[perhaps a testament to how busy I am with client work, perhaps an indictment of my inconsistent blogging efforts, I just stumbled across this draft post today and decided to flesh it out and publish it. Only 6 months late. Just in time for American Independence Day!]
Jan 2, 2016. [this was the actual 3rd anniversary of my independence, I quit my job Jan 2, 2013 -editor)
I let it come & go without much notice this year. It should be celebrated, though.
It’s my Independence Day. The day I quit my job.
It’s been three years. A busy and successful three years.
My independence has been one part orchestrated, one part improvised.
I planned diligently for 2 years prior to quitting my full-time job. Knowing credit would be hard to come by, I bought a new car (and paid off most of the loan). A MacBook Pro. I refinanced my home, locking in a great interest rate. I began networking. I joined AIGA. Attended Minnesota AIGA Solopreneur meetings. Attended conferences. Put out my feelers and found people who would hire me for assignments once I was available. I learned new techniques, like the Wacom tablet, web design and social media design. This was the orchestrated part of my journey, and I had all the sheet music for the repertoire I expected to perform. I had just managed to tune my instrument when things changed…
Assuming I would be working for small business clients like mom & pop shops, start-ups and other small clients, I got to work. I guessed I’d be building new brands, designing ads, collateral & websites and supporting these clients as their primary design provider. I landed some clients like that. However, I quickly attracted the attention of bigger design agency clients. I found myself an independent member of larger design teams supporting bigger clients on specific projects. I found myself niching down. I built keylines for packaging. I retouched and composed photography. I worked with structural engineers to prototype custom dimensional in-store marketing installations. These projects were higher-profile, more lucrative and, honestly, a better fit for my skill set. The improvisation had begun.
My independence taught me to prepare carefully, plan thoughtfully and be willing to chuck that out the window and follow these unexpected opportunities. Opportunities that seemed unattainable while I was a full-time employee who dreamed of building something new.
Saying yes to opportunity outside the original plan launched a jazz solo, riffing on the grooves laid down by the best creative talent in the community. I have no idea where I’ll be three years from now. Probably doing something I hadn’t planned on.