This is becoming something of an annual thing :)
My first version of this post was around 2 years ago and I’d been learning about design (specifically UI design) for around 6 months and had been worried about if I could really make a go of it. Being 33 at the time and a relative dinosaur in this digital world I feared it might be a bit too late for me to embark on a whole new career not too mention I had zero background in design.
2014 Post - https://www.designernews.co/stories/42878-ask-dn-am-i-a-real-ui-designer 2014 Designs (so bad) - http://imgur.com/a/GqTQq
I received some great messages from the community and it probably took me the best part of a day to reply to everyone.
A year passed and I thought I’d make another post to give an update of my ‘career’ so far and again I received great encouragement from the community. The impostor syndrome was still there (I think it’ll always be present) but definitely not as much as when I first started. I’d like to think I made to great strides in the quality of my designs and I was also able to raise my rates substantially from where I started at. All of my projects were freelance and for individual clients up to this point.
2015 Post - https://www.designernews.co/stories/61393-thanks-dn-am-i-a-real-ui-designer-1-year-update 2015 Designs (getting there) - http://imgur.com/a/OuMlk
So now we're at the end of 2016, it’s been awesome and not so awesome in terms of having regular work. The year started pretty badly and it wasn’t till the end of February that I got my first client, I ended up working for an agency based in San Diego for about 8 months straight till the work started dropping off but it was amazing while it lasted and I earned more money than I've ever had in my life. As that work started to slow down I was approached by an agency based here in the UK and have been getting steady work since I began with them.
So now at the grand old age of 36 I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and have been able to save 5 figures this year which feels amazing. For the whole of 2016 my rate was $50/hour and never had any push backs. I’ll probably raise it a bit sometime next year but it definitely feels surreal earning this much per hour and I have to pinch myself every now and then to prove to myself this isn’t all just a dream.
2016 Designs (still plenty of room to improve) - http://imgur.com/a/Hrzam
So what’s my plans for 2017?
At the moment I just call myself a UI designer so I want to learn more about UX and maybe even call myself a product designer at some point. I’ll be redesigning my portfolio over the next few days as I’m just not feeling my current one any more and I don’t think it represents my current skill level.
I recently got myself a MacBook Pro 15 (not the 2016 model, I’m not rich yet) so now I don’t need to be chained to a desk to get my work done. Real remote work is possible and I’ve booked a flight to Thailand and plan to work from there for the first few months of next year. If I don't come home early with my tail between my legs I'll move into Europe after, hopefully I'll still be able to travel around freely in the near future (fucking Brexit).
I’m definitely enjoying working remotely for agencies at the moment but in the long run I need to up my marketing game (can any recommend any learning resources?) so I can get more projects by myself.
Also another part of moving half-way around the world is to get myself out of my comfort zone so that I can improve my social anxiety. I’m fine with conversing through Slack and instant messaging in general but video calls and meeting new people is something that’s always been difficult, I’m under no illusions that I’ll be able to ‘fix’ it but just an improvement would be huge step forward.
Ok so what resources have I used to get better at design and freelancing over the past few years?
Dribbble - https://dribbble.com Love it or hate it, it’s an amazing resource. I’ve found the more experience I gain the less I need inspiration. With that said there’s 1000’s of designers on there that are a lot better than me so I regularly look at designs to improve my eye and for a bit of inspiration when I hit a creative wall.
Paul Jarvis’ Creative Class - https://creativeclass.io This is a great course to prepare anyone for freelancing and the Slack is also a huge plus because it’s a friendly community of very helpful people that always has great advice when you have questions.
Freelancelift - https://www.freelancelift.com/pro Another great course to prepare anyone for freelancing and comes with a ton of mini-courses and monthly calls with the head honcho Liam Vietch. I need to dive back into this stuff because it's goldmine of information.
Nguyen Le’s Process Masterclass - https://www.process-masterclass.com. Admittedly I only started the other day but I can tell this is going to be amazing just from the first few videos. His newsletter is also well worth signing up to!
Brennan Dunn’s Double Your Freelancing Rate - https://doubleyourfreelancing.com/rate I haven’t been able to double my rate (or price on value) but I think the value of this book is in the mindset that it teaches you and the fact that it tells you to think of yourself as an investment to your clients rather than an expense.
Books that helped me out in the beginning UXPin Ebooks - http://studio.uxpin.com/ebooks Austin Kleons's Steal Like an Artist - http://austinkleon.com/steal The Non-Designers Design Book - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0133966151
I own so many books and courses, I should really stop buying them, maybe it'll be a New Years resolution. No more learning resources till I've worked through what I already have. It's an addiction!!
I’m sorry so about this ridiculously long wall of text so I’m going close this out with a bit of advice for anyone looking to get into the design game!
If you look at other peoples designs and worry that you’ll be never as good as them because they’re just naturals you could be right but your most likely wrong. I came to this with zero ability in design, look at this ffs (http://i.imgur.com/IbAs3YW.jpg). I've come realise that talent is not really that important for UI design (not sure about other area's of design). Time, hard work and a love for the craft is more than enough to put you on the path to good things. I started at 33 and at zero in terms of design knowledge and I have carved a whole new career path for myself and also gave my younger brother the encouragement to start too. If I can do this, anyone can and I sincerely believe that!.
p.s. Special thanks to my Slack buddies Laura, Helen, Marko, James & Imran for being awesome!