$400 an hour. Nice!
I was halfway through a course on film appreciation at my local junior college, and we had a guest speaker who was a bona fide Hollywood film editor. She told us about the time she was paid $400 an hour to cut a movie. This was one of many reasons why I wanted to go into film editing.
Fast forward several months. I was engaged, about to get married, and was working a dead end job at a cable company making just over minimum wage (before taxes).
I wanted to pursue a career in film, but I had zero connections in the industry, no experience, and worse… no degree. I had to pivot fast.
A couple weeks after getting married I left the cable company and went back to carpentry which I had done for a number of years right out of high school. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it paid the bills.
I still wanted to do something creative, so I started dabbling with Photoshop, created a few mediocre logo designs, and setup an account on Elance (a few years before it became Upwork). I figured I could learn graphic design — how hard could it be.
Even now, I often hear aspiring designers echo my own thoughts from those days.
“I want to do something creative and work for myself while I travel and enjoy life.”
I feel an obligation now to tell them the truth… that they will probably end up working a part-time job just to keep eating. But I don’t. They’ll find out soon enough.
My part-time job was actually a full-time job, but it only lasted a year. During that time, I learned the software, bid on jobs, worked weekends and evenings, and made a lot of mistakes… like a lot!
It was a good time of learning not only design principles and the Adobe software, but also the basics of running a small business.
While I only made about $3,000 that first year from my graphic design work, it was the most satisfying $3,000 I had ever made up to that time!
In early 2015, I got my opportunity to go full-time with design.
Work in the trades had dried up, and I was sitting around home trying not to go crazy — so I found a part-time gig doing graphic design for a towel company in Novato, CA. Aside from that, I had also begun to figure out this bidding thing on Elance and was finally changing a reasonable rate for my design work (and I was actually getting work)!
Since then, things have been a blur. Every day is part of an ongoing learning process, and my freelance design practice is now a small design studio, headquartered wherever my two feet happen to be planted.2