Are You Doing What You Love, Right Now?

I fell into my career in design by circumstance and fortune, and certainly had no great plans to be doing what I’m doing now when it all started. My education was all geared towards fieldwork, language study, and sustainable development. I figured that eventually my path would lead me back into the university life as a professor. Yet here I sit drawing and making things look pretty on a daily basis.

Some days I wish I was here

Let me be clear on this point: I love my job. I would not be doing what I do if I didn’t love it. That’s just how I’m built. I’m not someone who can do the mundane droning jobs and find happiness and satisfaction. I paid my dues working those kinds of jobs when I was younger, and put myself in a position to (hopefully) avoid going back – you never know, life’s a trip and filled with surprises and unexpected turns and twists.

But right now, I wonder regularly if my efforts are actually making anyone’s life better. Does my job improve the world, take away from it, or as a third option, does it have a significant effect either way? I think I’m sitting in the third seat right now, just whiling my time away making things function. Of course I’m learning skills, honing my tools (take it easy dirty birds), and hopefully fostering the different talent I work with on the daily.

However, I am filled with a sincere passion for affecting change, and when that variable enters the equation, I can’t help but wonder whether I’m where I should be. No regrets though, for sure.

Honestly, ten years ago, I figured I’d be living in East Africa (or at least spending all sabbaticals there) studying/teaching. I have sketches for rainwater catchment systems and village planning diagrams that (I think) could actually help people live better lives.

Today’s not the day to make the change, for certain – I have a wife and three kids (two of which are very young) – but knowing that the fire is still burning is what’s important. Maybe I need to be sharing ideas at this point, and maybe the right opportunity will present itself. Hmm, what do you think?

Unfreelancing – Letting Go Of The Attractive Freelance Life

For years and years I worked on my own. Two months shy of six years, to be exact. I gave up all of the freedoms and self-employment perks in exchange for the shackles of servitude and obedience.

But I also left behind the stresses of the EDD, corporate taxes, business development, and operations management. Those management concerns all happened on top of designing and developing interactive applications and websites; usually at nights and on the weekends.

Making the switch definitely had it’s perks.

However, the transition was not easy at first. Soon though, the sense of confinement and control lifted and soon I came to enjoy the freedoms that accompany working for someone else:

  • My family is first priority, and now, when I’m not working, I’m not working. Being in management, I always need to be reachable and I do sometimes work long hours, but that is all up to my discretion. If my son has soccer practice, or my daughter wants me to read books to her all evening…that’s where you’ll find me. Overtime happens, but only if I want it to.
  • My job comes with a description, and while I tend to wear a bunch of hats, I know that I’m not responsible for everything. I don’t own the company, and that is just fine by me.
  • I don’t have to worry about making sure we’ve got enough projects or revenue to pay the employees.
  • They hand me checks twice a month. Look, I may have made more money as a freelancer, but I don’t ever need to experience another 3-month dry spell waiting on delinquent clients. I’ll gladly exchange a little dough for piece of mind. So will my wife, I’m sure.
  • I have 10x less paperwork every day. I really should repeat this one like Bart Simpson on a blackboard.
  • My office isn’t the spare room in my house, and my co-workers are actually a nerf football to the head away. I do not miss the solitude of freelancing, and I doubt I ever will. Collaboration is king.
  • When I need technology, software, fonts, resources, hardware, etc., my employers purchase these things…I don’t have to worry about mapping out purchases, and such. It’s not my job.
  • I can take sick or personal days off, delegate my work to my team, and know that things will be done. While I could take days off whenever I wanted to before…if I wasn’t working, things weren’t getting done.

Look, you can always make a very strong case for the freelancing life. It can be wildly lucrative, can allow you to work on a ton of great projects, travel, collab with a variety of different teams and agencies, and give you the ultimate scheduling flexibility.

But for me, it’s a lifestyle so much more befitting a single guy in his 20’s than a married father of 2 in his 30’s. I was so scared when I took my first job in July 2007, but in the past 18 months have really grown to love this balance I’ve found which was much more difficult to attain (and maintain) when I was running Go Farm or freelancing as 417north.

I’m a strong advocate for returning to the office. I have grown so much more as a designer, and as a creative director for heading up design teams for companies other than my own. I’m now directing an in-house design team (the in-house design life, that’s a whole other post), and that has brought even more lessons and growth.

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