It baffles me that I need to write this.
Let me start with some context. As we speak, I am nearing (what I hope to be) the end of a strenuous, 5-month stretch of work, work, work. Since the start of my first full-time job in July and fresh out of uni, I have not only been struggling to keep up with the daily 8 hours but also with an overwhelming (and honestly surprising) amount of freelance work that has taken up every other second of my time.
And, truth be told, I do think that the main reason I got all of this work is because I am a very nice person. Aside of a genuine desire to build up a portfolio and client base, I find it quite difficult to say no when it comes to helping other people out. So I found myself putting my own activities aside and accepting jobs even when the given timeframe was rather tight, when the clients had already proven to be demanding (to put it nicely), or when the only payment is the satisfaction of knowing you’ve contributed to a good cause.
This went on for a while – I was handling it, somehow.
Then, during September, I was working on a particular set of artworks for a job I consider to be quite high-profile and portfolio-worthy. The job was super short notice and the client/communication not the easiest. It all escalated to a point where I was getting hassled with 11PM phone calls and burdened with countless rounds of changes to the same product, not to mention the excessive delay in payment and unnecessary tax cuts.
Come October … a simple booklet design for a completely separate client culminated in long hours of phone calls and lists of changes that forced me to work well into the night, and consequently had harsh effects of different natures on my performance at my actual job. The task seemed never-ending; as soon as I’d think we’d reached the end, I would get yet another phone call demanding I send over materials within the hour.
Now, my point here is not simply to point out the daily stresses of freelance and design work. Those are pretty much a given. The reason for writing all of this is that it seems, at least to me, that we are living in a day and age where our jobs have become our lives. How else could I explain clients that call their freelance, non-contract designer (who they also know can only work on their job part-time) at midnight and expect amendments to be done momentarily?
Well, guess what? My job is not my life. Actually, I refuse to let my job be my life.
As much as I love being a designer, the joy is in the little tasks and things that I do for my own personal pleasure – not necessarily design-related, not for work, not (always) for money, and definitely not for clients, but for myself. It’s also in that one hour break after a marathon of staring at my laptop screen when I can just sit down with an episode or two, a beer, and some great company.
Deadlines are great, and sometimes it takes that much pressure to get something creative and kickass out of you, but there has to be a limit – expecting your designer to drop everything and answer to your every beck and call is another thing altogether.
All this leaves me with a little call-to-action, for myself and for anyone else who may be in the same boat.
Chill out. No, really.
It’s OK to miss out on a job – it’s hard, I know, but it’s OK. There will be other jobs. If you forget what it’s like to relax and enjoy a little time with yourself and with things that don’t stress you out, you might never get that back.
It took me close to 4 months (and a good cry) to sit down and write this 750-word rant, all because I’d reached a point where I’d forgotten how to do anything and everything that did not come with a client or a price tag. It sucks pretty hard.
So take a chill pill; pick up an instrument or call that friend that’s been telling you YOU NEED A BREAK for ages; go on a holiday and please forget to pack your laptop; say no to the next job or client that isn’t remotely worth your time and effort, and remember that the best thing you can invest time in is yourself.