The Best Job For You is the One You Create Yourself
At about this time a year ago, I was a month away from diving head first into working for myself by trying my hand at a freelancing career. It was the most uncertain yet rewarding time period of my professional life, and had I known the doors it would open, my uncertainly probably would’ve taken a backseat to my sheer excitement for the following days. If you’re on the fence about leaving your desk job behind, this article is for you. And even if you’re not, reading this may show you how far your passion and skills can take you, as long as you have your burning ambition every step of the way. For me, the greatest job that suits me the best is the one I’ve created for myself over the last year.
The many desk jobs, and why I had to leave.
When I had just received my degree, I got my start as a designer at a local store I had been a cashier at for a year or so prior to leaving for school. They were looking for someone to handle their marketing, to step up their game in the local scene. I found myself designing their website, posters, billboards, in-store signage, and even some apparel. But the pay was terrible, something that was to be expected seeing as how I was fresh in the industry. At least that’s what I thought.
Skip forward about three desk jobs over the course of five years, and you’d find me wasting away in a similar situation. I was designing apparel and web graphics at a different location, but it was becoming clear that the problems that had plagued my previous working environments remained and seemed more obvious than ever. Simply put, I was acting as the entire art department and getting paid a mere $1.50 per hour more than my first professional job…after five years of experience. There was no one in or around my department who was completely like-minded and I felt watched over and caged in like an animal. I didn’t feel respected and dreaded every day on the way there. It was mind-numbing, even when I was working for a big client.
It became harder and harder to justify staying there. I was always commended on my “great work,” but that was always followed up by, “Once we have more money, we’ll talk about paying more a bit more.” I had heard it a thousand times. That time would never come, and I knew it. The money certainly wasn’t there. The ambition for what I was doing was being sucked away by fluorescent lighting and stiff business people, and so the passion wasn’t there anymore either. On my 25th birthday, I walked into my boss’s office and gave longterm notice that I would be leaving. It was time to start creating my career on my own terms.
What do I want to do?
This was the question I had to ask myself upon giving notice. As designers, a lot of us end up with vast and diverse skill sets. It’s the nature of the industry. But 9 to 5 desk jobs normally give tasks that only take advantage of a small percentage of those skills. So I decided that I wanted to market myself as more of a jack-of-all-trades to begin with. I was a designer, but I advertised that I could bring a touch of quality to a plethora of projects.
I brought back my 3D work as a selling point, something I hadn’t touched in a long while. I started looking more seriously into web design. I even starting pushing photography, a passion of mine that I’d never done professionally. The point was to try and use as many of my skills on projects as possible, as well as to not limit the kinds of projects I could work on so I would hopefully have some diversity in my workday.
And then what happened?
I’m glad you asked, section title. What happened was that, by presenting all I can do, the projects started to take advantage of the skills that had laid dormant for so long. I found myself gratified by the projects I was working on because I could flex many more of my creative muscles. The dreaded low pay of starting out in the freelance market was nothing new to me, as I was used to being underpaid but having no free time. Now, things weren’t too different, but the more projects I got, the more money came in. Glorious!
Eventually, I started getting back into motion graphics and video, areas I was obsessed with back in high school. And I had an outlet to do it professionally! My client base became incredibly varied and my workdays have me doing about ten different things, taking advantage of all, if not most, of my skills. I’m now planning to start a production house at the beginning of next year because my clients’ projects have led me to a completely different medium than the one I started in.
And it just keeps going.
I need to stress, however, that it wasn’t the will of clients that led me to motion, film, etc. It was my own passion, and the fact that I could offer these services to them. I can now continue to adapt to my own interests and keep moving in the direction I see fit. Oh, and I get paid much better than at my previous desk job…just be cautious, as that took time to get to this point.
The idea is that by taking the initiative to put myself out there, I’m able to do what I want and naturally pursue my interests. As an artist, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. There’s a business side, but I’m no longer feeling chained to a desk, trying to help my boss get richer. I’m the boss now, and you can be too.
It’s up to you to decide where that passion lies, but working for yourself may get you to that answer sooner than you think. I’ll leave you with this quote by German poet, Christian Friedrich Hebbel: “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”