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Not only is today New Year's Day, it is also the seventh anniversary of FireMane Studio! Yes, this little dog & pony show has been around since 2008. Time certainly flies by, but it hasn't been the smoothest path. Of course, if it wasn't rough I would think I was doing something wrong.
A few years back, while I was still working for someone else, I received an email from a design student and he asked me how I got into freelancing. It took me a while to think of my real reasons why. It was actually by accident. I was working a typical office job and did a few projects for people on the side. I wasn't making a lot of money, but there was something about making different work all the time that really appealed to my creative side. The thrill of a deadline, the challenge of being the only creative working on it, taking the information provided to me and translating it into a product that the customer could use; I felt a surge of electricity while I worked! I hadn't felt that exhilaration since art college when I was making illustrations. But the upside to the new work was I was getting paid for it. So after a few years of freelancing on the side, I decided to make it an official source of income and not just a hobby.
After that point in time, I tried to find more create jobs to satisfy my urge to design when freelancing clients were thin. I worked with placement agencies and found jobs on my own. It was by no means simple or easy. A lot of writing emails to job postings (over 50 in one week with 0 replies), cold call emails, spending money on self-promotional items to mail out to potential clients; it was more work than actual design work was in an office. I went back to college for additional training in graphic design and made even more contacts. It has been a slow climb establishing myself as a freelancer and aiming to be taken seriously as a designer.
I only took the plunge in November of 2014 and quit my office job to go into freelancing full-time. And oddly enough, it was an easy choice. Sure, the decision of quitting a job I felt creatively stunted in was easy, but actually doing it when I did took myself by surprise. I had reached a point where I just couldn't push myself through the work I was doing anymore. Almost without thinking of long term consequences, like the money downturn and the stress that would come because of that, I put in my 30 day notice. And that was that. Almost as if I wasn't in control of myself. I had shut down mentally and was just going through the motions and I couldn't do it anymore. I fulfilled my duties and left on good terms with the team I had been with for over a year and a half. I had tried to extend the job a little longer with some time and money changes, but in the end it didn't pan out the way I wanted. So I left. It's only been about a month and a half, but it was THE best decision I could have made for myself.
There was some backlash, but that's to be expected. My parents are non-stop supportive but are used to the mindset of working 40 hours a week and making steady money. They have never owned their own business or had that entrepreneurial spirit. I take their concerns to heart but know that I have to do this. Only a few jobs in my long work history are ones that I would jump at to do again (like 2 at most). The rest were stifling to my creative side. Even when I was doing something "creative," it wore down my enthusiasm for it when the subject never changed. There are only so many ways you can make car parts, party supplies, or outdoor furniture interesting.
Freelancing is not for everyone, but that's OK. This is a long term commitment and I would only recommend it to someone who understands just how challenging it will be. Eight years in, I'm still learning all I can as not only a designer but as a business owner. The journey won't get easier, I'll just be more prepared for it than before.
Here's to another year of design driven by passion! Happy 2015!
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