So here’s the part where you’re expecting to hear all about my computer science degree and graphic design certificate. Well, it’s not here…I studied chemistry in college. How did I acquire my design and computer skills? You guessed it, I’m self taught.
For close to twenty years, I worked as a chemical analyst (lab rat), and was pretty good at my job. But I was never really happy; something deep inside me always wanted more. Employers who wanted the sun but paid pennies (as well as treating their employees as disposable assets) had a lot to do with it. The realization that my life was going nowhere was a factor as well, and I started asking myself that eternal question “is this all there is?”
In 2005, I started messing around with Linux and was soon hooked. I learned everything I could about the various operating systems and applications available. By the time 2006 rolled around, I was blogging and learning about this great content management system called WordPress. Not satisfied with simply installing a WordPress theme on my, I studied CSS, HTML and other web design languages. The knowledge gained allowed me to tweak the look of my blog until it was just right, as well as add functionality. My Linux knowledge continued to grow as well.
By the time 2012 rolled around, Linux and WordPress had become what I lived for, which made it even harder to get through the work day. I started a YouTube channel where I talked about Linux (OS and software reviews as well as tutorials) and began helping friends spice up their blogs. That’s when I had an epiphany: This isn’t a hobby anymore; I should be doing this fulltime. (Ba-ba-ba!)
I’d like to say everything was all hunky-dory from then on, but that would be a stretch. Making the leap from fulltime employee to freelancer was no walk in the park. There was (and still is) a lot to learn about running your own business. Taxes, marketing, best practices, state and federal laws…and the list goes on. And of course the detractors.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
“There’s already too many web designers.”
“You can’t make enough to live on doing that.”
“Pretty risky. Remember, you have a family to support.”
But I pretty much ignored everyone. I’ve always marched to my own drum beat anyway, so the criticism was nothing new. In part, I wanted to succeed just to prove everyone wrong. But there was more to it than that. For the first time in my life, I believed in what I was doing. People appreciated the Linux information I provided, and my design work help out small business owners. (Score!)
My father was born in 1933, and grew up through the years of the Great Depression and the Second World War. People from that era knew the value of hard work, something he instilled in me. My mother started her own business in 1982, and from her I derive my entrepreneurial spirit.
I tend to be a perfectionist. There are no half-way measures; do it right or don’t bother. When I sit down for a design job, it receives all of my heart and soul, from beginning to end. While this usually leads to very long hours at the keyboard, the results are always worth it…both to the client and to me.
Clients are not simply customers. They are real people with real needs, and my services help to fill those needs.
In 2012, Christina and I married, thus creating the Brady Bunch of the 21st Century. We each brought three kids from a previous marriage, and settled into a 1970’s trilevel. Trying to blend two family of that size has been a challenge (to say the least), but I wouldn’t change anything.
Christina and I truly compliment each other, and our respective businesses wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for each other. Yes, we have our differences. And there are times when helping out the other’s business is the last thing on our agenda. But we do it anyway. And I think that makes us both the stronger for it.
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!
–Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa