It’s a tough question for creatives – do what you love, or be paid for what you do.
Fulfillment or security. Freedom or Friday. (By Friday, I mean payday. I couldn’t get used to having inconsistent paydays as a freelancer even after I saw that it was working out overall).
Growth is really hard work. It often means you have to do both – both the things you love and the things you don’t love. One to grow and one to get paid. This means a lot of overtime.
The Armes brothers have some wise words for creatives who are reaching forward.
“Barry - I think there is a kind of a tradeoff if you want to do what we’ve done – you know working for rock bands and snowboard companies. The tradeoff being you’re not going to get paid for it (laughing). We always knew that and we’ve managed after years to find a balance. A lot of that work that we did and didn’t get paid for we were able to take it to ad agencies and get some higher paying jobs and bigger exposure. So, one hand kinda washed the other.
To build up a portfolio of exciting work usually comes at a cost. It took quite some time before we were earning a reasonable paycheck. We had friends that got jobs at places like Microsoft and they were making four times as much as us. We felt like idiots at the time that we chose the direction we did but in hindsight there were certain types of people and work we wanted to do at any cost.”
Their article is well worth the read. Find it here.
It’s that “building a portfolio of exciting work coming at a cost” part that jumped out at me. There are turning points in your life as a designer that you know you have a choice to make. One of those was when I quit my full benefits well paying, get a consistent raise job to go it on my own at MPDesign.
A more recent one was when I realized I was going to have to say no sometimes. Building your portfolio is a process. Whatever you have in your portfolio, you tend to attract more work of the same. I have done some very fulfilling projects for companies and organizations that I like working with. Some of them have shared a similar design vision. It’s understanding how important that is that inspires you to begin to be more targeted in your marketing. As a designer, it’s your job to seek out and market to the organizations you want to work with, and that will share a similar passion for their brand. To build the portfolio that’s going to get you the type of jobs you want – you might have to say no to some jobs. At the beginning, I didn’t think I’d do that. But it’s one of those crossroads decisions that you understand you either grow, or you lag behind. I choose growth.
The other part of the Armes brothers article that stands out to me is the concept of the tradeoff. Sometimes you take a risk and don’t see until months later that the risk has paid off. Like the Armes brothers work that they really loved that they were able to sell later after the fact, or like their T-shirt company that they started – hey it’s all about being your own biggest fan. When you’re passionate about your work and message, others begin to believe it, too.