So, I was pretty cavalier about it when I tossed off that list of things that are outside my comfort zone. But none of those items are simple or easy (well, besides the first one!). “Look for a new job” is the probably the most complicated, certainly the most difficult.
For the last few years I’ve been working as a freelance graphic designer, mainly making websites but also doing some print work and taking the occasional editing/proofreading job. It’s been a lot of fun, for the most part. I’ve met some really interesting people, I’ve gotten to set my own hours and be my own boss, I’ve learned a ton about the tools of my trade, and I’ve gotten pretty good at teaching people how to use their browser’s back button (I kid you not) or find their way around a WordPress dashboard.
I’ve also been lucky in that the economic downturn (my state was one of the hardest-hit) actually worked in my favor. Many small businesses, struggling, are trying to save their business by improving their web presence, and finding independent freelancers more affordable than the big agencies.
To sum up: I have a challenging job where I can set my own hours and be my own boss, and business is good. So, why would I quit?
Well, one frustration is that I am no longer as convinced as I used to be of the importance of branding. I just don’t think it makes much sense to slave over, say, the perfect color palette for the website of a loose tea wholesaler. No, what’s important is that the site be basically neat and tidy, with good typography, smart navigation, properly nested headings and well-written content. In other words, a simple WordPress installation with a slightly-customized template and a few plugins is pretty much all that most people need.
But clients don’t want to believe that the perfect color palette is not of paramount importance, and when I tell them, it sounds like I don’t care about their business. Even worse, they don’t — any of them — do the necessary editing, revising and proofreading, and their content always ends up looking like crap. In short: I am doing work which I don’t think is useful, and which furthermore gets ruined as soon as my clients start updating their sites.
Now you might say the customer is always right: if they are willing to pay me to create that “perfect” design, and if they don’t care that their content looks like crap, who am I to argue? Well, yes, I’ve thought that too, but honestly it just doesn’t feel right to me. I need to feel the passion and the excitement that comes from being part of something I believe in.
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So, that’s the first frustration. The second frustration is more personal. Frankly, I’m bored with this gig. I have about a three-year attention span. Literally. I’ve never held a job longer than that (until now) and I’ve never had two jobs in the same field. I’m a dilettante, an auto-didact, a jack of all trades and master of none… and that’s the way I like it. I’m done with web design. I taught myself how to do it (to my own satisfaction, anyway). I’ve overshot my three-year attention span by two extra years and I’m ready for something — anything! — new and interesting.
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And then I tell myself, my god, don’t be such a whiner! Passion and excitement, new and interesting, are luxuries that millions of people can’t afford. Most people just do what they need to do to bring home their paycheck. I’ve got a good gig going. Why mess with it?
Hmmmm. Obviously, I’m not done with this topic yet. But I think this is a good stopping point. Writing about it helps to clarify my thinking, and I’m sure there will be more to come.