DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
My name is Lauren Friedman and I am an author, illustrator, and stylist. I am the author of 50 Ways to Wear Denim and 50 Ways to Wear a Scarf, and the creator of the My Closet in Sketches project.
DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?
LF: Funemployed is getting paid to do what you loved to do as a little kid.
Everyone who knew me as a girl is not surprised by what I’m doing now (I was always in art classes, creating, wearing crazy outfits, changing said outfits three times a day). Yet, in high school, when we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, I wasn’t ready to say “I want to be an artist.” My answer was, “I want to be self-employed.”
My path to today was very non-linear. I majored in political science in college, moved to DC, got a job in television production, then as an operations manager for a small non-profit, and later as a financial educator. I started my blog, My Closet in Sketches, in 2010 when I realized that my favorite part of the 9-to-5 grind was picking out what I would wear to work. I began to create and illustrate outfits for the website every evening after clocking out. Through this practice, I essentially taught myself to become a professional illustrator. The blog ultimately opened up many opportunities for me, and within two years of it’s creation, I was able to call myself “self-employed” (funemployed!).
Because this is DC, and people inevitably ask you “what you do”, my answer is usually that “I wear a lot hats.” (Another way of saying this: “I have a lot of side hustles.”) (DCF: I say this all the time as well!) I work as a private closet consultant, helping clients go through their wardrobes and providing style guidance. I’ve done murals, chalk art for weddings, cafes, and restaurants. Illustration commissions of every type, including illustrating monthly for the now-defunct Lucky Magazine for two years. I’ve also had plenty of part-time jobs (barista, retail) when the commissions weren’t rolling in steadily. And! I can’t believe that I also get to say that I illustrate and write books.
DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?
LF: My mom, dad, and brother have always been in my corner. I’m very lucky to have them. However, they’ve always known not to push me (I can hear them chuckling to themselves as they read this).
Part of the reason I started My Closet in Sketches in the first place was because of a very important cheerleader. I was 22, having just moved to DC, lost with new-found adulthood, and I made a new friend named Emily. She recognized that I had a burning desire to be creative, and encouraged me to start blogging and trying to find a way to work with magazines. It was a prescient time when I needed someone to tell me it was worthwhile to pay attention to my inner artist again. Within two years I would be illustrating monthly for Lucky Magazine.
DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
LF: I truly believe that every step that got me here was a invaluable learning experience that informs how I run my business and live my life. Learning to play violin and perform in front of an audience at a very young age, managing a line of impatient customers during my first job at sixteen at a canoe livery, the time my mother told me it was rude not to make eye contact with someone when you’re speaking to them. They’re all subtle yet necessary lessons that make me better at what I do.
DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?
LF: I need to keep my eye excited, see new things to keep that creative spark alive! We are so lucky to live in Washington DC where most of the art institutions are free. I visit museums regularly, and am so glad that the East Wing of the National Gallery finally reopened. I can’t wait to visit again, and again, and again.
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
LF: I have to take care of myself or I go off the stress rails easily, especially when I’m under a deadline. I perform better, and am a generally better person, when I meditate, practice yoga, and connect with other humans every day. (DCF: Amen to that!! We are wired to connect with others!!) Being an illustrator can be a lonely, solitary job!
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
LF: I pride myself on being that friend that one can often call on to “play hooky” with, thanks to my non-traditional work schedule. But that means I’m often giving up weekends, weeknights, any free time when a job calls. So really, my ultimate sacrifice is time. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have a hard time calling it a sacrifice!
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
LF: It can be a battle with pricing. However, I am quick to point out that this is not necessarily about being a woman: I was lucky to attend Wellesley College, a women’s college, and there, I learned about the importance and the validity of my own unique voice. Nonetheless, since I am a self-taught illustrator, in the beginning of my career I would frequently underbid myself on a potential project because I thought that my skills weren’t worthy. (DCF: So true! We have to appreciate our own value to get others to do the same!) I needed to understand the hard, dollar-and-sense value of my work. I’ve learned to structure my pricing in order to build in some some hard parameters for myself – I deserve this much, and will not do it for less than this amount. It’s important to remind myself that this client is asking for my help for a reason.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
LF: Set up a solid financial tracking system. Track everything. (DCF: EVERYTHING!)
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
LF: Where to even begin!? There’ve been so many jobs I’ve bid for and didn’t get, so many illustrations I had to completely change to please a client. When I was illustrating for Lucky, I had to completely redo at least one illustration per month. That taught me to get the most information from a potentially happy client by asking all the right questions. I learned how to interface.
DCF: What is your proudest moment?
LF: Finishing my second book! (DCF: CONGRATS!!) I really approached the process of writing and illustrating 50 Ways to Wear Denim as an opportunity to showcase all I learned when writing my first book, 50 Ways to Wear a Scarf. I can’t believe I did it – it took over two years of consistent, heavy-lifting work. I’m proud to say that I never doubted that I would be able to finish it.
DCF: What’s next?
I’m working on getting the word out about 50 Ways to Wear Denim! It’s time to shamelessly self promote this piece of work I’m proud to say I made.
Follow me at @closetsketches and @50waystowear! On Facebook, you can like @My Closet in Sketches, @50 Ways to Wear Denim, and @50 Ways to Wear a Scarf. And visit me at laurenfriedman.com!