Kirsty Hall shared a link to a must-read article by a software developer who tells the story of his recent experience hiring an artist who also happened to be a champion and evangelist of his product. He hired the artist to help with customer support, and together they crafted a job description and schedule that would allow the artist to make art when he needed or wanted to, and to work when he wanted to. Support response times decreased almost immediately. A few months later, when the artist was offered a much higher-paying full-time job, he turned it down because his art is too important to him to give up.

Go read the post.

I thought I’d tell you a little about my relatively recent full-time work experience. I’ve been mum about it, but not for any particular reason. Mostly – and I’m skipping to the punchline here – because at the end of the story I discovered I really love to work on my own juggling several collaborations. And I need to work in a creative field. But here’s how I got there.

Last summer, my friend Zak asked if I’d like to meet his business partner, Martin. I knew they were creating a start-up with the goal of changing the world of legal information (ba ba BAH) forever. I was intrigued. I love game-changing. I love paradigm shift. I love it when people get so moved by their own passion that they dedicate themselves full-time to getting it out.

And I fell in love with LexPublica. I was still on my year-long hiatus back then, and I essentially told them any time I had was theirs until I had to find a job. In the back of my mind, I thought, “Hey, maybe this would be the job.” So I turned up the charm. And they asked me to join them full time. I was elated. At the time, I thought working outside the creative world would allow me to get back in touch with my creativity while still using my skills for good.

Now. I usually shy away from full-time work. I often joke that I’m unemployable. I learn too fast, get bored too fast, and then get frustrated that I can’t get my work done. After a while, I’m no good at following the rules, because I end up only seeing how the rules hinder productivity and innovation. Mine is a mind best suited to short-term projects. It’s taken me a very long time to discover and accept this.

So I’ll tell you why I was not only open to joining this team, but eager. It’s because it was the first time, ever, that I didn’t feel I had to lie about myself to get a job. Zak knew me pretty well. When he and Martin asked me to come on board, here’s the gist of what they told me:

  • We want you because you learn fast and you’re an excellent brainstormer. We’re a start-up – we need a lot of that.
  • We want you because you’re good at starting projects. We want you to start projects with and for us. And then we want you to hand them off to other people so you can start starting new projects.
  • We want you to communicate.

And then we talked a lot about our respective work needs. I require an alarming lack of structure. I love deadlines, but beyond that, back off. I get twitchy if I feel like I’m asked to do something that bristles my principles. I need privacy. I bore easily. I move fast. All of these things were discussed as assets, not liabilities. Zak and Martin had, on their own, discussed at length their own work needs and quirks. We all have them. There was no mold to fit, here.

For three or four months, I was very happy. I went to an office in an interesting part of town every day. I got to experience the world of start-ups, and being one of very few women in the world of venture-capital financing (oh, the feminist rants I spewed). I was part of a team I respected and valued, and I felt respected and valued.

Then I started to get a little twitchy. It’s very possible I simply joined the team too early – there wasn’t quite enough of the right kind of work for me, and though I did the other kind of work as best I could, eventually I stopped enjoying it. And so one day I talked to Zak and Martin about it. And they said, “Let’s go to lunch! We need to talk about this!” And talk we did. Mostly, they listened. I didn’t feel like a freak when I told them how I was feeling; I didn’t feel like I was failing to fit a mold. I just told them what was up. And they looked me in the eye and tried their damndest to make it better.

It was better for a while. But really, what happened was that without my realizing it, I was coming to the point of discovering that web start-ups and the law are not a good match for me. That really stressed me out for a while. I did not want to let Zak and Martin down. I’d never felt so good at a full-time job. I’d never felt so valued. And I didn’t want them to think I didn’t value them or the work or their project or their passions.

But also, we were a start-up, kids. We had no money. And we all needed to make some. So I started thinking about how I could make money on the side, and so I started thinking about work I could look for in the field I know best – crafts. And then I started getting excited about my crafts world again. Very excited. Excited enough that in the hours of my work day when I couldn’t find much to do, I’d read and write about crafts. And feel guilty.

And I mentioned the stress, right? I got that tell-tale stomach ache again.

And so in February, I talked to Zak and Martin again. I told them I needed to flip things around – I needed to focus on finding paid contract work, and help them out on the side as a volunteer again. I believe in their project. I want to help it succeed. I’m just not suited to doing it full-time.

Their response? “Ok. Yeah, we saw that coming.”

No bridges burned. No friendships strained. And I think I’m finally ready to apply the lesson I actually learned a few years ago: no more full-time work for me.

I joke that I’m unemployable. But it’s pretty much true.

So that’s the tale that led to my new Hire Me page, and to my enthusiasm for participating in things like the Summit of Awesome, Mighty Ugly, and a new project that’s in the kinda maybe stage but that’s got me giddy. And I’ve taken on a fabulous client who’s an author and needs a hand with her social media strategy.

Oh, and the blog redesign. One day I was like, “Kim, for someone who wears black every day, why is your blog brown and fussy?” If my goal is for this site to represent me in my quest for work, well, then it should freaking represent.

The end (not really)

PS Zak, Martin and their team have just released their shiny new web app into the beta-testing world. It’s called Contractually, and it’s here to help companies (small ones! creative ones!) manage their legal affairs. All those contracts. Such a pain. This app makes it easier. Just sayin’.

summit of awesomeness

summit of awesomeness by -leethal- on Flickr. This is the least black outfit I've worn in recent memory. Maybe I should have made the new blog design orange and blue and green and yellow?