I never intended to be a freelancer. The freelance life chose me.
Like every other graphic designer in the 80’s, I was trained to design and prepare mechanicals the old school way. I was so excited when I bought my first computer, feeling smugly superior because unlike the lowly Plus, my Mac SE had TWO floppy disk slots! The industry was turned on its side by applications like Pagemaker and the first uni-layered version of Photoshop, mainly because we knew we were looking at an evolution in the stages of infancy. This is where the real creativity began, but not like I had originally imagined.
Pre-press software had not been developed yet, and we were designing on tiny black and white screens, which seemed like an absurd handicap, but by now, there would be no turning back. For the next few years, fresh out of college, my niche became to assist long-established advertising agencies make the awkward transition into this great new world. How to take the vision from that grey box to the client, and then to the printer? How to turn this uncertain stumble backward into a giant leap forward?
I never did return to a “real” job like I imagined I would someday. There was always a new opportunity. This thing… the internet… who knew it would exist?
So my next evolution began, the logical plan to expand my skillset into creating websites. Armed with “HTML for Dummies”, I began designing not just ANY website, it had to be my own dot com, because that would be EASY, right? I won’t go into details but that ride lasted ten years, along with running my design agency. The online store, established in 1997, is still alive and well to this day and happily now belongs to someone else.
Joining a scrapbooking group as a fun, creative release introduced me to the owner of an recruitment advertising agency, who noticed that the quality of my finished pages far exceeded that of most others in the group. Do you see where I’m going with this? How the freelance life chose me? So began over ten years of developing campaigns to staff Six Flags Theme Parks each year, and attracting medical providers to Vail Valley Medical Center and Denver hospitals. Years later, a new niche became tourism advertising, where I was able to sharpen my brand strategy skills to attract potential visitors to towns such as Durango, Colorado and Fairfield, California.
Even the opportunity to become a Locomotive website developer arrived in an unexpected manner.
I was introduced to this Content Management System by a client who only needed wireframe design services, as there was already a developer on staff. By the time the developer moved on to other interests (mid-contract, I might add), I was completely enamored by this streamlined and customized solution. The only logical step was to rise to the occasion and take on the role of both designer and developer to complete the unfinished projects. I learned from there that this combination of skills creates a solid, seamless integration, not only design-wise but with the communication necessary for everyone involved in a successful project.
Much has happened over the years. Companies have restructured to hire their own in-house designers and programmers. The economy changed dramatically. Good clients are not nearly as easy to find as they have been in the past.
I know now that success comes from embracing changes and opportunities that come along, and being open to constantly learning something new. Success also comes by recognizing your strengths so that you can focus and excel on your them by not wasting time on your weaknesses. My greatest joy each day is to sit down at my computer to focus on a project, providing the best product possible. Simultaneously searching for new projects divides the quality attention I want to be giving to each client that day.
For me, that’s where the Web Programmers Group at toptal.com comes into play. I have found that other services, such as elance.com and other similar sources to be very time-consuming and non-productive, and I choose not to waste my time in what feels like a virtual flea market competing with people all over the world who are willing or able to sell their time and talent for almost nothing. I can't vouch one way or another regarding the quality or consistency of their work.
A service like toptal.com, who carefully screens, qualifies and matches the proper team members to each client provides the vital missing link between the client and the skilled professionals. And that makes the world a better place.