Tara King: Money, Collaboration + Self-employment

March 26, 2013

Tara King is 1/3 of my favorite (totally smart, amazing, and irreverent) local performance group. And, with art and money on my brain, I'm grateful to read her thoughts on creating a design business (and bravely leaving her full-time cube job!) to support her dance-making. I can't say how much I admire people who creatively solve the dilema of how to make a living while doing what they love.

Photo by Matthew Xavier

Introducing Tara King
I'm a freelance web and print designer, and also a dance choreographer and performer. As a designer, I work with artists, small businesses & non-profits to develop their web presence and branding. As a choreographer and dancer, my work has primarily been as one-third of choreographic trio Mad King Thomas, which I co-founded in 2004. We usually make dances for the stage, although occasionally they happen in galleries or by telephone (coming to The Soap Factory in May!). 

For about seven years, I also held down a full-time, non-dance day job. As my choreographic life grew, it was a tougher juggling act, and working for someone else was hard energetically. I started designing on the side, and developed my web skills. Last August I finally left my cube to pursue full-time self-employment, working at a tiny desk with a disco ball above it in my living room. It was such a scary transition it took me about three years to work up the courage (no joke).

Putting A Creative Life Together
Financially: The impetus to work for myself came from the realization that I will never support myself financially as a choreographer, and that I needed to make more dollars per hour to compensate for all the unpaid/underpaid dance hours. Right now I make it happen because I saved a bunch of cash before I left my day job. I’m still figuring out the Cash Flow Question, and aiming for some medium-sized, stable projects to replace some of the one-off jobs I’ve been doing.

Energetically: Now that I work for myself, I'm getting the sleep I need (as a night owl) for the first time in my life. I can't recommend it enough! I’ve also set up a standing desk and now I just dance all day while coding.

Practically: It's difficult juggling two jobs when they are not related to each other. For Mad King Thomas I'm travelling for 6 weeks this year, and I am so lucky to have those opportunities, but that’s six weeks when I'm away from my clients. We’ll see how it goes!

The Good Stuff
Mad King Thomas has spent the last several months working on a new experiment—the previously mentioned dances by telephone. It’s our first gallery installation and we are learning a ton about the visual/new media art world, and how we fit there. There is also a strong sense among the three of us that we have no idea what we’re doing and that the piece is going to be terrible. So it’s terrifying and exciting. 

The transition into self-employment has opened up a lot of freedom in my schedule, and I finally have time to work on my own creative personal projects. I’m writing a lot!

The Hard Stuff
Collaboration is hard. A lot of solo artists/entrepreneurs talk about the wonder and magic of it, but there are significant challenges to working with others. Ideas you LOVE die an unhappy death. It's not just about having three pairs of hands to lift the load; it’s a serious commitment and should be approached with caution. It's also totally awesome and satisfying.

Advice For Artists + Creative Entrepreneurs
Do whatever it takes to befriend money, even if this means logging one receipt a day. Do not let money freak you out; it is a tool. Also: Find a community. In that community, find the people you like and trust, and ask questions of those people (even if they seem like stupid questions). And, don't read a ton of advice, especially if it says things like, “If you don't do X, you are doomed to failure as an artist.” Screw those guys. It's not too late.

Recommended Resources
For Dancers:  
9 x 22 Dance Lab [a monthly performance series at the Bryant Lake Bowl], the DanceMN Newsletterand classes at Zenon Dance School
For Writer's: 
Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Dean Young's The Art of Recklessness, and classes at The Loft Literary Center
For Design/Business:
The local Drupal community, and Mike Monteiro’s Design is a Job
Also: the Giant Steps conference. 

Photo by Megan Mayer

Find Tara
Design/ SparklingRobots.com           Dance/ MadKingThomas.com
Twitter/ @sparklingrobots                 Pinterest/ sparklingrobots



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