Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tales of a Desperate Freelancer, part I

I think the Mayans were on to something. They knew 2012 was going to be a rough year, they just didn't know why or for whom.

Our tale of woe begins back in the Spring semester of 2011 when I took a course in Advanced Drawing. I loved it. As the semester progressed, I found myself looking forward to class and, increasingly, dreading the trudge back to my dreary little cubicle. I daydreamed about being a designer or doing art for a living. I was given a couple of HTML/CSS-related projects, but it was to implement designs from the Marketing department. I longed to create and be creative.

I made mistakes.

Two, to be exact, and my manager took me to task for them. After multiple sit downs with him, we came to the conclusion that my heart simply was not in programming. Fearing that attempting to stay in a job I could not stand would only lead to further mistakes and possibly getting fired, I submitted my resignation in November of 2011. The resignation was padded, giving me 90 days to find a new job; my last day would be January 31st, 2012 - I figured that would give me plenty of time to get hired and carry us through the holidays.

Thus I updated my personal website, tried to patch together a presentable portfolio, and began hitting up local and national job sites, looking for design positions that would allow me to do what I loved, but would not have to move. I got several calls from the DC/NOVA area, but they were interested only in programming and/or required me to be on-site. Other leads turned out to be for positions which the company already had someone in mind, they just had to advertise the opening for legal reasons.

In December, I was connected to the owner of a local design firm. We talked and he seemed eager to take someone on. Right after Christmas, I went in and spent a full day in the office, familiarizing myself with the team and their projects. The owner wanted to know when I could start working, as they had some projects coming up. I felt obligated to finish my current position (it was three weeks, versus two), but offered to spend that time learning their systems and brushing up on skills they used that I had not in a while on my own time.

Things were looking up. I was teaching myself new software, the stress of looking for work was over and, while I wouldn't be making as much initially, the potential for growth was much better than in my current position.

On Tuesday, January 17, 2012, I emailed the owner of the firm - whom I'd been staying in contact with - a interesting link. He replied by telling me that business had slowed down and they no longer had the amount of work they needed to support my position.

Reading that email, I could feel the bottom drop out of my stomach; I was devastated. What was I going to do? My last day of employment was 14 days away and suddenly I had nothing! I wanted to keep this from my wife - to quietly find a new job, then break the news to her once everything was alright. But I couldn't do it, I had to tell her. She was devastated as well.

Back to the hunt. I called up a friend of mine who said his company might have a position I could try out for - though I haven't heard back yet - I designed and printed up business cards offering services as a freelance Graphic and Web Designer. I started hitting all the local print and design and computer businesses, hoping to generate leads.

I decided to write a blog article about my experience. Maybe it would generate a lead or two. Maybe it would help someone else who was considering a move to freelance work; hopefully they can avoid the same stress that I have experienced.

How will it turn out - Will I succeed? Will I fail? Do I have the skills and ability to provide for my family as a freelancer?

That chapter has yet to be written.


  1. I'm sorry to hear of your plight. I hope you can find something. I don't know how close you are to NoVa, but I have some design contacts up there. If I hear anything I'll be sure to pass it along your way.

  2. Much appreciated.

    I do have an interview next Tuesday for another developer position working with a friend of mine - a designer I interned with fresh out of college.

    I should probably post about it, but I've been too busy adding to and tweaking my admittedly weak portfolio.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. If you want to add to that portfolio, I know of two non-profit dog clubs who are in desperate need of website make-overs. ( and, careful, they're painful to look at)

    You'd retain all rights to the design and any graphics you create, and be able to plaster your name on every page footer. I haven't heard of any other positions in your area, but I'll keep my ears open for anything.

  4. I actually got hired today as a developer for a local firm! I start out part-time for a few weeks to see if I'm a good fit before committing to full-time, so I'll probably have to keep opportunities such as this on my radar.

    Thanks again!