A Year Forward

As the years move on, each go a bit faster. The perception that I had of one year as a child, an entire lifetime, becomes a little bit more visible, and tangible. Statements like “This year, I intend to…” become a little more realistic, as our grip on a single year improves.

Let this post be my year-end rambling. I may have a few things on my mind, and I’d love to get some of them out in this post.

In my freelance career, it has been fun to divide my operation into separate years, and make goals. Many of my records date back to 2002, when I was 19 years old, and first started caring about finding out exactly what I was capable of. At 19, I wasn’t concerned with any annual income. In fact, I was only aware of my annual income when it was substantial enough to be considered a decent year’s pay. Around the age of 22, when I was able to devote most of my time to design, the lightbulb went off, and I realized that “Oh, this is what I’m gonna do for the rest of my life?” So thus, my respectable, full-time operation truly gained momentum.

Each year has been progressively better than the last, and working for myself has never felt better. A few years ago, I stopped caring about reaching any sort of number by the end of the year, and instead nestled myself into the comfort of being immersed in my work, and earning a decent living at it.

But even without stressing out over it, each year continues to top the year prior. I’m beginning to think that this is a result of building a momentum and rapport with my clients, but also due to an overall optimistic attitude towards my work and the future.

I’ve learned that freaking out about the future is extremely counter-productive.

For those of you that are afraid to take the plunge into freelance, I want to assure you that all of your concerns are indeed valid. There are always great reasons to NOT do something. But, I can also assure you that the only way to know if you can swim or not is to jump in. I have a feeling that if you want to survive, you’ll figure it out. Your pessimistic panic, however, will result in failure.

Pessimism is simply how you choose to perceive your world. A true pessimist makes a pessimistic assumption, and then seeks out confirmation for their prediction, blinding themselves to the positives from the experience.

Actually, if you’re on the fence about going freelance, let me lay something out that may make the decision easier for you: If you’re a pessimist, you probably will not be able to make it in freelance. Success in freelance requires you to stay positive. If you can’t stay positive, then you may not be the perfect candidate. However, I would love to be proven wrong on this.

Souls May Decay

I met a few new people this year. One of which is a college senior, with a passion for local startups. I was inspired by his ideas for seeking out local designers, developers, and founders, and finding a way to connect them all, and to start a dialog within our city. I enjoyed his passion, as it reminded me of my own, when I had the time to carry out my big ideas. While I’m quite excited that I’ve immersed myself in freelance, which I love, I do tend to wish that I had more free time to carry out every decent idea that pops in my head.

But, there are people out there who are just as excited for these big ideas as you are. While finding them may be tough, knowing them may give you an outlet to see some of these ideas come to fruition.

In one of these meetings with other local creatives (which I was ridiculously nervous to attend, and horribly out of my element) I was excited to meet other people who were doing big things. It was so encouraging to see other people’s passion for their work. This “fire” is contagious, and I’ve learned to be more intentional about seeking out people with fire and passion for what they do, as they can encourage and enrich our work, and in turn, our lives.

I notice the passion, because I also notice the dread. There are so many designers out there who have no “smile” attached to discussing their work. They discuss their job the same way they would discuss a funeral, no smile, no passion, no pep, it’s just “where they work.”

I feel for these people. I am slightly annoyed by them, but I’m more concerned and interested in what exactly destroyed their soul. It’s not their fault. They went into a design job, wide-eyed, and slowly, without knowing, someone began chipping away at their soul. It didn’t come down like a guillotine, but just a little bit at a time. Their great idea gets shot down. They feel unvalued. They eventually become a part of the machine, a machine that doesn’t smile, a machine that doesn’t speak positively, and a machine that attaches navy blue coveralls to the word “work,” as opposed to the pride that they once had for their own “work” of art.

Your soul may decay. If you let it go for too long, you’ll just find yourself completely out of smiles. You’ll forget how to talk about something that you’re excited about. You’ll become a pessimist, and it won’t necessarily be your fault.

Just decide, someday, to have a major life-change, and to turn that pessimism off.

Up to you.

The Early Bird is a Machine

I’m no stranger to freaking out. I am often sat before a mountain of work, trying to figure out who is to blame. I get annoyed, irritated, frustrated, and grind my teeth, until I simply admit and realize the fact that that day, because I have all of this freelance freedom, had chosen to sleep in.

My annoyance and frustration may have been coupled with a bit of grogginess. What felt like the beginning of my work day was actually the early afternoon, and the rest of the world were responsible enough to be winding their work days down.

I just felt like the lazy slob that woke up at 11:30.

So I decide to do the one thing that never fails to change my complete perspective on stuff. That evening, I get in bed around 9:00, and wake my lazy butt up at 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00 am the next morning.

Seriously. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up at 3:00 am. When I do, it’s like I’ve woke up in the Land of Oz, and everything is in bright colors. My brain just works in the most efficient manner possible, and I get 2-3 days worth of work done in 5-6 hours. By Noon, I’ve conquered the days tasks, and then some, and have the rest of the day (and daylight) to clear my head. I become available for my wife, and for my friends that want to have lunch or coffee. I start breathing in the extra oxygen that I’ve allowed myself, and wonder why I was such a lazy piece of crap yesterday, and vow to never sleep in again.

I then go on to imagine what would be different if I could wake up at 3:00, Monday-Friday for an entire year. Would my entire life get better? Would I double my income? Could I start a new business with my afternoons?

I don’t know yet. But you’ll be the first to know if I can actually pull it off.

But, alas, when the early-bird streak ends, and I sleep in, again, on a busy day, I know that I can always correct this again by waking up early.

So if you’re finding yourself unable to work diligently and efficiently, and in turn, getting frustrated, I would recommend waking up ridiculously early.

It’s worth a shot.

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