How to be a born again designer

Some of the qualities that make an artist or designers work stand out amongst the crowd are attributes like originality, innovation, quality, technique and character. While searching for some of these qualities in individuals to feature on the site, one of the things I’ve noticed as similarities throughout the talented pool of profiles currently on Heavy Backpack is that, without my prior knowledge, most profiled are either self employed or available for freelance.

Although I don’t particularly believe this is a pre-requisite for the creation of great work, it has definitely presented itself as a running theme. Due to this being a web based platform, the bias in part should be put down to the nature of freelancing and the need to gather exposure and showcase an online portfolio to potential new prospects, but nevertheless, it is definitely a working and lifestyle environment which allows many to blossom to their creative potential. So why don’t more people do it? The transition into freelancing or starting a business from a full-time study or employment position can be daunting, and many find this a difficult step to make. I recently heard a short story which (although a little abstract) might help identify the situation for some people.

A glad mother had conceived twins. After several months in the womb, the twins began to contemplate to each other their life in the womb. They thought about their life so far. They had been pretty well protected, it was safe and secure, they were fed well and, all in all, they were comfortable with their lot. But, they were aware of their short life-cycle and feared the inevitable ‘birth’. Why couldn’t they just remain in the womb forever? As their concerns heightened about life after ‘birth’. Was there really a mother to care for them after birth? Was there really anything after birth at all, birth was possibly the end, and no more. If there really was life after birth, why hadn’t anyone returned to the womb or contacted them to let them know what to expect? They feared the unknown. When the birth was finally complete, they couldn’t have imagined anything better than their new life.

This story was told to me as a metaphor about the fear of death and the afterlife. But while not trying to preach or be morbid, the issues of going it alone all comes down to fear, and often fear can be paralyzing. Fear has a very good place in our lives as a self protective mechanism, and is not to be dismissed in full. But, when internal fear creates an obstacle between us and achieving our goals and dreams, it should be recognized and overcome like any other external issues we may face. For the personality types that desire freelancing, the types that cannot do anything else but want full control of their own work-life, it’s very much an inevitability like life and death. So rather than speculate to death, better to embrace, and plan for new life.

Posted in: Articles  ·  Nov 30    

Mike said,

December 3, 2006 @ 4:33 pm

Starting to freelance or starting a business is daunting and unfortunately, it is not something other people can help you with, meaning other designers. Especially for young designers, it is not only the freedom of choices being an adult but also creative and career control. I think if you are going to want to open a business, open it with someone you work well with.

Jo said,

December 4, 2006 @ 6:28 pm

I love this metaphor, especially:

“why hadn’t anyone returned to the womb or contacted them to let them know what to expect?”

I am in the position now where I am considering stepping out into fulltime freelancing, my main concern being how to keep a constant flow of work and money. I’m finding now working full-time and doing some freelancing on the side that I’m getting more work that I can keep up with, which is a good indicator of work that is available to me, but most of it is from overseas. I think that developing a small client base before commiting to just freelancing might make the transition smoother.

Alen said,

December 5, 2006 @ 6:19 am

They say that the courage is nothing but an ability to overcome fear. I had the “courage” to take the jump and continue to fly on my own, but the fear didn’t go away. It merely took another form. Now my fear prevents me from enjoying my flight as I should. Instead, it keeps me alert and worried. But I would rather live with this fear then live with a thought that I didn’t even try it.

Michelle said,

December 5, 2006 @ 7:44 am

I wasn’t fearful of the jump, but like Alen, I had felt fear every moment since. I have loved freelancing and I have loved what I done, however I haven’t loved worrying about where the next bit of work will come from and whether I can pay the rent, which is making me wonder if I made the right choice but at the wrong time in my life.

Ryan said,

December 5, 2006 @ 10:09 am

Like Michelle’s worry, timing (and location) are everything. To those of you who are still “flying” single in a big-moderate sized metropolitan area, I would seriously consider taking that leap. If you have some “real-life” experience behind you, nothing should hold you back. When you have more than yourself to consider (not just financially, but time) that “dream” takes a backseat. Not that it dies or can’t be done, but “getting-by” might not be as much of a reality for a year or two until things pick up.

Ty said,

December 5, 2006 @ 10:15 am

Without having read the entire article, and cutting to the chase, the term “starving artists” comes to mind. Although I’m sure freelance work can be quite lucrative, it lacks a certain sense of security. I don’t think you can lump in this job security with mediocrity per se. I work in a whole building full of creative people, and some not so creative (but hey it’s not there job they just count the beans).
Edit: Ok now I have read the article, interesting thoughts ;)

Dan said,

December 6, 2006 @ 7:45 am

Fear can certainly be debilitating, and is something I’ve experienced since setting up in business three years ago. Like Michelle, the jump itself wasn’t the scary part but practically every moment since has been (roll on Christmas…) Can I pay the rent? Will that potential client go for my proposal? Where’s my next client coming from? However, the payoff is a huge amount of satisfaction when work does come in, and knowing that’s it’s all been entirely down to your efforts.

Ryan said,

January 19, 2007 @ 10:45 am

Again, I have to agree. I’ve been working freelance full time for about 2 years now and it is a constant worry. However aside from worrying about the typical things, I love it. I love the freedom of working for so many different people and trying to land new jobs, and the conception, creation, and execution of them all. Its very rewarding. I’m a young designer so the ability to help so many different businesses and clients single handidly is something I am very proud of.

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