It’s been three years since I launched my productized service. And, boy, did I do a lot of things wrong! But I’m glad I did. If it weren’t for the many mistakes I’ve learned from and lessons I’ve applied, my business never would have grown to replace my income as a freelancer.
As it turns out, I wasn’t alone in my mission to move away from client work and into a products business. Every day when I read the replies I get from freelancers who read my newsletter, most tell me they want to do the same but that making the transition seems almost impossible.
There comes a time in nearly everyone’s career when changing jobs is the natural next step. As a designer, you might start looking for a new job when you feel you have hit a wall with your current employer or when greater opportunities are present at other companies.
After taking the necessary steps to prepare for a job search, like updating your resume and nurturing a small savings account to provide a little cushion, think about what you want in your next job. Planning for job requirements, salary and perhaps location before applying is obvious, but many people forget to set criteria for one major thing: corporate culture.
Have you ever seen someone make creative notes at a conference and wished that your own notebook was more presentable? It’s much easier to do than you think. You don’t have to be an aspiring lettering artist, and you don’t need to develop top-notch drawing skills.
Making your notes more interesting doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. It’s not like learning to play the piano or taking up diving. If you think sketchnoting looks fun, I have some tips to get you started.
The start of a web project is an exciting time. You’ve met with the client, agreed upon the goals for the project and mapped out a plan for the development of what will be an awesome new website or application — except that is not always how it turns out. Sometimes, despite your careful planning and best efforts, a project will fail.
Failure isn’t something many of us like to think about, but preparing to deal with failure is as important as planning for success. Articles and tips on how to kick off a project right and build a long-term client relationship are helpful in this industry, but if you only focus on what to do when things go right, then you will be ill-prepared for when things get so off track that you are unable to complete a project.
I can’t imagine any other industry in which so much change happens so quickly. If you stop paying attention for a week, it can feel like you’ve not been listening for a year. There’s so much to learn. Falling behind is easy, too. We might be in the middle of a major project, so we put off learning about this newfangled thing called Sass or Node.js or even quickly experimenting with the new Bootstrap or Foundation that everyone is raving about.
Before we know it, we have these elephants of missing knowledge wandering around our minds, reminding us of what we should know and do but haven’t found the time for. Even just looking at beautiful work and seeing what new technique we could use ourselves can seem like too big a task when we’re swamped with projects. So, we tell ourselves we’ll come back to it later. But later never shows up. The guilt definitely does, but not that elusive deadline of later.
More and more designers and developers in our industry are making the leap into becoming entrepreneurs by starting their very own products. One of these aspiring designers is Cat Noone, co-founder of Liberio.
Cat is a young and talented designer and entrepreneur from Brooklyn, New York, now living and working in Berlin. She worked in the field of special education before jumping into a career that she really loves and makes her happy.
Apple launched the Macintosh personal computer in 1984. It was more user-friendly than other PCs at that time — and, with its desktop publishing software, graphical user interface and mouse (all novel at the time), the Mac was uniquely geared to designers. Compared to what we can create on the computer today, the original Macintosh, with only 128 KB of memory, had limited capabilities. At the time, though, it opened up so many new possibilities.
Of course, using a computer didn’t automatically make designers better at their craft. Instead, the new technology gave them more control and sped up their exploration process. As with anything unfamiliar, the Mac sparked debate among designers during this time: While some saw the computer as simply another tool for creating work, like a drawing pen, others saw its potential as a medium in itself.
Take any new interface design or display technology, and chances are that someone somewhere has already compared it to Minority Report. The 2002 dystopian film, with its see-through screens and gesture-driven interfaces, is remembered more for its futuristic tech than for the insidiousness of the technology — pre-crime prediction — that was its actual focus. It continues to be the standard by which we judge new interfaces.
But inspiration doesn’t only come in the form of flashy, futuristic interfaces. At Typeform, we were inspired to simplify online forms by a movie that’s decidedly a blast from the past: the 1983 film WarGames, which centers around a student who remotely logs into a research computer and, through its terminal interface, nearly sparks a nuclear war. Its computers are hardly state of the art, yet the computers’ question-driven interface inspired us to reinvent forms. Instead of a list of questions, how much better would it be if forms presented one easy-to-answer question at a time?
Our industry is a great one. It’s filled with a lot of awesome people building a lot of inspiring things and constantly seeking out ways to express just how much they love doing so. We’ve had blogs and podcasts, and right now hosting conferences is the big thing. Ever more people are organizing conferences, arranging meetups and creating memorable experiences. It’s fantastic to see.
Nothing compares to a good conference: the atmosphere of being immersed in a crowd of people who share the same passion as you, the lessons you learn and advice you take in, and the friends you get to meet and the new ones you make. You leave a good conference re-energized — full of zeal for your job and bursting with fresh ideas.
It’s that time of year again: graduation, when students transition away from the classroom to what will hopefully be a long and successful career in their chosen industry. I recently said goodbye to some of my own website design and development students. Instead of teaching lessons in design principles or responsive websites, I spent our final evening together answering their questions. One of those questions was, “What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?”
At the time, I didn’t have an answer. I could think of many instances when someone helped me solve a particularly complex design challenge or a complex CSS issue or helped me navigate a delicate client situation, but I wouldn’t consider those “best career advice” moments. After thinking about it for a week or so, I came up with four pieces of advice that I received early in my career and that were invaluable to me as I was getting started in this industry but that are just as relevant and useful to me today.