“That picture-perfect, balanced work and family life might just be a myth…”

Navigating a creative career while managing family duties? Alex Bec shares tips on balancing these demands and staying relevant in today’s job market in this week’s Creative Career Conundrums.

24 June 2024

Creative Career Conundrums is a weekly advice column from If You Could Jobs. Each week their selected panel of professionals from the creative industry answers your burning career questions to help you navigate the creative journey.

This week’s question:

I’ve spent many years as a freelance illustrator and have mostly enjoyed making a living from my passion. Some years have been more lucrative than others, but I've been proud to consistently support myself and enjoy the flexibility to do my own thing. However, it’s become increasingly harder to make a good living from illustration and to feel that my work is valued.

I’ve been juggling school pickups with work, often feeling squeezed for time, although I can work evenings and weekends to compensate. I’ve also found freelancing too isolating, so I’ve taken a temporary part-time job to make ends meet and work with others. Over the past couple of years, I’ve applied for full-time and part-time positions in various creative roles but haven’t received any offers. I’ve also tried applying for more junior roles with lower salaries as a way to build experience, but perhaps they are looking for someone younger. There have been roles my work is well-suited for, and I’ve come very close, but I haven’t quite made it.

It seems companies now require a wider range of skills, including motion, digital, and 3D, rather than someone who specialises in one area.

What advice would you give to someone who is middle-aged, has extensive experience in the creative industry, and a background in illustration, but needs to financially support their family and doesn’t have the time or money to retrain?

Alex Bec, CEO of It’s Nice That, Creative Lives in Progress and If You Could Jobs:

First of all (and especially since I started a family myself) I have the most undying respect for all the parents and carers out there trying to balance their work and life responsibilities. It’s clearly not easy, and if it gives you any solace – I don’t believe anyone who says they are finding that brutal juggling act straight-forward. No matter what your social media might be telling you, that picture-perfect, balanced work and family life might just be a myth…

“Ask people, speak to recruiters, try and get in touch with hiring managers and really find out where you think you can be most valuable.”

Alex Bec

With that, I think this might be the most challenging question I’ve been asked in this column so far. My hunch is that this conundrum needs some pure, honest practicality to progress.

You are good, you’ve proven it. You’ve made things work for many years and enjoyed your career. Something so many never achieve – so you clearly have talent and can provide value to an organisation – never doubt that.

The core of your challenge lies in understanding what the market needs from creative talent in 2024. Ask people, speak to recruiters, try and get in touch with hiring managers and really find out where you think you can be most valuable. When you have that data (rather than assumptions), if you don’t think you can provide that value without developing or broadening your skills - that’s what you’ll have to do (however hard it is with the juggle).

In the meantime, I’d encourage you to keep going, keep the faith and don’t lose heart. If you stop applying or looking for that next job, you can guarantee the chances of finding that position you crave will diminish. If you can find the energy and resilience to keep going something will always turn up. Hard work always pays off.

On that journey you could also try and get more clarity from the applications that don’t go your way. Get sharper in asking for feedback from unsuccessful applications. Be honest when you apply for more junior roles – level with the people reading your application. Explain the context and reassure them why you’re the right fit.

And through it all, remember it only takes one opportunity for everything to look different. Believe it’s out there, and most importantly try and enjoy the precious time and beauty that comes from spending time with your family as they grow. Wherever you find yourself next, they will always be the most important thing.

In answering your creative career conundrums we realise that some issues need expert support, so we’ve collated a list of additional resources that can support you across things that might arise at work.

If You Could is the jobs board from It’s Nice That, the place to find jobs in the creative industries.

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About the Author

Alex Bec

Alex is the CEO of It’s Nice That. He oversees the commercial side of It’s Nice That, Creative Lives in Progress and If You Could Jobs.

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