Another year has left us so it’s time to look ahead for 2018. Forget Christmas, I’m all about New Years during the holiday season. December is my month for reflection over the body of work done in the past year. What worked, what didn’t work, what projects did I enjoy, what projects will I never do again, that sort of thing. With the build up to 2018, I have the chance to outline what I want to tackle in the new year.

Goals Over Resolutions

I’ve abandoned the concept of resolutions. It’s a definitive concept but it doesn’t have much room for growth. The definition is “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” I make the resolution to work out more this year than last. If that means I run only one more mile than last year, I’ve done it. But is that it? It seems too flimsy to be anything worth continuing once you’ve done the bare minimum. The work is done but it feels hollow.

Instead I make goals I want to achieve throughout the year. They often require many steps, check-in points, and have many moving parts. I’m more involved in getting things done that work towards my end goal. It’s more than “do or do not” to something. It keeps me motivated to continue in the progress, as I’m much more involved in the success. Plus the end goal is greater as it requires more work to get it done.

Self Measured Success

Everyone compares themselves to others. Whether it’s how much money they earn, the type of car they drive, the house they own, any part you can see will be judged. I’m guilty of doing it for years. Even over the most simplistic of stuff, I was living in envy of my closest friends’ success. Or things I thought meant they were successful. It took years to break that habit, but now I live on my own level of success. The new year allows me to see how well I did last year and the years before that. I can measure my success to myself, no one else.

I can now look back at my own path and see what did and what didn’t work on my journey. Spending time checking-in on other people was a distraction from my goals. With the power of hindsight, I can now make better judgements on myself and work in the direction I want to go next.

Start With Small Goals

Everyone should have goals that vary in scale. Some should be easy to achieve so they are easy to maintain and quickly become habitual. Those little victories will keep you motivated to continue with whatever it is. Without a reward, your interest will wane and the goal will become a chore. Eventually it’ll become a burden and poses a risk of being abandoned completely. Even if you have a lot of small goals, make them manageable for you.

Do One Thing Everyday
I’m drawing on my iPad everyday. I don’t start with the intent of making an amazing illustration, I just doodle until it becomes something interesting. It’s just practice to get more comfortable with the tool for future projects. You can only get better with practice.

Be Accountable
After I’m satisfied with my daily doodle, I post it to Instagram and Facebook. I started a new photo album on Facebook just for this exercise. If I don’t post a new image everyday, I feel guilty. That aversion to guilt motivates me to keep drawing. Whatever works to keep you going, it’s better than giving up.

Push Yourself More
The year is still young but I know I’ll get tired of these simple doodles. I’ll have to switch it up with drawing from life, which presents a new challenge to an ongoing project. I have a jar filled with ideas that I’ve yet to get around to doing. When I feel stuck, I’ll dip into that jar for an idea to explore.


No matter what your goals are, take time to check-in with your progress. How far are you in achieving your goal? Are you where you expected? Why aren’t you further along than you wanted to be at this time? This coupled with being held accountable will help you take a moment to step back and see the progress made, or lack thereof. Ask friends or colleagues to look over your progress whenever possible. Another set of eyes can help spot an issue you might have missed.

Forgive Yourself

And finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. Set backs will happen and being upset at yourself for a lapse in progress won’t help you move forward. It might not even be your fault for a delay: illness, unexpected obstacles, really anything outside of your control can screw things up. Even if there’s a delay, don’t dwell on it too long. Your progress will keep going forward, you just might not reach the destination when you intended. It’s still a noble effort none the less. Learn from mistakes and missteps along the way. It’ll make you faster next time.

I sincerely hope you all have a wonderful 2018.
Here’s to making great things and doing good now and into the future!

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Happy 2015!

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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