Why Wait For The Opportunity? Create Your Own!

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As many people who work in a creative field like design and development may already know, sometimes our clients just do not understand what it is that we are trying to achieve. The boundaries that we are seeking to push are not ones they approve of for their project, so our creative ideas get backburnered until we can find an appropriate project as well as an agreeable client where you can flex these creative muscles freely. In fact, the standard business processes, especially the ones we allow ourselves to be strapped into, tend to work against us in this aspect.

Allow me to elaborate. For most creatives, the most genuine and innovative ideas can often come without provocation. Which is unfortunate, because that tends to relegate these ideas to one of two categories. The personal project category that we get to whenever we find the time to break away from our work plates to snack on something different. Or to the professional project pool where we wait on that client who will allow us the freedom to incorporate this idea into their project. At other times, the ideas we have tend to be in response to the client, their business or something they have laid down — some sort of foundation — for us to build upon. These ideas are somewhat prompted.

1
Don’t just wait for the aces! Image by fitzsean2

Now this is not to say that the prompted ideas are any less potent or powerful than the ones that we arrived at alone, only that the ones we get to by ourselves tend to be more imaginative and exciting in our eyes as those are the ones we feel unencumbered by the clients rules or specs. Which also means that they are the ones that we get to work less on due to the fact that we have to pay the bills, and in most cases, that means some kind of compromise on the part of the creative mind. We can say that we think outside the box on every project, but we have to admit that when a client comes to us, they have one or two ideas in the bucket ready and those specs can be considered somewhat of a box that we must work in.

That Is Just How Business Works

Now I know that there are some who are scratching their heads, knowing that this is just the way how business works, and they are confused at to what exactly we are asking them to consider. And yes, we understand that this is the standard way by which this game is played. Businesses have needs — they turn to other experts or specialists to have these needs met. They explain exactly what it is they are looking for, and the experts comply, delivering the experience that hopefully surpasses the client’s expectations. But what if we could change the standard rules of gameplay here on a much wider scale, affording this much freer approach to any designer or developer who wished to truly work unhindered.

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Think outside the box! Image by west.m4

Just a quick note: this article is not trying to say that working with all clients is a dull, innovation adjacent venture, or even trying to say that you will never have to work under these more standard rules of gameplay. But we usually have ideas of our own — ideas that we would love to see through without having to compromise or consult with a client or anyone else for that matter to approve what we are doing.

Think of it like the difference in a movie director working independently on a film rather than working for a major studio. They have much more freedom to make the film as they see fit, without any interference from above. For a while this was an approach that not many designers or developers have thought to not be feasible, but that is all changing.

Thanks, by and large, to the avenues being created by and granted access to by the Web.

The Game Changer

Before now, and in some ways still, we have always had to take our ideas to someone else in order to help us make them happen. We had to reach beyond ourselves to find those with the means and know-hows to reach further than we had access in order to get our idea out to the masses and have it connect with the audience. Essentially, we had to sell our idea to someone else in order to get distribution and manufacturing. However, the Web is granting creatives the chances to write their own opportunities, and make things happen for themselves, without having to depend on someone else.

Understanding that the term “sellout” tends to carry negative connotations, but what I mean is that we have to pitch the idea and someone has to buy in order for it to happen. When they buy, that tends to put them in the controlling seat. They hold the final say over the outcome of the project, or even where the project ends up. For some creatives, that compromise alone can take a lot of the fun and excitement out of the equation. But without those buyers, the project would tend to remain an unrealized effort. So there has been an underlying coercion for creatives to play the game and compromise their ideas when necessary in order to connect with the masses.

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Plan your game – several moves ahead. Image by DoubleM26

Enter the Web, and services like Kickstarter7, communities like YouTube and Vimeo, and suddenly the middle men that we needed to make our innovative ideas a reality, are not as much of a necessity as they once were. There is a great article by Ryan Carson8 that highlighted two examples of just how those in creative fields who are no longer waiting for opportunity to knock, instead create those opportunities for themselves. And in these cases, what remains important is that they remain the ones calling the shots.

Now I know there are those who think that this is approach is a complete waste of time. However, already today there are creatives who are just as equally excited about this evolved approach which allows them to completely take the reigns of their creative projects9. So below we have taken a look at both the benefits offered and challenges posed by this new gameplay structure to help better see what exactly this approach means and entails.

The Benefits

First, we are going to look at the pros to taking charge of our creations and marching forward with them on our own as the masters of our own destiny. If you are one of those who is on the fence about this whole issue, or even if you are standing firmly against it, perhaps this section will have you rethinking things and getting you to come down on the side for it.

Shot-Caller

This has already been mentioned in the article; however, given its weight, it deserves a deeper examination of just what makes it so important. For most of us in the design and development fields, we have had to work with a client whose lack of understanding of the field can negatively impact the resulting project once their uncompromising input has been implemented. This can hugely effect our resulting takeaway and perspective with which we begin to view our chosen fields. Especially, if we find project after project that comes with compromise after compromise. This can effectively end up sapping our excitement and stifling our creative energy.

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You’re your own boss and choose your own target. Image by HikingArtist.com11

Another side effect these compromises can have is that we end up having to lose some truly innovative element of the project because of the client’s wishes, and our work can somewhat reflect a staleness on our parts as a result. When users see the final design and interact with it, they only see the compromised end result. They do not see the processes or the decisions and conditions that ultimately led to a creation that could essentially be much less than its potential. And it is this end result that is looked upon as the limits of our abilities. Client’s input is useful and necessary, but sometimes it’s not exactly what is best for our users. And yes, design is not art, but a medium for delivering messages across, but as designers we are often quite restricted by the decisions made for us, not with us.

But when we are the one who is calling all of the shots, our creative energy can flow freely, and our imaginations are subject to no one’s approval or standards. And there are those who would say that using a service like Kickstarter, where you outline a project and potential investors commit to contributions to fund your creative venture, does not put you in the driver’s seat per se, as you are still having to “sell” your idea. However, the big difference is that the sponsors and investors you get via Kickstarter do not expect to be able to provide some kind of creative input. You are the one in control.

This also means that you are the one in control of the timeline for when and if the project sees the light of day. This can be key, as there are times in the design and development fields when those elements are out of our hands and they end up derailing the project far from its potential or intended destinations. There are times when we work so hard on a project and have put so much into it until we have molded it to what we feel is perfection, only to turn it over and have it altered or never see the light of day. Consequently, there are times when we feel (for whatever reason) that a project just will not come together and should be abandoned, but we can’t drop it, so the end result is a sub-par product that nobody is actually happy with. In this field of play, those calls are all ours.

In Short:

  • You have to deal with less compromises that sap your enthusiasm and excitement for both the project and your field.
  • Your reputation does not suffer from compromises the client forced us to make.
  • You do not have to worry about outside interference, our imagination is not subject to approval.
  • Your project outcome is completely in your hands, and your hands alone.

Time and Money Saver

It may seem like somewhat of a contradiction that this approach could actually save time and money, but when you look at the first example of designer Frank Chimero12 and his design book that he now can completely finance via Kickstarter, you can see how this approach can do just that. More often than not, in order to get a book published and distributed within what is commonly seen as the mainstream, you would first have to spend weeks, possibly months, writing and rewriting both the outline for the book and the book proposal (not to mention the numerous e-mails, phone calls and meetings with possible publishers). All of which is done without any guarantee of being published and distributed.

Frank Chimero's Project on Kickstarter13
Frank Chimero’s project14 “The Shape of Design” on Kickstarter.

In the end, all of the time that is taken to write up these proposals and outlines for the books take away from the time we spend on billable work. And in some cases, the entire book or some parts of it must first be written before we are able to get any interest from publishers or distributors. So that time has to be accounted for as well. But by harnessing the Web and social media, we can now find the means to publish and distribute the book on our own — without consuming much time and often the costly process of seeking out and involving the proverbial middle men in the project. For instance, Smashing Magazine produces printed books independently15, without the middle man, and so can you.

This is a big step forward, and helps to connect the potential investors directly to the creative individuals, without the compromised hands of the mainstream middle men getting into the project, which simply feels more conducive to innovation. Compromised decisions can end up hurting the project’s potential. This can also mean that we will end up with less forced input which can lead to time consuming revision after time consuming revision which could end up compromising the overall impact of the message. Which might further translate into lost sales. Therefore, we can see huge savings in both time and costs by opting for this new paradigm.

In Short:

  • We can save a lot of time, which tends to equal money, in both the initial and final project stages via this route.
  • Taps potential investors directly into the source of ideas, without any agendas or middle men getting in the way.

Smoother Sailing in the Client Pool

Now, one possible benefit that we could see spring forth from this approach is the higher chances of landing dream clients. This may seem a bit far fetched, but if there were more designers and developers writing their own opportunities and launching their own projects then that is going to create interest in the client pool, right? Essentially, going the route, you can effectively choose between working on a client’s project or creating your own which you could put in your portfolio or even gain some exposure with and consequently connect with some potential clients.

Besides, since you are engaging your heart and soul into your project, you are more likely to produce a remarkable product — a product that will help you gain new insights, learn new creative fields and leave a mark in the design community. You can also create a well-respected name for yourself. And it’s certainly worth trying.

Profit-Sharing

One of the biggest problems that anyone working in any creative field faces, is the undervaluing of their time and talents. This can come either in the guise of those who simply do not see the value of what we do, or in the form of those who capitalize on our creativity without having contributed to the creative process in any way. Whatever form it may take, it means that someone is profiting off of your creativity.

Now, there are cases when there is a service attached to it that we could not handle ourselves. Back in the day, distribution was one of the main incentives that creative persons had to aligning themselves with this model in which they create the product, and do not get to see the majority of the profits from the project. Designers and developers have been signing on with company that provided them with the space and tools they need to do the work for years because of the sheer cost it saves them. Only to sacrifice shares of the profits from their work, not to mention the ability to do the work that they necessarily want the way they want it. But again, this is not the only paradigm on the market anymore.

You want to organize a design conference and sell tickets for it? There16 are17 services18 for you. You’d like to build up a shop from ground up? Again, there19 are20 tools21 for you. You don’t have to rely on anybody, but instead you can just put together everything you need and leverage the potential of social media to back up your projects.

Natasha Westcoat22
Natasha Westcoat2423 creates live online paintings. She saves herself the percentages that galleries, art dealers and online intermediaries, might charge if she sold the work through them.

With no middle men to have to share the profits with, this new approach can also allow us to get the bulk of the revenues generated from the projects that we have created. In the example provided in Ryan’s article, Natasha Westcoat2423’s live online paintings, not only does she save herself the time and effort of seeking a gallery show to find buyers, she saves herself the percentages that galleries, art dealers and online intermediaries, might charge if she sold the work through them. Here, she controls the profits. So it is exciting to see that the old profit share piggyback model is not the only path in which designers and developers find themselves in these days given the reach and access afforded to them by the Web.

In Short:

  • With this new model, the person who is generating and creating the idea is the one who will reap the majority of the rewards from their work, as it should be.
  • No longer do we have to share the majority of our profits with those who offer us services that help spread the word — not create it.
  • With the middle men gone, the revenues can be more evenly and fairly distributed.

The Challenges

Anyone who is seriously considering taking on the “independent” route, needs to understand that there might be some challenges in the road ahead. These are serious considerations that should be made before moving forward.

Weight of the World

Most of the time that we take on a project, there are going to be some elements of that cause us some bit of stress. Be it the timeline, those we are working with or compromises made. But we tend to be somewhat compartmentalized in the project and therefore our stress levels tend to be as well. If there is stress involved in the project, we can bet that we are only experiencing a fraction of that stress through the buffers provided by the numerous rungs in the ladder above us. Also, because we are usually stacked somewhere in a hierarchy, the instigators of the stress are somewhat abstracts to us. For example, if we are working with a big company, we tend to not have to interact with the client or public directly, it is done through a series of intermediaries. So when they are upset, we get hints of that, but not necessarily the brunt of it.

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No matter where, the burden is the same. Image by Kristian Bjornard26

This is not the case when we are stepping up as the masters of our projects. We have no buffers or barriers which allow us to compartmentalize any of it. We are baring the full weight of this world on our shoulders, and are not shielded from the reactions of the public. It all rests on us. Every cog in the process, from creation to marketing, from production to distribution is our responsibility. Either we have to handle it ourselves, or we have to find the right people to put into those roles to ensure that it all goes smoothly and according to plan. If it doesn’t, the blame will fall on you and your reputation — no one else’s. Also, we need to makke certain decisions that we don’t necessarily know much about: e.g. if you decide to print a book, what about fulfillment and support?

This can admittedly be a terrifying step to take, especially when you have never worked through all aspects of the project process before. If you are not strong in marketing, or have never actually overseen the production step by step, doing these tasks for the first time can seem overwhelming. And it is easy to see why many would rather play it safer instead of working on a more demanding and involved approach. For many of us, no benefit is enough to willingly accept the entire weight of the project on our shoulders.

In Short:

  • If you pick the “independent” route, you are responsible for everything, and you alone will own each of the project’s successes and failures.
  • No matter where your strengths are lacking, you have to find ways to fill those gaps and pick up that slack to ensure the project succeeds.
  • You have no buffers to the reactions and fallouts from the project — you have to deal with it all directly.

Confidence Factor

Another consideration that must be understood is that you are not selling the idea alone, you are also promoting yourself. Which is where confidence comes into play pretty heavily. It is easy to have faith in an idea and be able to get others to sign on and ascribe to that idea through the confidence that you are reflecting in it. However, when you are the head of the pyramid, it is not just faith in the idea that all parties involved need, everybody needs to have faith in the main person behind it.

That faith in oneself is harder to project with enough confidence to necessarily have others clamoring at your heels wanting to throw in on the proverbial backing bandwagon. And given that many of us might not be used to having to promote ourselves and effectively market ourselves in order to make a project happen, this could be a necessary adjustment. It is one thing to effectively market ourselves into a job, where we are pitted against other individuals, but in this case, we are marketing ourselves against an entire, well, market. It is not just about the idea, but about our ability to make it real. Whereas now we are competing with what can be seen as more financially stable companies, not just the ideas they are pitching.

As part of a company, when we go forth with an idea, there is a reputation behind us, more than just our own. When we do it alone — not so much. So once again it is easy to understand how this could act as a deterrent. On the other side, it might as well be an area that not deters you, but vividly alerts you to something that you are going to need to work on before you move ahead.

In Short:

  • It is not just the idea under scrutiny, but your ability to make it happen as well.
  • You must be able to effectively position and market yourself and your project against the rest of the market.
  • You do not have any other reputation backing the project other than your own.

No End in Sight

Finally, you must consider that if you are going to try and create your own opportunities and run with them, you will be running for a long, long time. When you are the one spearheading the entire project, and overseeing all facets of the process, there is no end of the line where you just get to hand it over and then move on to the next project. You have to stick with this project and ride it out for the entire reach and life of the project. No matter where it leads, you have signed on to following, and that could prove to be a very long haul indeed. Somewhere, that road could potentially keep going, always requiring some level of dedication, if not participation, on your part.

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Can you picture the end? Image by N3T1O28

This could effectively undo any of the time saved benefit that got you looking favorably at this idea in the first place. So you have to look reasonably at the long term time investments and consider how much time the project could require to completely determine if the project will be worthwhile to pursue. Keep in mind that the project will eventually endure beyond their initial projected commitments, althought the exact details depend on the project itself. And it would be better to realize this before beginning and getting others to commit, so that the project does not fall short of its potential because you actually underestimated your own project.

In Short:

  • You may have to be willing to commit to it for however long the project survives to maintain its integrity.
  • There is no point at which you should be expecting to be able to just cut and run from the project without seeing it through to the absolute end.

In the End

Doing things on your own is risky but worthwhile. There is certainly some merit to creating your own opportunities. The tools are available; the medium for connecting with friends, colleagues and like-minded people is available; and you can freely explore your creativity and skills using both of them. I honestly believe that this new culture we observe today might change the rules of the game and I anxiously wait to see what interesting new developments spring up as a result. Please share your opinion in the comments section below.

(sp) (al)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/36417205@N08/5112547263/
  2. 2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/36417205@N08/5112547263//
  3. 3 http://www.flickr.com/photos/35983665@N08/4216314732/
  4. 4 http://www.flickr.com/photos/35983665@N08/4216314732/
  5. 5 http://www.flickr.com/photos/49879584@N00/4323862715/in/photostream/
  6. 6 http://www.flickr.com/photos/49879584@N00/4323862715/in/photostream/
  7. 7 http://www.kickstarter.com/
  8. 8 http://thinkvitamin.com/design/the-game-just-completely-changed/
  9. 9 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/30453381/the-shape-of-design
  10. 10 http://www.flickr.com/photos/32066106@N06/4789352849/
  11. 11 http://www.flickr.com/photos/32066106@N06/4789352849/
  12. 12 http://work.frankchimero.com/
  13. 13 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/30453381/the-shape-of-design
  14. 14 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/30453381/the-shape-of-design
  15. 15 https://shop.smashingmagazine.com/smashingbook-dispatcher.php?d=smashing-book-2
  16. 16 http://www.amiando.com/
  17. 17 http://www.eventbrite.com/
  18. 18 http://www.eventwax.com/
  19. 19 http://www.magentocommerce.com/
  20. 20 http://www.shopify.com
  21. 21 http://bigcartel.com/
  22. 22 http://www.natashawescoat.com/
  23. 23 http://www.natashawescoat.com/
  24. 24 http://www.natashawescoat.com/
  25. 25 http://www.flickr.com/photos/64519085@N00/4439325687/
  26. 26 http://www.flickr.com/photos/sporkwrapper/250163954/
  27. 27 http://www.flickr.com/photos/netogonzalez/4476962563/in/photostream/
  28. 28 http://www.flickr.com/photos/netogonzalez/4476962563/in/photostream/

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Robert Bowen is an emerging author, celebrated podcaster and poet, and most recently the co-founder and imaginative co-contributor of the creative design and blogging duo at the Arbenting Freebies Blog and Dead Wings Designs.

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  1. 1

    Amazing article

    0
    • 2

      Vitaly Friedman (editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine)

      February 25, 2011 7:36 am

      Akyno, “amazing article” is OK, but could you be a little more specific? For instance, what do you find amazing in the article? What part of it did you like? What do you agree with and what not? I think being more detailed in your comment will surely help the writer know what it is that he did well (or not so well) in the article.

      Thank you for your time.

      6
      • 3

        I think he meant:

        “We are bearing the full weight of this world on our shoulders, and are not shielded from the reactions of the public.”

        not:

        “We are baring the full weight of this world on our shoulders, and are not shielded from the reactions of the public.”

        :P

        -2
      • 4

        While I understand where you are coming from Vitaly, I don’t believe Akyno needs to be told that their comment was just “OK.” This isn’t middle school, reader comments do not need your evaluation. A simple, “Thanks, what did you like about the article?” would have sufficed and been a lot nicer. Afterall, the mere fact that Akyno took the time to visit your site and read the article, is beneficial for you.

        12
  2. 5

    Great post man. I’m trying to explain to my girl that it is not the matter of where to find a job, but instead whether she has the energy and idea to make something herself. Jobs in companies are in my opinion like slaves in 18th century.

    17
    • 6

      That’s awesome! I switched from a medium-sized company (where I was a bit unhappy, had that semi-slave feeling) to a small company where my creativity is just shining more than ever.

      1
  3. 7

    Awesome Post Man!, I really like the in short sections.

    1
    • 8

      Hey Chris, Did you also like how each in short section was followed by a way-too-long section, until finally followed by the subtlety redundant “in the end” to cap off a final “in-short”? Of course content is what matters, but anyways, did you?

      0
  4. 9

    Super article and helpful for all… keep post like this… Thanks man :)

    0
  5. 10

    this article presents a great way of thinking that feels motivational and empowering for anyone who has felt a little discouraged while working for a client

    a little constructive criticism, the article is WAY too long to really give it a good read, i am certain the ideas are great but don’t need this lengthy of an exposition to communicate with the reader. consider making these shorter, because the audience of designers im sure has hundreds of articles filling up their twitter / bookmarking feeds.

    6
  6. 11

    Motivational article. Gave me some ideas to move my projects to another level.

    0
  7. 13

    We are not as lucky as Milton Glaser, where the customer send you check for $100k and you are in charge of the project, no questions ask.

    We have to work on projects we don’t like to pay the bills, while working on a side projects which are full of passion and motivation.

    0
  8. 14

    Much more, please! Your article is great and helpful to understand and to improve the own business.

    0
  9. 15

    I love the intentions and ideas behind this article. I also think, however, that it could be more concise.

    Graphic Design as product rather than a service is an interesting one. The Kickstarter approach helps support the direction but, how do we turn the mainstream corner? I have ideas on the subject. I’ll have to formulate a blog post.

    1
  10. 16

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. For the past three years, I’ve been thinking about starting up my own ebusiness but without a guide as to the benefits of it.

    0
  11. 17

    Some interesting points here but an editor and especially a proof-reader would help. Lots of run-on sentences and typos.

    4
  12. 18

    I really liked this article but I can see where there would be problems for many of us in this creative field. For example I know a lot of my logo design clients already have a specific idea in mind when they contact us and many clients are not open to any new creative ideas. They think that the ideas they have are the ones to use. So sometimes the hardest thing in the world to do, is to convince a client that they should take a different path.

    Good article though :)

    3
    • 19

      True, but the best logo ideas come quick and simple.
      we need another article called “How to convince a client that they should take a different path”

      0
  13. 20

    I like the concepts and creativity – didn’t really focus on spelling or grammer. I remember the first big project my partner and I ran – our mantra was, “the good new is, it’s all up to us . . . the bad news is, it’s all up to us.”
    Thanks,

    0
  14. 21

    Nice article. The ideas here seem to really push all the positive buttons… but.

    My situation at the moment is killing me, where I should really be exited. I work full-time at a small ad agency, (20 years this July) in a rural part of Kentucky. I’m the only guy there doing what I do. I’m responsible for every piece of design that goes out the door. Everyone else makes the big bucks. I get my salary with an occasional bonus thrown in here and there for big projects.
    Recently I have got a freelance customer that does a bi-monthly magazine. I do all the ads and layout, etc. They’re makin’ Great Cash – and they, well, compensate me. I get a few other small freelance jobs here and there. I’m still not exactly rollin’ in the dough. (barely getting by) I’m the only guy in town with my level of experience (that I know of.) This area is not really economically booming, so I can’t exactly jump up and down and make demands. It always seems that the go-betweens are always the ones reaping the big benefits.

    Sorry I’m rambling :) Anyway, the article talks of projects and ideas and such, but I already have most of the responsibilities on my shoulders (Just not the financial ones.) I’m hope I’m not being too dense, but I’d like to see some ideas as to WHAT KIND of projects we’re talking about here. I have no end of ideas, but my brain stays fried keeping up with the pace… :( Does anyone have any suggestions that might inspire me to reach for the stars?

    2
    • 22

      sounds to me that if you are the only ad guy in town doin’ what you do that you ought to have some kind of leverage for negotiating a better salary.

      2
      • 23

        Nah, the boss is old, complains about money constantly, and one step away from retirement. She’d close us down tomorrow and she’d be perfectly fine. Every extra cent I get, she acts like it’s killing her to part with it and that I should be so grateful for it that I would work extra late everyday and come in on the weekends too. For nothing.

        0
        • 24

          Sounds like you should set up in competition with your boss. They’d have no-one to replace you and, by the sound of it, no hunger to beat you.

          3
          • 25

            dude open a shop just infront her’s and there u go

            may be u will have to struggle in start for 6-8 months
            but after that u will boom

            or try leaving the town and work in city :))

            thats wht i did :D

            0
    • 26

      I now EXACTLY how you feel. Why is it only when you decide to leave they suddenly start begging you to stay? Why not just appreciate what we as designers do from the beginning…

      1
  15. 27

    its really awesome article which is gonna help me alot thanks.

    0
  16. 28

    Good article, I think you have touched on the reality most of us face, boundaries of our creativity when faced with the pressure of running a business. I hadn’t heard of projects such as kickstarter but will be checking it out. So often at our own business we discuss ideas and say- “well one day we will do that” – Maybe “one day” can become reality after all…!

    0
  17. 29

    yes. I like this article.

    I have always maintained that designers should create their own product to market and design. A service industry is no place for creative talent.

    so it goes…

    -dp

    0
  18. 30

    Too many great designers assume that freelancing or starting their own business is the way to go. Starting a design business – even a one-man business – isn’t about design, it’s about business. You will spend perhaps 60% of your time selling, and 20% doing accounts and managing money. In the middle of a great creative idea, suddenly a client will demand a statement of their last 6 months payments.

    No-one cares about your workload – there is no boss to complain to. You will have 4 jobs with the same deadline, and then the next week everyone is away for a public holiday. From December to February you will probably have no income at all, and you certainly won’t ever have a relaxed holiday again in your life. Clients will phone on weekends, nights, and at 6am without thinking twice.

    You will be inundated with people selling everything from printers to google adwords, who “just need an hour to chat to you about a great concept”. Potential clients will admit after you have spent several hours on research and meetings that they don’t have a cent, clients won’t pay, or will pay 4 months after the bill was sent.

    I was a freelancer for 6 years, an employee in a corporate for 10 years, then self-employed for 10 years. If you’re employed, revel in the pleasure of walking away from your desk for 3 weeks leave (or stay home with a runny nose) and never think for a second of the mess everyone is in back at the office. They will really appreciate you when you return. Enjoy your medical aid, having an IT department to sort your computer hiccups, and a safe salary cheque at the end of each month.

    If you are self-employed, think about how great it is to be able to fire a client, take the work you want and steer the creative direction of your venture. And at least once, go see a movie at 10am during the week to make up for those weekends.

    10
    • 31

      @dianne

      I agree with you completely!
      Been freelancing for almost 5 yrs and everyone just thinks that freelancing means having FREE time. But that isn’t the case at all.

      No holidays, no weekends, having to worry over everything now that it’s just a one-man (or woman) show.

      It gets frustrating at times but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to go back to the corporate life. I love having total control (which has its pros and cons). Having idiot clients suck, sure, but at the end of the day I’d rather get emails from idiots than work under one. :)

      0
  19. 32

    This is great Article, its always nce to find this kind of level and comitment in smashing Magazine, always a breath of fresh air.
    Thanks for making my days better.

    2
  20. 33

    Very inspiring. I think it would be super if you guys can manage to showcase some more case studies in future posts so we can see clearly enough that this idea may be a game changer and it really works.

    Yes, we already know the story of Frank Chimero and Natasha Westcoat from Think Vitamin’s post but more stories showcasing success stories of this idea in the field of Design will be highly encouraging and appreciated.

    Good job guys.

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  21. 34

    What I loved most in this article is the topic “The Challenges: Weight of the World”. There are misconceptions regarding starting up own business. Some may find it good and flexible but others had difficulties. Many of those freelance designers had hard times of marketing their own designs and even finding projects for them. Or perhaps when accepting projects, it may cause high level of stress to them due to some complexity of the project and other tasks to do just like what I experienced before. This is a great article, thanks for sharing!

    2
  22. 35

    Basically stating the obvious and a verbose explanation of a simple concept. Even my pet goldfish knows that “Doing things on your own is risky but worthwhile”, or “There is certainly some merit to creating your own opportunities”. I guess if you’ve been stuck in a cube-farm all your life you might need someone to explicitly tell you something like this. Maybe your article serves to educate corporate types in how the other half (create humans) lives. :) heh

    2
  23. 36

    Kim Phillips | Lucid Marketing

    February 27, 2011 5:29 am

    This is exactly why graphic artists and other “creative” types don’t get respect. They think it’s all about them and their “creative ideas” not getting the attention they want, and they’ve forgotten that it’s about the CLIENT…first, last, and always. That’s why they call it commercial art. And this article is too long by about 1,000 words.

    -14
    • 37

      Excellent point. I’m stunned at how many articles there are that for some reason confuse a commercial artist as an artist whose being hemmed in by constraints of the clients they should be grateful to have (and obviously are, as they wouldn’t have them otherwise). Either be a true artist, which means creating art for yourself at extreme costs, and with major risks, but not really having a choice in the matter (with the greats). If you use an artists tools to sell a client’s product, you are not a “practicing” artist, correct?

      0
  24. 38

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    0
  25. 39

    No end in sight… This section rang so true for me and one my first big freelance that I had no choice to ride out to the point that my life came on the line. No kidding, what should of been a simple catalog job became dragged out not only in endless additions but also a surreal descent into the twisted steroid, porno world my client’s turned out to inhabit. I finished the job and got paid but not without having a utility knife at my neck. Years later, I’m still indy but what an early career nightmare. Good luck all!

    1
    • 40

      This sounds like it would be a great movie or story to expand on. Very glad you came out on top (of sorts)

      0
    • 41

      same thing happened with me
      a 20 page website which i could have wraped up in 15-20 days
      took nearly 1 yr to finish, client was way too old to understand the process behind it

      and i got nuts kinda of money for it :(((

      0
  26. 42

    I also do believe in the same.
    But slicing out a separate time to invest into it
    after the usual grinding or challenging work is difficult.

    Design is Freedom. And best enjoyable when you expert it on the edge. and there is always some one to take care of you in terms of critiques or thumbs up follower.

    It will be good if someone can guide via a separate post on
    How to steal the time and invest into your favorite “Create your Own!” category project..apart from daily bread-n-butter work.

    3
  27. 43

    Yeah this article is way too verbose and has way too little new information.

    2
    • 44

      I feel like the author had something to suggest at some point, started writing the article & just got caught up in the moment. Happens to the best of us… right? The editors didn’t catch it because it’s not their job to edit articles such as the above, they edit articles that are the other kind?

      0
  28. 45

    I would like to ask you why it’s not possible to print your articles? It only prints first page. You can check it on print preview in browsers. Thanks.

    0
  29. 46

    Hey,
    I don’t comment frequently but I love how Smashing Magazine gives space to different concepts and new approaches.

    However, I must say that the way the article was written left me a little confused. This is probably because I need concrete examples and palpable concepts in a daily life. It used many assumptions and felt like it was evading something.

    But in the end I could understand the message, so it’s all good! I hope people can expand more on this subject!

    0
    • 47

      Yes, the client isn’t the enemy — its the only reason you have the luxury of being your own boss. The author is lucky not to have to worry about money, as it can skew how you look at your job, I tend to believe a client is more business, and quite honestly, if I consider myself an artist i’d hope to be slapped across the face until I stopped working for clients and started making art, damned the consequences…

      0
  30. 48

    When your expectations don’t match reality, which one is wrong?

    0
  31. 49

    Ever wonder about your users and what their needs might be?

    1
  32. 50

    A few old information last year

    0
  33. 51

    IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.

    I feel everyone’s pain here, I really do. Trying to explain your motives to closed-minded people is never easy. But not all clients are difficult, and not all designers have a hard time explaining themselves. Too many broad generalizations were made here for my taste.

    I think what this article is really describing is the difference between commercial design and fine art. If you are truly designing something to be used, your work will be criticized regardless of whether someone is paying you or not. And if you chose not to listen, that doesn’t make your creation flawless.

    I have had my share of really impossible projects and clients. But I have also had some amazing ones who allow me to create something wonderful for them.
    With better communication and explanation, you CAN get that innovative idea across.

    And they pay you and respect you for it.

    3
  34. 52

    This is exactly the kind of mentality that helps people get out there and succeed. If people take charge of their own projects and their own business endeavors, they have so much more say in the success of their goals! They can build their own website/online office, work their own projects, be fully responsible for the results. Creative types should definitely follow this advice.

    0
  35. 53

    there are some really good points discussed here. creatives out there need to appreciate this boundless web-based medium and use it to its full potential. Interactive multimedia and mobile access bring a whole other dimension to what was formally somewhat of a constricted media terrain. But the limitless expanse of the web is daunting, because we don’t control the comments, links, or buzz our content will acquire throughout time. i like the “go get ‘em tiger” message that this piece imbues. that ambiguous response which follows in the footsteps of an blog post, a tweet, or a comment should inspire excitement, not fraidy-cat fears. hell, this is the first time i’ve actually commented on a piece despite consistently devouring abundant doses of web content. and it wasn’t so scary after all.

    0
  36. 54

    Good ideas and motivation. No idea ever sees the light of day without taking some chances, believing in yourself (and perhaps a few trusted others) and giving it a whirl. So long as you don’t have to sell your first born to make it happen, the gamble’s probably worth it — hell, it might even be worth putting the kid up as collateral if the idea is REALLY good. ;-)

    0
  37. 55

    There are plenty of times when a creative idea I have fires up and fizzles out very quickly without realizing its full potential. The mind set that stomps out that blaze typically resides in the field of “how the hell am I going to bring that concept to fruition?”

    It is not easy to take a creative idea and push it forward completely on your own w/o the direction of a “boss” or client. The only way I have been able to handle the development process on my own is to pick it apart into very achievable steps….small battles, small victories.

    1
  38. 56

    Solid article … Just i think you could emphasize more the part where creative minds in design or art usually not that “creative” in business and human wise… This is why many middle man exists but with modern web applications number of middle man could be reduces to the ones who actually do the job. Moreover i think person who are into painting with person who are into business can bring better results than average pointer/businessman. Not sure what the impact on income will be though..

    Again solid one…

    0
  39. 57

    It’s interesting that the readership doesn’t mind being thought of as the types that’d enjoy an article parading one of life’s basic truisms as an industry tip of some kind? Create your own opportunities, that’s nice, but no suggestions for how to combat the issue of sustained drive & focus with some ideas (or concrete examples) of opportunity created by people through their own tuition & willingness to take a risk? There was a lot written, however I’m not really sure what was said.
    I can’t deny that the style was something new, a patronizing lecture in the the stream of conscious kerouac run-ons, however ditching the poetry, story, & dialogue for a smourgousbouge of bullet points & summations of the way things are and will always be & how to act as a professional in todays industry by someone who has no reason to know. Anyways, it’s definitely a rough draft & I look forward to the real article… right? ?

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