On Freelancing and Finding Your Passion

I have been designing for over 8 years and throughout my career I have always been a full-time employee. And as most designers I am always working on side freelance projects, but only until recently I decided to jump all in into the freelance world.

It’s hard to resist the allure of all the success stories we hear about creatives making the jump and finally being in charge of their time and doing the type of work they have always wanted to do. In other words, by becoming a freelancer they are able to follow their passion. No more 9 to 5 jobs they hate and working on the “cool” stuff at night and on weekends.

My reason to become a freelancer came more as a way to take a break and to reflect on what I have done and what I wanted to do next. But since I started, I have been very curious about this idea of freelancing allowing you to do what you are passionate about.

From what I have noticed from other freelancers, there are a couple of ways to do this. One is finding the clients that understand how your passion is good for their businesses. Another way is to take freelance gigs that pay well, allowing you take time off in-between to work on your personal projects/passions.

Both of these cases assume you already know what your passion is.

But what if you haven’t figured it out yet?

There is a lot of pressure to find that one thing you are supposed to be passionate about and make a living doing it. And if you pair this with the idea of being successful and achieving some kind of recognition, the pressure becomes quite heavy.

But I believe it doesn’t have to be that way. A few months ago I spoke with J’aime Cohen, a very talented creative and director of operations at the Masters in Branding at the School of Visual Arts. I came to her with this same inquiry about not knowing what the next step in my career was.

And while we didn’t speak specifically about finding a passion, she recommended I start by figuring out why I do what I do. She suggested I read Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. In it the author explains how people don’t buy what you sell, but why you sell it. There needs to be a connection between the values of a person and what the brand stands for.

This same concept applies to us as professionals. In order to be fulfilled with our careers, we have to understand why we are designers/illustrators/creatives in the first place and how we are different.

I took it upon myself to find my WHY using Simon Sinek’s framework:

Having done this exercise I find myself more equipped to come up with a plan to find and create work that is fulfilling. I have also found this approach a lot less daunting than pressuring oneself to find that one passion, which now I realize can change over time.

As many smart people have said this before me, maybe the key is to first look inside and find what’s unique about us and only then try to find or create work that allows us to express it.