Digital Marketing & Administration Coordinator
In January’s blog What do you do? Side Hustles and the Meandering Career Path, Jody Nelson writes about the prevalence of “side hustles” in the Community Impact Sector, the equity considerations for employers, and how these “gigs” can contribute to our wholeness, creativity, and autonomy. We were curious about Nova Scotia’s “Sector Side Hustlers”, this series of stories highlights just some of the creativity, innovation, and skills that make up our sector.
Alexandra Theroux (she/her) – Artist
Operations Manager and “Maker of Magic”, Impact Organizations of Nova Scotia (IONS)
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed, and in some cases forced, people’s priorities to shift and evolve. For Alexandra Theroux, Operations Manager at IONS and freelance artist, it provided her the opportunity to evaluate the type of energy she was placing in her two side hustles and decide if it was something she wanted to continue pursuing. Alexandra is an artist and pre-pandemic would monetize her various mediums of art. Art is something she is passionate about and brings great joy. However, during the pandemic creative blocks and frustrations started to emerge, giving Alexandra a chance to reconsider the value she placed on the monetization of her passion.
“I recognized that I needed to place more protections and boundaries on my art in order to keep it as something that didn’t have any external pressure or expectations on it. Instead of thinking of it as another method for income generation, I realized that I needed to keep art as a form as self-care, self-expression and coping skill.”
Alexandra Theroux (she/her)
As part of her writing process, Jody wanted to learn more about the variety of creative work and talent within the sector. We had the opportunity to connect with Alexandra Theroux to learn more about the inspirations and evolution of her side hustle. Here’s what Alexandra had to say:
Q 1. Tell me a bit about your side hustles, paint the picture?
I used to have 2 side hustles – pre-pandemic. I had a part time customer service job at the Canada Games Centre and I worked on my own time to produce and monetize my artwork / illustrations.
Q 2. What prompted you to start?
The customer service job was mainly to get me out of the house and into community as I used to work fully virtual. I loved that it gave me extra cash as well as the opportunity to meet new people and help make a welcoming experience at a community space.
The art was something that I had been building / playing with in the back of my mind for years as something that I wanted to try to make money doing. My dream job used to be freelance illustrator for children’s books, so I attempted to try out that freelancing for a few years. I would draw fanart and original works and sell prints/merchandise with the art at conventions and on my website. I also wrote and self-published a colouring/activity book and took commissions for original art.
Q3. How do you juggle the commitments with your day job and your life?
It was hard to juggle the time for both jobs. The customer service role was primarily on the weekends and evenings after full work days – I definitely was taking on too many hours pre-covid and wasn’t able to continue afterward.
The art was easier to do before the pandemic when I had energy and more time. I was excited about exploring more creative projects and finding ways to monetize those felt like a fun experiment.
Q4. What has been the response from your employer? What workplace policies or practices might help?
I’ve never had anything but support for my artwork from my employer. I was able to start doing some of this illustration for IONS which was a lot of fun.
When I started the customer service role, there were more concerns about conflict of interest, time management, and burnout. I had to be more transparent with the organization about what the role / commitment was clear so they knew I was prioritizing my “day job”.
Clear understandings around what a conflict of interest or risk for the employer to side hustles would be helpful in making it easier for staff to decide what kinds of side hustles to explore.
Q5. Why do you do it?
I don’t do either anymore. That was a conscious choice post pandemic.
I was laid off from the customer service role during the early days of lockdown and when things opened up again I tried to go back but found it was too difficult to manage the schedule, energy, and remember the policies / practices while taking such infrequent shifts.
I struggled a lot during the pandemic with my art – initially in early lockdown I was very creative but after the 2nd month I found myself hitting a wall. I know creative blocks for artists during lockdown is something that was experienced by many and I really resonated with the challenges that were shared more publicly. I found myself struggling with questioning my identity – am I really an artist if I’m not creating? Who am I if I’m not n artist? – and it took me almost 8 months to even start doodling again let long completing full illustrations.
I found knitting during this period of no drawing and am consistently pushing back on the suggestions to monetize that craft as well.
Once things started opening up more, I recognized that I needed to place more protections and boundaries on my art in order to keep it as something that didn’t have any external pressure or expectations on it. Instead of thinking of it as another method for income generation, I realized that I needed to keep art as a form as self-care / self-expression / coping skill.
This shift in my ability and energy has made me even more critical of how art is commodified in the world and with AI art being all the rage I’m feeling incredibly lucky that art is not my primary source of income.
Now that we have the 4 day work week and I don’t have any other side hustles, I’m excited about the idea of exploring more volunteer work – I’ve recently been accepted as new member of a national board. I’m also excited to reclaim that “extra time” as personal time for myself to spend more time with friends, try new things, or simply make art for arts sake.
Curious to meet more of Nova Scotia’s Sector Side Hustlers? Stay tuned for the upcoming stories!
Digital Marketing & Administration Coordinator
Haley supports many aspects of IONS’ work including communications, events and learning, and operations. Her organization, tech-savviness, and creativity is a huge win for the team!
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