...to the final part of my blog series, in which I talk about how I started a new career in Web Design. In part one of this series, I talked about the reasons why I decided to change careers and in part two I talked about the problems I encountered along the way. In this article, I'll talk about why I'm happy I made the decision to change careers, what I enjoy about Web Design and what my goals are for the new year and beyond.
I made the decision to become a Web Designer/Developer about 4 years ago and in that time I've completed about 9 or 10 of my own independent projects, as well as my ongoing work with Open Water (an award-winning design agency in Kent). I wouldn't say I've reached the level I want to reach, far from it in fact, but I would say that I can now stop worrying about having to go back into my old career and I'm confident that I can now look forward to a long and hopefully successful career in Web Design.
So, what's it like to be a freelance Web Designer? Well, in general, I love it! Like anything though, it has its highs and lows. I love the freedom that freelancing gives me. Being a parent with a young son who has just started school, I need to be flexible with the hours I work so that I can do my share of the school runs and parenting duties during school holidays. Freelancing means that I don't have to work strictly between the hours of 9 to 5. On the days when I'm on the school run, I tend to finish work at about 2:30 and then make up the time by working in the evening. Luckily my girlfriend doesn't seem to mind me ignoring her all evening while I work!
I also love the fact that I can work from home, mainly because it eradicates travelling expenses to and from a place of work, but also because it's just nice being able to work at my own desk, on my own computer (being a long term Windows user it pains me to have to use the Macs when I work at the Open Water studio, as well as the anti-Windows banter I have to endure!). There are other things I enjoy about working from home, such as not having to spend time travelling to an office, not having to dress smartly in a suit every day and not having to shave if I don’t want to. (Unfortunately, my girlfriend does seem to mind when I look too scruffy!).
There's also the fact that when you're a freelancer, you can pick and choose the projects that interest you. I hope that one day I'll be in a position to choose my projects based on whether or not I admire the client and whether or not I would be proud to be associated with them. That doesn’t necessarily mean picking larger projects over smaller ones, but more about picking rewarding projects for organisations that provide a valuable service, rather than just picking the projects that pay the best.
As I mentioned above, freelancing also has its down sides. The thing I've found hardest to deal with is not having the guarantee of regular work. As someone who has always been employed in permanent jobs up until now, I've found it hard to deal with the fact that if I don't find my own work, I don't get paid. I've been lucky in that respect, having Open Water as a fairly regular source of work means that I usually have at least some money coming in each month, but more often than not, I have to rely on my own ability to find projects in order to earn a decent living, and that can be a constant source of stress and worry.
Overall though, I love the freedom that freelancing gives me. I also love the work that I now do. For me, the most satisfying thing about Web Design is creating something from scratch, designing and building it myself and then putting it out there on the web for everyone in the World to see. I still get a real sense of achievement when I launch a website, and a sense of pride when I have a happy client who is delighted with the work I’ve done. Perhaps that’s because in my old job (Payroll Manager) I would generally only get feedback from people when something went wrong with their pay, usually in the form of them shouting angrily at me down the phone. As a Web Designer, I find that clients are generally appreciative of the work I’ve done, which makes my job enjoyable and rewarding.
In terms of my future plans, I’m very optimistic about the challenges my new career has in store for me and I plan to complete as many of my own freelance projects over the next year as I can. With every project I complete, my skills and knowledge improve, so by this time next year, I should be a much more knowledgeable Web Designer and hopefully will have some seriously impressive projects under my belt, as well as some very happy clients.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of articles and to anyone out there who is thinking of changing careers, I hope my story has given you some inspiration and motivation.
Neal Skilling - 7th December 2016