After hearing a previous graduate of my course, Matt Marais, speak openly about his experiences since graduation, I was left pondering my future career options and the different routes I’ve seen other people take. Some have started their own businesses, or have gone into consultancy, are working freelance, have joined a large corporation… There’s massive variety, but I really want to consider the people who went their own way vs. those who joined a larger company and the kind of person it takes to do either of these things.
Matt’s experiences leaned heavily towards working on his own designs, or doing freelance work so I’ll consider his stance first.
Any designer working on their own design outwith a company is going to experience failure, and a whole lot of it. It can be incredibly demoralising, and it’s easy to give up entirely on a project you had the utmost faith in.
It can be a career path filled with numerous low and high points, and while the lows can be extreme, the highs are gained through your own hard work and time which make them all the better to savour.
Of course, luck can be a huge factor, as a product can be delivered to the perfect customer, at the perfect opportunity and at the right price. Sometimes, a good product can fail spectacularly and a bad one can be incredibly successful, which is a frustrating but true aspect of the industry.
So, the benefits. You have your own hours, you’re in charge, you have an incredible amount of freedom in what you do, your successes are yours alone, you can collaborate with a huge variety of people of different disciplines to name but a few.
To match this, the disadvantages I gleaned. You keep your own hours (which means you need to be incredibly motivated to actually do work), freedom can mean no structure and an unstable schedule, you can spend large amounts of time working alone, and your failures are yours alone.
For me, I really love the idea of working for myself. However, it requires an endlessly passionate and dedicated designer who invests a lot of themselves in the work they do. Income can be unstable, and hours will be very long. I’m not sure I would be able to keep my own morale and motivation high enough to pursue this.
Thus, another route: working for a large company. I think you really would need to want to work for the company in order to enjoy your career. The work you do won’t be your own, it might become quite stagnant, you have less freedom in your design work, and you will have to stick to rigid working hours in most cases.
Very negative so far. It’s not all bad, however. The working environment will provide a stable schedule and surrounding, the salary is nothing to scoff at, you will have many resources available, and you can usually leave work at the office and enjoy your free time at home.
Again, I’m not sure I like this either. I like the idea of a steady income and less stress, but I love variety in the things I do. I feel I could quickly become bored in this kind of environment, and feel stifled by schedules and hierarchy.
My conclusion, then, is that I cannot conclude anything yet. I can see the benefits and disadvantages of these paths, and I feel I fit neither of them. Many people discover what they want to do after trying something and discovering that they love it, or even that they hate it and can cross it off the careers list. Perhaps when next year comes, I will feel differently, but for now I want to try to explore other options and find out where I can see myself in the future.