This is the story of how my uncle's sudden death pushed me to pursue my dreams of freelancing and truly stand on my own two feet.
It was a rainy February morning when I got the call. The funeral was the following weekend and though I was not close to my uncle the stories that were told at his funeral touched me deeply. He was a master mechanic, and towards the end of his life volunteered by helping fix bicycles for the homeless. He was never well off himself and always had assistance wherever he lived, and was at times homeless himself. Despite his position he found something he did amazingly well: fix things.
At the time of his death I had been working at a small agency as a designer. I was hired there not because I had a sparkling portfolio of high-quality work but because I had a hunger to learn the trade and I was willing to be mentored. My time there was formative in my development as a designer. I learned what it takes to keep clients happy and honed my craft. Still, there was always this feeling that I could be more. More than just a worker delivering other people’s dreams in exchange for a steady paycheck and a false sense of security that most of us feel from a full-time salaried position.
I was ready to go out on my own, do my own work, make my own partnerships. So that same month I quit my job and "took the plunge," as they say. Nothing in life makes you work harder, learn faster, and stretch farther than a deadline. Freelancing has a deceptive illusion of relaxed freedom from the outside. In reality you become more aware of how in indebted you are to the people you choose to engage in business with. Likewise you learn how much they depend on you for success and growth of their company. The safety nets of 401ks and guaranteed health benefits are suddenly something you have to think about and find your own way; it's not easy. For me freelancing is a great exercise in the art of adaptability and self sufficiency. In the process you find out who you are, what you’re made of, and where you can add value.
It is important to remember that whatever direction you choose in life, your career, and beyond, you are the "Sole Proprietor" of your life. Don't let other people tell you how to live and where to work. You will undoubtedly have the most impact and maximize your contribution to society by being yourself and following your passions. I can't write an article about how be an amazing freelancer and make tons of money, because I don't know you, your passions, and what you offer. You, however, are able to take that dive and learn about yourself. Results may vary, so take this advice at your own risk. And it is a risk…but then again, so is staying at a job that is going nowhere. Risk will find you either way.
I can't help but to end with a Dr. Suess quote:
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!
If you want to share your experiences with freelancing, following your passion, or the like, drop me a note.
Mike DeSart is a Visual/UX Designer at SurveyMonkey.com and general DesignNerd. Connect with him on Twitter @mikedesart.
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