What Do You Do for a Living?


Seems to be a pretty straight-forward and simple question, right? 


This question has become one of the most dreaded questions I get asked lately. I always seem to have a different answer every time. 

Here are a handful of answers I've given:

1. I used to teach and now I work from home as a graphic designer.
2. I do a little bit of everything: illustration, graphic design, web/blog design, and teaching materials. 
3. I am a digital illustrator.
4. I'm an artist.
5. I create commercial use clipart on Teachers Pay Teachers.
6. Ignore the question and ask the same one back. 

And now, I will explain why all of these answers pose possible confusion or problems in a normal conversation...

1. This first answer is quite bad because it implies too many negatives. This answer could imply that teaching was bad, being a graphic designer is "HO HUM", and/or that I used to teach technology or something related to graphic design (which I did not).  This answer also makes it difficult for most people to understand what I actually do because most have no clue what a graphic designer actually does. 

2. This one is obvious.. as it applies that I am unfocused on any one thing in particular.

3. If I answer with this one people excitedly ask if I work for Disney... which I do not... and then I feel like I failed as an artist somehow when their excitement dissipates to a low-pitched, "oh". You know...the awkward and a bit disappointed that I'm a nobody, "oh". 

4. One of the most difficult sentences to leave my mouth... "I am an artist". Why? Because people immediately pay closer attention to my clothes, my hands and my BEHAVIOR... as though waiting for me to break out in song, stop to roll in the grass and sniff a flower (which I occasionally will do) or frame everything I see with my thumbs and index fingers  - as though looking for something aesthetically pleasing to re-create on canvas. The truth is that most people assume that I paint on canvas in a studio if I say I'm an artist. I do love painting, but I don't paint with tangible paints as often as I'd like to anymore. 

5. Most will respond with, "hmmm..??" But what they're thinking or what I believe they are thinking is...
"So... you create low quality cartoon art for people to make digital products to sell online"

In the art world, making clipart is often frowned upon because some believe it devalues the work and cost of contracted illustrators. The latest issue of The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines (link below), had this to say about artists choosing to sell clipart:

"Some illustrators fear that the release of many rights-free images at low fees will flood the market with low-priced images, discouraging art buyers from purchasing original work at more desirable rates" (p 112)

The opinion of clipart is that there is too much out there and far too many people calling themselves "artists" are copying or buying resale clipart to manipulate and sell in order to make a quick profit.

Chapter 5 goes on to state that art buyers choosing to work with or buy from graphic designers using resale art "lose the experience of working with a knowledgeable and creative illustrator who can create new artwork custom-made to specifically meet their needs" (p.112-13)

I am torn on my opinion about the statement above because I have to disagree in regards to my own art and the clipart I make available. I consider myself to be knowledgeable and creative and I ALWAYS create new and custom made graphics for the clipart I sell as well as in the custom design work I offer. I know there is more and more art being offered online now, which makes it difficult for buyers to trust the images and people they are buying form, but I can only speak for myself when I say that I truly enjoy creating clipart and seeing it used to create amazing resources, crafts, and teaching products. I get so excited whenever I see my clipart in a really great product or resource...

There have been times when I have given a quote for illustration work and every once in a while I get an email back with a reply like this one.... 

"Oh.. I had no idea.. I think I will have to wait a little longer or look for some clipart for now."

In the beginning, that type of answer would really get me down. Now... I just thank my lucky stars that I will not be working with someone who does not value my work. I often wonder whether or not creating custom graphics to use as clipart will ultimately harm me as an artist, but as a former teacher, I can't help but want to get my art used by teachers in classrooms to help students find joy in learning.  I struggle with this one quite a bit.  I could probably write an entire post about this issue, but I will refrain for now... you're welcome!

and lastly...

#6. I rarely get away with using avoidance, but it is nice when I do..haha

As a former teacher, I will always consider myself a teacher. Although I do not teach in a traditional sense, I continue to teach and share skills and knowledge I have learned. I love to learn and I will never stop "being a teacher". As an artist, I dabble in a lot of different things and I love doing and learning new things. How can I possibly pin-point any ONE of my skills and permanently label myself with that one thing as my profession?

I am an avid reader and I currently LOVE reading the 99U business series. They are small books filled with advice, information, quotes, and tips from a variety of professionals that help get me thinking about my own business and motivate me to do my very best. One bit of advice that inspired this dilemma stated that I should be able to sum up what I do into one sentence. ONE sentence, people!! ONE!

After doing a LOT of thinking and toying around with several ideas on how I will answer this in the future, I finally came up with what I will now use to answer this question that will both sum up what I do in one sentence until I can really figure out what it is that I do for a one sentence...

Do any of you who have gone from teaching to a full-time online business, struggle answering this question as well? I would love to know how you choose to answer this and please feel free to use my poster if you wish to..haha


  1. This is such an interesting post! I love what you decided upon for your answer. I, too dread this question at times. Inevitably when responding with, "I'm a teacher." The typical responses of what a "cushy" job I have flow. Even after 5 years, I still have to work to not get upset with how people regard our profession. It has taught me to continue to "grow where I am planted" and to stop making my own judgments and assumptions about other professions.


    1. Thank you! I always felt really confident to say, I am a teacher" when I taught. It was a little weird my first year teaching because I had a really tough parent who made me feel like I did everything wrong. I had AMAZING support and I was fully trusted in the position I was in, which made my job very fulfilling. It wasn't until I taught middle school at a public school that I got a HUGE reality check. The policies drive so much of a competitive nature among many teachers now and it is really heart-breaking to watch great teachers become weary and tired. I hope you continue to stay planted! What a great attitude and outlook to have!!

  2. You crack me up. Yes, I get asked that frequently and I spend most of my time explaining what TpT is and dealing with weird looks. It still bothers me, honestly, because teaching is regarded so lowly by too many people.

    1. Have you ever felt embarrassed to say that you create materials full-time on TpT? Some people see TpT as not a real professional outlet.... I prefer to start out by saying, "I create and publish education materials online." It sounds so much more professional..hahaha!! Funny how you can use a variation in the way you state things to ultimately change someone's opinion about a topic..

      I have a duel Masters degree in K-12 Education and I am always offended when I hear things like, "Teachers have it easy" or "Get an education's easy". I worked HARD for my degrees and teaching was FAR from easy...haha. I guess people like us made are so good that we make it "look" like an easy profession... haha

      I do miss teaching at the private school. I flourished there and my students did so well!! I will always miss being able to impact kids in a positive way... that is what I miss the most.. and the ability to just give a fellow teacher a "look" and that teacher will glance back without even saying a word and you KNOW she knows exactly what you are thinking... haha

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post!!

  3. This is a fantastic read! You have written this at a time where teachers are more than ever facing a lot of hardships combined with negative perceptions from the public. The perception is that we "play" with 6 year olds all day long. I can not tell you how many times I get this response when I proudly declare that I am a teacher: "Must be nice to have Summers off!" My reply, “Yes it is! It really is.” Your post was intelligent and funny! Thank you!


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