Last week I shared how to overcome the creative block. This week I want to talk with you about finding your happy place as a designer.
It doesn’t really matter who you are. We all have an ideal happy place. The happy place is that ideal place where you picture yourself the most fulfilled, enthusiastic, accomplished and content.
This happy place is made up of two parts. One part is more of a focus on how you see yourself in the future (perhaps more of a focus on your career and family). The second part is what makes you happy today. This is a more short-term approach and may be used to keep you motivated towards your long-term vision of happiness. This could be of you sitting on the couch for a few hours watching a new release on Netflix or taking some time to jog with your headphones on to clear your mind. Each of us have our very own vision of what our long-term happy place looks like. However, I do believe as designers we have one common desire: To be happy with the solutions that we create. Perhaps this is the reason why many designers become freelancers in the first place. Why else would we trade a steady paycheck for the wobbly world of being a freelancer?
That was me eight years ago when I decided it was time to start freelancing. I simply was not happy anymore. I needed a bigger challenge. Even though the company I was working for was pretty good overall, after a few years I began to feel like a cog in the wheel. It started to become tough to get up and go to work everyday. The work I was doing became easy and uninspiring. It was no longer aligning to the long-term vision of happiness that I set out for myself. I guess you could say it became a “job”. After some internal searching I decided it was time to take control over what I thought was going to make me happy: creating great award-winning projects with my own clients, processes and deadlines. The dream right?
Wrong. At first I loved it. I was creating work that I was proud of and for the most part, I was happy. Things changed once I hit the four year milestone of running my own company. I remember it pretty clearly. It was on a Sunday morning. I woke up with a dreaded feeling inside of my stomach. I was kind of down. For the first time in four years I dreaded knowing that I had to go to work the next day. How could this be though? I was in control of my own destiny and I ultimately created the same thing that I was running from. I lost all aspect of process, didn’t care for the clients (that I chose to work with) and the creative solutions were feeling mediocre. Worst of all, this frustration was effecting all aspects of my life. I knew something had to change, and it had to change quickly.
At first, it was hard to determine the cause of this feeling. Was the growth getting to be too much? Was I not happy with my chosen career path? After doing some deep internal discovery, I was able to solve the issue and get back on track. I’m actually much happier than I have been in a long time. The fix was pretty simple. I realized that to be happy, I had to get back to doing what made me happy as a designer in the first place. Over the years, I lost sight as to what my original goals were when setting out to become a freelancer. My focus became making money and because of that I was working on projects that I didn’t particularly enjoy with clients that were not a fit. I didn’t have a clear position in the market anymore and I was running around with my head cut off to make the income I needed to sustain a living. I was sacrificing my life and happiness in the process.
Since I’ve established a clearer position in the marketplace, I now work less, make more money and no longer feel forced into saying yes to projects and clients that are not a fit for me. The most important thing about most of this is that I’m now in more control over my happiness and design solutions and that’s the greatest feeling you can have as a designer.
I don’t have a big list of takeaways this week, but I do want to leave you with a simple takeaway. When I was struggling with my business I was embarrassed, and rather than reach out to others for help or an ear to talk through my frustrations, I retreated inward and tried to solve it all by myself. Doing this actually solved nothing. It just drove me into a feeling of failure and frustration. So whether you’re struggling with growing your business, a design challenge, or simply don’t feel like you’re reaching your full potential as a designer, you need to not be afraid to enlist the help of those who may be able to give you some added support and help. Some of this may be free; some of it may cost you a coffee; others may be a larger investment. But ultimately it’s all a small price to pay when it comes to keeping you motivated and pointed in the right direction towards happiness and real fulfillment.
In the next few weeks, I’m going to be launching The Portfolio Workshop exclusively to my email list. The workshop is an online course (with 1-to-1 coaching) designed specifically to help you position yourself more effectively as a freelancer. It’s with this positioning that I was able to take my business from what you read above to where it is today. Greenline Creative is more efficient, profitable and healthier than ever. This workshop will help you develop a clearer understanding of who your ideal client is, what you can offer them and how you should communicate that offering in a way that positions you as a more valuable investment to their business verses simply being a commodity.
If you have any questions about the workshop, feel free to send me an email.