative sometimes to help enhance skills and creativity and for me I think it's good for my brain (and my body) to do something out of the realm I normally do. Recently I went to my local craft store and picked up some supplies to make my best friend a charm necklace for her birthday. I had seen this trend on TikTok and had to try it out. I got the supplies and got to work and realized really quickly that jewelry making was a lot harder than I had anticipated. My hands are very skilled at calligraphy, engraving, painting, and even drawing. But doing something new like trying to put little tiny jump rings onto a small charm and chain really threw me for a loop! It was worth it in the end - the necklace turned out so cute and my best friend loved it. I then knew I needed to make one for myself so now I have a new necklace too and a new little hobby.
Rest - You don't have to use this time to be productive with your business. If your body or your mind is needing to relax and reset that is okay too. We all put a lot of pressure on ourselves in this creative industry - especially those of us who rely on leads and work for ourselves as freelancers. It is not always easy to give ourselves the permission to just do nothing and parts of our culture don't make it any easier but the winter season is supposed to be the time where we rest and recuperate - you know, hibernation. So if you feel like you need take the time to do nothing - be like a cute snuggly bear- give yourself some grace and allow yourself to do so.
Being a luxury calligrapher in the realm of brand activations and live events truly can be a wild ride full of ups and downs from month to month and sometimes even day to day. Sometimes you have to have a thick skin and sometimes the feelings of imposter syndrome creep in - it's not easy. But learning how to embrace some of the challenges this job presents has made such a difference in my life and how I run my business. I love this crazy freelance artist life and I wouldn't change it for the world.