The golden hour photo above is of a porch screen project I completed some years ago. In 2007 after several years of doing home repairs to make supplement income, I started Houston Honey Do as a primary gig, to keep the bills paid. Though art and creativity are and have been a substantive part of my persona for decades, the economics of my endeavors have, like most in similar self-employed situations, pushed me toward more stable streams of income outside of just art. I presume many of you can relate.
I’ve heard and read in the news about how younger generations speak of the new “gig” economy or the need for a “side hustle” in order to make ends meet; that life and specifically college is a burden like never before. The sentiment seems to be that this is a new phenomenon—the gig economy—something that only came to light as a result of the financial crisis or the downfall of modern capitalism. The struggle is real I’ve heard it said.
I cannot speak to their experience exactly for I am from an older demographic and thus, not only do I not truly understand what it is really like to be a kid these days—I am also biased. And though my experience wasn’t shared by most of the people I knew at the time, for the sake of comparison–during the fall of 1991, after graduating high school and while in my first semester of junior college, I worked part-time (18-28 hrs per week) for HEB–a Texas grocery chain. I also worked part time for BEALL’S department stores (18-28 hrs a week). I had 5-6 lawns that I mowed each week in and around the neighborhood; and I painted the full interior and exterior of a client’s rental property on the south side of the city. Keep in mind, all was accomplished while not having my own vehicle and while fully funding my own college education, most of the food I ate, gas when needed, and liability insurance on my parents car. And naturally, at the time, neither employer wanted to give me full-time employment, steady hours, and insurance nor did they bestow the subsequent additional benefits that everyone seems entitled to these days. The tasks changed over time as well as the employers and circumstances, but on the whole, it was a grind like this for 6 years. Is it similar today? Do most college kids who are in debt now, do they work this hard–hard enough to stay out of debt?
For those who have ever been a “full-time” artist or have spent any time developing a craft or creating a market for your unique offering or business, such individuals would testify that the gig economy has been going on since, well–the dawn of civilization; many self-employed individuals or those fully invested in the art-world would say that though they are “full-time” artists, they likely spend most of their time pushing their “side hustle”, working multiple jobs or something of the such in order to spend a little time actually being an ARTIST.
On the whole, maybe things have changed, or maybe the internet just makes it seem like everything is new again; or maybe it is an issue of “if you do not study history you are doomed to repeat it? Being a study of history, myself, I don’t think so. Leonardo De Vince–as interpreted by me from my reading of Ross King’s “Leonardo and the Last Supper”—even the great Leonardo spent a majority of his time not on the masterpieces but rather doing “odd jobs” (as an event coordinator, wedding planner, consultant, interior designer, etc.) and bid his time until the big commissions came into focus. Working hard, being patient, and grinding it out may not be very posh and wholly ill-received in modern times but historically speaking it seems—hustling and being a grinder has actually been the way of the world for millennia.