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Take The Initiative and Create Your Own Projects

During my last job with a large corporation, people started to get laid off. Many fellow creatives came to me, as they had no idea what they would do if they were let go. I had come to that small city from New York and my experience was varied and impressive to those who started their careers with this company. Their parents had hoped for their own children to work there and eventually retire in the same homey place. They were anchored in this town that held no other industries. Like layoffs in a town that has a steel mill, there weren’t many options to those looking for work.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

“You’re creative,” I would tell people before my turn came in the next to last round of layoffs (which is some comfort). “You can do so many things that are creative. If you get pushed out the door, make your own projects!” Then advise them where to go and spend the rest of the day creating a book, or painting a series for a gallery show, or create postcards, greeting cards, dolls and websites. This was usually followed by the persons to whom I was speaking to, to ask about something they obviously wanted to explore; leading to a discussion, usually joined by others as well, on how to achieve it. The dividing line is how badly does one want it?

Take The Initiative! Link


Tailor (A) gives creative (B) a snappy new “power suit”, SO irresistible that the client (C) hugs the suit (D) causing it to hit paddle (E), smashing expensive vase (G) and wasting a perfectly goof head of cabbage (I). Further destruction reigns havoc (K – P), dousing all competitors with a toxic chemical (Q). Illustration by Rube Goldberg.1513116

I’m a big believer in self-propelled initiatives. It’s how I make a living. Writing for Smashing Magazine is an initiative. Everything is done before Smashing ever sees it. Authors have to come up with the idea, research it for presentation, get the approval and then write it and submit it. It’s initiative. As with what you may perceive as easy to pitch an article, most initiatives are simple!

All of my career I’ve had people come to me to relay that they have written a book and need a cover or images for the inside so they can send it to a publisher. I tell them they don’t need all that. Just send in the manuscript with a self-addressed-stamped-envelope (many publishers have digital submissions on their sites) and the publisher will choose cover designers and illustrators themselves.

Some people smile at the realization that their dreams were an easy step closer. Some didn’t believe me and insisted I design something for them (and draw, because I’m an “artsy-type!”). I look over the pages and tell them it’s an idea that shouldn’t be “set aside lightly”. They smile and then I tell them it should be “thrown with great force” (with apologies to Dorothy Parker). Some people want it to be done for them. Maybe it’s the prompting of a contest or a “might-as-well-take-it” project.

Would you rather be working on a low-paying project that is screwing you up at every turn or invest in yourself with the time put towards your dream project? It’s not hard coming up with an idea and creating the images, code or what-have-you. The difficult part is making yourself do it and then selling it and that’s where most people fail.

One of my recent favorite self-initiative stories was about an injured creative with time on his hands and a need for income. Dave is a designer at the Iconfactory7 and responsible for the ultimate Twitter icon Ollie the Twitterrific bird8; he had broke his foot while playing soccer over the Fourth of July. That meant that the poor guy was relegated to staying off his feet at home. Rather than wallow in self-pity, he decided to use the opportunity to keep himself from going completely Rear Window and offer up his design skills9 to the large Web community — and successfully so!

Self-initiative is not easy for most people. Working for someone else provides a regular paycheck, security, after a fashion, and someone telling you what to do. No self-motivational projects needed. As one person commented on a past article on crowdsourcing,

“I recently participated in the LG “Design the Future” contest (yeah, I didn’t win)… but rarely do I get the chance to design a cell phone like product… it was a great exercise in creativity and it really let me flex my muscle… and they had some substantial cash prices (first prize was $20,000)… I feel like competitions like that are great for the industry. The rules were pretty relaxed and it really let people go hog wild and show off what they can do. Too often you’re forced to roll with the clients vision. It’s great to have a contest that let’s you be you.”

As I was arguing the pros and cons of crowdsourcing in that article, I just had to reply for his edification:

“I understand your point, but let me play devil’s advocate and explore another option. So you submitted something you really enjoyed designing and it stretched your creativity. You loved your final submission. You didn’t win and the client, I assume, owns it anyway. What if you had designed it but not submitted it and then sought out companies that might purchase the rights to the design? You would have taken a cue to create your own initiative and owned the product rights.”

Was the prize worth giving away all rights to the winner? What would the client have paid a design firm or freelancer to do the work? I’m guessing that the prize cost was considerably less than the one that would have run the company. So, who was the real winner? Which avenue held a better chance for him? The odds of him winning the contest and giving up the idea anyway without winning, or the odds of him being able to sell the design on the open market, or  maybe not, but owning it to try again? I can’t say.

Persistence in selling the idea and protecting it can be daunting. Even though, sometimes even an e-mail comes back right away that says, “I love it!”… and a check eventually arrives. (Note: you shouldn’t participate in such speculative design work as a professional in the first place and here is why — Smashing Editorial)

What Will Get You Started? Link


A tidal wave of ideas or bills (A) will motivate another creative nearby to foolishly open an umbrella (E) in a lame attempt to hold back the flood, causing what looks like a giant earring (H) to fall and pull the hammer (J) so it strikes a piece of metal (K), waking up the baby (L) who must be rocked to sleep (N) by a trained and poorly-paid dog (M), causing the attached backscratcher (O) to tear at your flesh until you decide it’s better to get off your rear and do something. Illustration by Rube Goldberg.1513116

Your idea. Your dream. No one will do it for you. Even if you have to work at something non-creative — use the money to live, but make your dream the priority. Crappy job gets in the way of your dream? Find another crappy job! They’re everywhere and except for the slaughterhouse idea, they won’t drain your creativity. Have the idea? Now set your plan. Just like your previous boss who had always made projects go around and around, it’s finally time to make your own plan, knowing it will work better, and make it happen!

First, research who your customer is. Using Web sources or going to stores are the best way to find out some helpful examples of consumer habits (yes, marketing people never leave the office, they rely too much on figures supplied to them). See what people are buying and talk to them. I used to go to stores that carried products made by the company for which I worked for, and watched what people bought or didn’t and asked them why.

I would smile as I approached them, excuse myself and explain what I was working on and gathered their opinions. This is probably why my products sometimes sold very well. Know your consumer base!

Also, figure out costs and how you will cover them. You may need a loan or investors. What website and functionality will you need? Packaging, having stock, shipping, advertising, taxes? Is your dream project for you to start a business or do you want someone else to produce it? If you are producing it yourself, you can get a business loan, but you are about to take many, many risks. Get legal and financial advice next. It’s well worth the money and will give you the final tally of whether or not this will be your dream or nightmare.

If you are creating something to pitch to a company for their purchase or licensing a property (certain photos for calendars and cards, for instance), there are a similar but different set of rules.

Start with the idea and marketing, create a style guide and/or presentation. A friend of mine wanted to publish a graphic novel for a pitch for a property she was trying to sell but couldn’t afford upfront fees for an artist and writer and printer, so I told her to use a WordPress blog to post her promotional material that she already had and that would give her a great presentation — the easy way.

Research which company you think would want to take on the project. Again, go online or to a store and look around. Want to really impress potential clients? Ask the store’s permission to set everything up; take videos of shoppers and their answers. What better way to produce proof of a need and then give clients the means to fulfill it!? Let your imagination run wild! As with the man who was so excited by the contest he entered, stretch yourself creatively.

Found the perfect prospect? Do your research and find the people you need to reach. There are many business networking sites. Search the company and find people and their titles. Get addresses and phone numbers. Call the receptionist and ask her/him who is the head of marketing or if they have an R & D contact person. If they don’t know, ask to speak to the secretary of the VP of marketing. Maybe she/he can get you closer. Also, use your network. Do any of your contacts know someone you are trying to reach?

Sounds difficult? It isn’t really; just keep in mind that it takes a lot of persistence, patience, as well as a good sense of humor. Once you lost one of those, you won’t make it.

A Non-Disclosure Agreement Is Standard Link


While feeding yourself (A), the spoon pulls the string (B), flipping a piece of drilled iron into the head of a parrot (E), who is knocked unconscious and knocks it’s beak into a bowl (G) which spills parrot food into a bucket (H) that sets of fireworks (K) inside your house with a razor sharp sickle (L) attached to it, cutting the string (M) and forcing you to remember the paperwork to enforce your rights by smacking you in the face with a contract repeatedly! Illustration by Rube Goldberg.1513116

It’s standard to either have your own Non-Disclosure Agreement or pick up a copy of Tad Crawford’s book on contracts and forms. Bigger companies will insist on using their own. Bigger corporations, to their own detriment, usually have no access point for outside ideas. They are afraid your idea may be something they are working on and they will be sued down the line. Middle-sized companies will just tell you they happen to be working on the same idea. Document your contacts and submissions well.

I was recently told over a dozen product designs would not be used. I later heard the products were available in every catalog world-wide. Did they think my price would go up if I found out how well the work did? You bet it will! Keep your expectations high (expect the middle to low high) when negotiating. A recent question came in from an artist in Mexico who ran across a sleazy representative in the United States who was basically ripping her off for one of her licensed characters. She had jumped at the chance because it was her first time working in a licensing arrangement. I hope she followed my advice.

As with any business transaction… think! Anyone who rushes your decision is up to something. Do your research and see what you find.

Bless The Web And All Who Surf It! Link


Extended and dangerous hook (A) catches old fashion sign (B), causing electrical shorts that start a fire and the boot to swing back, kicking the football (C) over the goal post (D) and into a colander (E) which tips the watering can (G) to soak the creative’s back, pants and shoes, which will lead to misunderstandings and new nicknames. The string (I) pulls open the cage (J) allowing the bird (K) to go to eat the worm (M), as the bird had been starved in retaliation for all the Twitter fails, causing the shade to be pulled down (N), which reminds the creative to mail that proposal in his pocket. Using theiWeb only takes half the steps. Illustration by Rube Goldberg.1513116

The Web holds a billion of possibilities. As I mentioned about my friend who built a blog, rather then going through the costs of print, you can hardly lose with a great idea and the ability to bring it to life on the Web. With e-commerce made so easy, how can you not have a site that sells something? At least most of the people I know have a Cafepress16 or Zazzle17 “shop”.

When I first started with web design, back in the days when processors ran on mud and sticks… and fire, which was new, I put up sites for my infamous chili recipe, one for each of my kids, a site for toy collectors, and it went on. Why? The Web was young and there were probably only 73 sites live and forty of them were mine!

Use your down time. Partner with friends and split the rewards. Ever hear of a group of social outcasts who got together and created something called “The Onion18?” No? I haven’t either, but I do hear good things and that they crawled their way up to be, I believe, the number one humor site in the world. It must have started with an idea and someone’s dream.

(ik) (vf)

Footnotes Link

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Speider Schneider is a former member of The Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine, “among other professional embarrassments and failures.” He currently writes for local newspapers, blogs and other web content and has designed products for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson, ESPN, Mattel, DC and Marvel Comics, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon among other notable companies. Speider is a former member of the board for the Graphic Artists Guild, co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee and a former board member of the Society of Illustrators. He also continues to speak at art schools across the United States on business and professional practices and telling frightening stories that make students question their career choice (just kidding).

  1. 1

    Cheers!~ Well written and a nice read… Quite inspiring… thanks!

  2. 3

    Agustin Dondo

    October 29, 2010 6:17 am

    Hmmm I don’t know, are you sure you are going the right way with this kind of articles?

    • 4

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

      October 29, 2010 6:50 am

      Agustin, could you please explain what you didn’t like in this article? We welcome feedback and constructive criticism!

      • 5

        @Vitaly — I believe from the responses so far, the article is on the right track. Can’t please everybody!

        Now if we can get rid of that “please everyone or you don’t get paid rule!”

        • 6

          LOL I got rid of that rule a long time ago. I have many friends that are freelance designers that I do work for from time to time and they always tell me I am too harsh with my clients. I do not live by the “please everyone” rule and I make that clear before I take on any client. My clients must understand that I am the professional they are hiring, if they were the professional they would not need me. Sure I have had many prospects walk away with my “rules”, but I charge more and I get people serious about their needs and weed out the riffraff and “something for free” people before I waste too much time. And I have never missed a meal, I can pay my bills, and save a little each month… so what is the harm with making sure I enjoy what I do by making my “rules of engagement” that ensure I never dread turning on my computer or checking my email LOL

      • 7

        nothing is wrong with the article, it fits with any publication. motivating your readership to have courage to be more than they have imagined for themselves. regardless of your core topic, spreading a little hope should always be welcomed… just ask Oprah :-) (I am still waiting on my new car if she is listening!) some people are just too pessimistic to believe in themselves so they take positive advice and rear against it. thank you for the article and seeing that we are approaching a new year where we start to think about personal goals this is timely advice for everyone.

        • 8

          Thanks, Chad! Glad to see you enjoying another rant of mine. ;)

          We do try to hear all points and perhaps there was a legitimate concern from Agustin. As he never returned to explain his feelings, I guess we’ll never know. It might have been enlightening.


          • 9

            Actually I liked the article because it has so much of me in it. I once did the daily grind working with large corporations traveling the country giving speeches at conferences about customer service for the restaurant industry. It was horrible work but paid really well. I just decided that “this is not what I want to do”. I had never even done a website design but I knew I was creative so I took the leap and left my job to do web design, something I knew nothing about. I screamed and cursed at my computer, kicked it a few times, and had to replace a couple of them for my first 12 months. But I was determined. Now 9 years later I have worked with some of the worlds largest names in business like hbo, showtime, american idol, and many others. I would never have done this without taking the initiative, and even now these many years later it is nice to be reminded that you still have that power in you. Sometimes the days just start to all be the same in the design business. it is like the movie groundhog day LOL so we just need the occasional reminder that we can change the daily routine with the right initiative. Thanks again!

    • 10

      Is it the business/instructional/inspirational aspect you don’t like? Please share — it’s the only way I can tailor my work for the Smashing readers.

  3. 11

    Great article! I often find myself doing a lot of what you’ve described above. Taking initiative and designing for fun helps to keep you sane sometimes. And you always have your portfolio to show a “fun” piece off with, so even if no one buys it you still win.

    • 12

      Thanks, Chris! Just remember that an idea never dies. If it doesn’t sell, then keep trying. J.K. Rowling was turned down by 14 publishers for Harry Potter. I believe she finally sold it.

  4. 13

    A great, great post!!!

    I’m feeling like in the same situation…

    I’ll create my personal project

    • 14

      Even if it’s an hour or two each week, Alessandro, you will eventually have something wonderful!

  5. 15

    i am highly impressed and motivated. i am a creative but i feel i should do more than designing for my clients. get something up thats mine n not a clients idea. nice and timely piece.

  6. 17

    Nice article. Taking the initiative and getting started are the biggest hurdles that determine the success of personal projects. Many people lack motivation. Sometimes it’s due to environment and time constraints, and other times it can actually be a chemical imbalance that prohibits the necessary drive to take action and get things done.

    I think a spot in this article about stimulants could be warranted. ;) No, definitely not saying become a drug addict! But there are some supplements and medications that can really help the issue of taking action; ie energy drinks for starters, thermogenics like RedLine, energy supplements like Jack3d, prescription medications like adderall?

    Hey Mr. Friedman, I submitted a recent author application a few days ago, just curious as to whether or not it has been reviewed? Thanks!

    • 18

      adderall is the fuel that powers my engine!

    • 19

      I find lack of sleep gives me time but motivation is the biggest stopping block for people. If medication helps, then medicate away! Legally, of course.

  7. 20

    While I have been doing this for some time, I often remind myself that this is not my first choice. There may be additional skills to develop outside one’s expertise and opportunity cost still applies.

    While it is almost always better to do something, rather than nothing, it’s still important to weigh the costs of initiating a self-directed project. Of course if you’re under 25 and single, it might not be as critical.

    • 21

      Patrick, I can’t say that I agree with that. I honestly think anyone involved in web design/development should have their own side project. Whether you work for an agency or you’re a freelancer, having something you own and control is a very valuable learning experience if nothing else. Like you said, there may be additional skills to develop (like learning SEO / PPC etc..), and while you may miss opportunities from your typical line of business, it can’t replace the value of an additional skillset.

      Time is obviously an issue if you have a family and a full time job, but even if it’s only 2 hours a week, that’s still 100+ hours in a year dedicated to something new.

      • 22

        I have to agree with Gary. Sure, you must keep up skill sets and promotion and everything else you need to run your business but part of that is creating the income to do all that. Sometimes you have to dig the truffles yourself.

    • 23

      I understand completely. I go crazy from the constraints of the work I do sometimes, and I find it helpful – in moderation – to break free and do something creative for myself/a non-corporate audience.

      But it’s easy to go overboard when you’re really passionate about something. If I start two side projects and manage my time badly, my day job suffers.

      • 24

        I understand completely! A one hour session of Photoshop before bedtime becomes a 3 am hypnotic state, with nothing else in your senses. It’s how we suffer for our art.

  8. 25

    Bravo! Very encouraging and inspiring. It helped me reaffirm that I really do have a passion for my burgeoning project. But just need a little better idea of how to get it out there. Thanks!

    • 26

      It starts with an idea, Todd and moves forward from there. Sometimes you hit a road block and have to figure a way around. Sometimes speaking with a peer or two can give you the information or brainstorms the ideas you need to keep moving it forward.

  9. 27

    Excellent article, very inspiring. When I actually take the time to create my own projects, they don’t always turn out successful, but are at least fun to work on. As an example, when freelance business was slow, I started playing with illustrative typography. With minimal marketing, I was able to get a one-time illustration job at a major magazine. That gave me enough incentive to continue to build my illustration portfolio and to pursue it as a secondary career.

  10. 29

    Well written and great topic! I find myself having to come up with the projects myself these days as well. Glad to know I am not the only creative thinking ahead. :)

    • 30

      I wish more people could do it but I have found that many creatives just like a pity-party.

      I get a lot of network connections who come to me to tell me they are desperate for work and what advice I can give them to increase their business. I lay out a marketing and promotional plan but they never do it (usually saying they don’t have the time). If they can’t be motivated to work on their primary income, then initiatives will never even start.

      Being creative doesn’t mean you’ll be successful in this business. Drive, motivation and the desire to succeed is utmost to growing as a freelancer and as a staff person. To prove your worth to an employer, it’s always good to show them you are thinking of the company’s future and revenue stream.

  11. 31

    very inspiring! i was laid off about 4 months ago and at first it was really hard to get out of your comfort zone having stable pay check but to be honest after shock of “wtf im gonna do now?” passed you realize great potential within yourself. the ideas that was coming in my mind during this stressful and as i call “survival mode” stage were shocking and challenging and scary for me since i always played safe in my life. I was amazed what person is capable of and i just decided to do it… i opened my web design company and started outsourcing. I recognize my strength and focused on improving those and my weaknesses that i delegate to people who get high doing parts of the project that annoys me. It’s hard to get to this point and for some (me inclusing) you have to lose a lot before you gain even more. besides it’s great not being dependent on your employer and run your life. That totally worth a little struggle!

    • 32

      When the overworked staff people I knew started stressing from the increased workload from the massive layoffs, some started to question going freelance as so many ex-employees have done. When they resign their positions, we all apply for it.

      Life is funny that way. You need to make your way. Staff or freelance, it’s our personal struggles to survive and you can’t do it without going out and hunting. The antelope won’t just walk in your door and say, “eat me!”

  12. 33

    Creating your own projects and putting down the pavement to your future is hard at first, one must eat dirt and sweat blood, but this is only at first. Those who do decide to venture into their own projects and build something from the grown up wil be better off. I have decided not to have a boss, i want to be my own boss and I tell you the benefits are amazing, you just need to know what you want more or less and how to go about to conquer this. If you dont quit and move forward regardless of circumstances and negative experiences you will get to somewhere prettier more green and lushing with life. In my country their is a saying ¨con el cuchillo en la boca¨ That means with the knife in your mouth. So all you kids who want to grow and do big things forget what you have been told, start your own projects and put knife in your mouth and go conquer new grounds, who will stop you in the end only yourself. Good luck and greetings from the Dominican Republic. GREAT TEXT :D

    • 34

      But remove the knife before you visit a client…for some.

      Inspirational words, Pedro!

  13. 35

    I’m a big fan of this article. I am glad Smashing Mag is open to articles that are educational and inspiring like this one.

    The article is well written and opens up a variety of ideas from an experienced writer. Being creative means more than being artsy and having design skills. I think it means being creative in our business and marketing practices by finding new and better ways to doing things. We can create our own ways of effectively accomplishing tasks and projects. We should all strive to not leave creativity just to our sketchpads or photoshop files but also to our marketing strategies and project initiatives.

    The only thing not to be creative with is our accounting…

    • 36

      Thanks, Seth. I think we focus on our digital software skill sets much more than our business or people skills. All very important.

      But creativity is the key to the door from mediocrity to greatness. Crowdsourcing is the bathroom.

  14. 37

    This is so true and so inspiring. the only advantage to overpopulation is that no matter how niche your product and market, there are thousands of people who will love your idea.

    • 38

      Exactly, Diane! Look up the “1,000 True Fan Rule.” The concept is simple, albeit not without toil and sweat, but it is a key to success they just don’t teach in art school.

  15. 39

    Thank you for the article – this is why i read Smahingmagazine a few times per week.

  16. 41

    Julien Denoyer

    October 30, 2010 10:50 am

    Awesome article…very inspirational! This will help and motivate me with a small business I’ve started locally and on ETSY:
    Marketing for me is that hardest aspect, right now it’s all about reading reading and more reading.
    Thanks for this article!

    • 42

      ETSY is a great resource! Yes, marketing is a lot of reading but also your gut will give you the feeling of what is right for YOU.

      Best of luck!

  17. 43

    Cool article…and illustrations!
    My question is as a 22 year old guy with little web development experience…how do I turn my idea into a final product? I am trying to make a website like GrooveShark or but lack the know how about how to do the music player/streaming part of it…

    Any advice would be appreciated

    Keep rockin :)

    • 44

      I’m going to have to throw the old, study in the areas needed and apply them to your product and marketing. Part of the whole process is your idea, which really has to be your passion. Research, talk to people (without giving away your idea), partner if you have to and dedicate yourself to that project.

      Too often, we have the idea and just let it slip away. It’s hard work creating and marketing something yourself. It’s also hard doing the same thing for an abusive boss or toxic workplace, just for the little check.

      My experience comes from staff positions that allowed me to work with my passion, so I rely on the knowledge of the industry and apply any idea to the specific industry. In your case, your sites. Register your URL quickly and build from there. Make sure you understand who your real audience will be, study marketing books/articles, and stick with it. That is the biggest problem. STICK WITH IT!

      I have a contact who will come to me with the same idea once every five years. This year, I put the ball in her court to move into position to get going. I haven’t heard anything in a while.

      Best of luck!

  18. 45

    I have mixed feelings about this article (I’ll admit I didn’t read it all). I worked very hard for many years to achieve a dream that never came to fruition. Some other dreams fell by the wayside too. I’m not seeking pity or feeling sorry for myself. I believe this is the way life is. When someone works hard and DOES achieve their dream it’s easy to feel like the hard work, the drive, etc is what achieved it, when in reality it is a combination of lots of things and one of them, that self-help books and motivational speakers do not like to mention, is luck….fortune….circumstances beyond our control….whatever you want to call it. I’m not downplaying hard work and self-discipline, but just because you want something very badly and work very hard to get it does not mean you WILL get it.

    So, what does this mean? It means that we need to approach life in a different way (I’m not saying I know exactly what that is) than is often preached to us from our modern culture. I think it may have a lot to do with focusing on what’s important: family, friends, ourselves and approaching the idea of success with a different definition.

    I am currently running my own successful web business from my home (this was not the dream I had). I still can hardly believe it has worked out (5 years now). Why did it work out? Well, certainly I can point to a lot of hard work on my part….but there were also some circumstances that catapulted my business into existence, circumstances that I really had no control over and that could have just as easily not worked out…..

    So I am grateful….but I also know that there others out there who work just as hard or harder than I do who, for whatever reason, have not achieved the success I am currently experiencing. My thoughts are with you. I know exactly how you feel.

    • 46

      Sometimes it doesn’t work…at first and sometimes it mutates into something else as the demographics shift. Who dares wins!

    • 47

      “I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.” – Ecclesiastes 9:11

  19. 48

    Very encouraging and inspiring. We already decided to come up with own project. Hopefuly, you’ll all hear about it very soon

    • 49

      Parallaq – are you stalking my articles around the web? Good to see you as a loyal reader!

      Best of luck to you!

      • 50

        It looks like we love to read same online magazines. Looking forward to see more articles like this one

        • 51

          I’m sure there will be more. Check the link (my name) for past articles and blathering rants.

  20. 52

    As for joining hand with friends, well, my experience tells me think rather once and twice before doing it, if you really really need to do that. Friends can remain friends for what they were friends for before co-venturing. Don’t ever go into venture with friends only for the sense of companionship or you find it that you have same values or so. Do it only on a really need basis and do it in a proper manner so that both entry and exit points are defined. Yeah, sure, my experience colors this piece of advice…

    • 53

      Of course. Never known it to work unless both parties respect each other with business assurances, more to protect the friends, rather than harm them.

  21. 54

    schneider. ’nuff said.

  22. 56

    This is a great way to direct your own career path. Instead of working as though you’re on a never-ending assembly-line – why not dedicate a certain part of your work to playing, and to chasing after opportunities that speak to the deeper part of yourself?

    I like what you say about “stick-to-it-iveness” as being a vital element in growth. It is only though practice we get good at something, and through dealing with roadblocks that we learn how to maneuver around them in the future.

    Innovation happens when you break rules and actively seek to solve problems that other people take for granted. Complacency is a killer – I know even in this early stage of my career I am actively railing against it.

    Hearing from people like you who’ve found success in taking the road less traveled is very motivating! Thank you for this article.

    • 57

      Thanks, Heath!

      Always move forward. A staff position may afford you that but in the end, you are a company’s property to do what they choose. That might be a layoff or firing. Never get too comfortable!

  23. 58

    Dear Readers –

    I’m hitting the road for a few days, so I’ll get back to comments as and when I can.

    Thanks for reading and I hope you got something big out of this article. Success is within YOU! You just have to work for it.

    – Speider

  24. 59

    Thanks for the great article. I’m in the middle of a personal project, and I need a quick kick in the shins like this every so often.

    I’d like to add a tip too – maybe think of signing up for a course that requires the delivery of at least an aspect of your personal project for assessment. That way you’ll have the devil chasing you!

    • 60

      Great tip! Often any creative refreshment can really inspire and encourage. Thanks!

  25. 61

    Hey Speider,

    I have read a lot of your articles here on SmashMag. (been a follower here for as long as i can remember) but somehow your articles stick with me the most. I like your pieces as they show a different vision of our industry, of life even. And i think you have inspired more people that you will ever know :) … No i don’t need anything from you or something like that. I honestly feel that way and i think many do as well.

    About this piece:
    I am launching my own SEO company and your words strike me because i am still in middle of my own project. I have had a long way behind me, but an even longer one ahead. It is new niche for me and it takes a lot of time to learn it all.
    But like you, i believe the only person who can make success happen is oneself.
    While i love my current job at a web development agency, i got my own dreams and i don’t wanna be fourty (now 25) before i can say that i started to reach out to them.

    I rather get knocked down and go back up that horse now, and afford a few years to mastering the basics than starting too late.

    For that matter, SmashMag has only a few pieces on SEO and those are not very recent.
    So can i ask the community if anyone has any sources of information or tools or anything?
    I got a nice listing myself already, but different approaches wield different results.

    Looking forward to your return speider :)

    • 62

      My articles stick like my grandmother’s cooking. Maybe that’s not a great analogy — my articles don’t cause irritable bowel syndrome.

  26. 63

    Benjamin de Vlieger

    November 1, 2010 2:32 am

    Thanks.. Great and very inspirational article!

  27. 65

    Marshall Baltzell

    November 1, 2010 6:08 am

    Great article. I find that taking initiative and having a set deadline need to go hand-in-hand. Without a time frame the initiative can fade quickly when projects get stuck with some mundane detail that doesn’t affect the outcome. Always keep the ball rolling, whether it’s for clients or yourself.

    • 66

      True, Marshall! It’s hard to drive one’s self with private projects. If not, we would all have a published novel or design book.

  28. 67

    That was an inspiring post, I guess many of us have experienced the situations described. These posts are very captivating but I think user comments are even more interesting!

    • 68

      I write to encourage discussion. The readers have the keen insight that makes for the real lessons.

  29. 69

    Great post! People too often forget that freelancers are their own boss, and it can be hard to get going when there’s no-one like your boss around. I think that’s why companies like dubli are proving increasingly popular.

  30. 70

    Well said sir. “How badly does one want it” between two strong tags pretty much sums it up for me. Thanks for the article.

    • 71

      That seems to be the separation point for most people — how badly do they want it? Thanks, Alan!

  31. 72

    Hats off!
    Your writing style is so simple and easy to understand.
    Keep writing.
    You have a large audience which is multiplying every day.

  32. 74

    I agree with the very first thing you mention – take initiative. A lot of people never make it that far and then wonder why they haven’t created something snappy.

    • 75

      Thanks, Joe! I get a lot of people who tell me they are desperate for work and I give them an article-length rundown of a marketing plan to success and they never act upon it. Some people just shouldn’t freelance.

  33. 76

    Hello, Mr. Schneider.

    I just want to say that a friend in the IT and web design business in Florida linked me to your article. I have been wanting to do something along the lines of what you’ve described in your article for a while now.

    I find it inspiring and I’m goiing to see what I can do to make it a reality.

    I loved the article, thank you for writing it. It was also my first visit to this website.


    • 77

      Welcome to Smashing, Joel! Just focus on one project and dedicate some time each week, with milestone deadlines and treat it as if someone is paying you, because, in the long run, someone will pay you.

      Good luck!

  34. 78

    Still on the road, gang. Got stuck in Texas for a whole day. I’m not enjoying sleeping in my car!

    I’ll reply to comments as soon as I can. Thank you for the compliments and I’m glad you enjoyed the article — I’m going to ask Smashing for a raise in my rates ;). If it sparks a small fire under you, all the better!

  35. 79

    after I saw the flamebait about the spec work I had no more reason to read the post… good bye

    • 80

      Yeah, me too! ;) Although, almost 800 tweets and a couple of hundred “likes” can’t be wrong. While it is spec work, you are speculating on yourself and not on, say a design contest or a client who will “pay what they think it’s worth.”

      When you started your freelance business, you speculated that clients would pay for your services. If they aren’t, you either move to another industry or keep speculating on your hopes and dreams. Is it worth it to you?

  36. 81

    Thank you Speider….i wanted to start my own online project. I have been designing and developing for people for 5 years but i have been so afraid to work for myself. I always thought ill fail but now i think its time i start working on my own website. Thank you very much!

    • 82

      Thanks, Mohammed! Just set yourself realistic milestones and don’t fret the little setbacks. You need to take care of life and work. With some self-discipline, patience and persistence, you can achieve your goal.

      Best of luck!

  37. 83

    Love it! Great article that explains how the little things turn into big things! I just wish my little thing would do just that…turn into something big. My buddy was good at that and for the past five years he made his little hobby a big business – does it full time. Gotta watch my expenses!

    • 84

      Thanks, Steve! You REALLY need to believe in what you are trying to put forth. My family is always suggesting (or rather insisting) things I should do with my talent. My late grandmother would remind me that when I was five years-old, I drew a funny cartoon and why didn’t I do that for a living. She would treat it like an insult that I didn’t sit down immediately with a Crayola and start drawing. Just yesterday, my sister instructed me on how I should go to a hobby store and buy “nice paper” and make my own greeting cards and…(this is where I yelled at her, asking what the hell she knew about the card business, sinking money into supplies and speculating on a withering market). Everyone has wonderful ideas that YOU should do with your talent, but only YOU can decide on your passion and expenditures.

      If I were to ask my family for the money to back up their “great” ideas, they would fall silent very quickly. Businesses take operating funds. Scrimp and save and launch yourself when you can. In the meantime, do the free stuff to start and market what you will one day produce. Plan and THEN execute!

      Best of luck to you!

  38. 85

    Best article I have read in a long time, at many levels, thank you very much for writing such an informative, inspiring, gutsy and out of the box piece of your mind, farewell!

    • 86

      Thanks, Jaime! I feel that articles like these elevate us all and the design field in general. In these tough times, we all need to hustle a little more to stay profitable.

  39. 87

    Monster Turbine

    January 7, 2011 12:59 am

    Moving back up the shiny headband, four tiny hex-head screws reveal the seam at which the headphones can be expanded along their internal metal bracing.

  40. 88

    Your article is really informative, in fact with the current economic recession and high rate of job insecurity, it’s indeed very important that employees acquire valuable skills that will make them survive economically when there is job lay off.
    The importance of acquiring useful skills can not be over emphases because, it sure a way to making profitable living and at the same time provides opportunities for prospective entrepreneurs to set-up, run and manage their own businesses that will give them freedom.

  41. 89

    A great article. Its really hard to find these kind of ‘speeches’ (if i may call it). Most of the times you are surrounded by thoughts which push back your aspirations. But occasionally I get to read these kind of articles and it helps to stay motivated.


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