Do What You Want to Do

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)

For those of you who are working for a company during the usual office hours, how many of you are working almost exclusively on things you really want to work on? Probably not many, I bet. Even if you’re a freelancer, you probably don’t have that luxury. Maybe you’re working for an agency, creating sites for various companies but you really want to be working on an interface for a web app or a specific type of software. You may well be enjoying the agency work or the freelance life but at the back of your mind will be the interface design, web app or whatever it may be that you’ve always craved to create.

Don’t sit still. Set aside some free time to design interfaces of your own or whatever it is you want to do. The only way you’re going to get into doing what you really want to do is to, well, do what you want to do! I worked for a company where it was written into our contracts that we were not allowed to do any freelance work at all. To me, this is a lack of trust. If you don’t trust your employees doing freelance work (or any kind of extra design/development work) then you’re holding them back. Think of all the extra exposure and more knowledge gained by doing more work and if someone has the desire to do more work then it’s clear they want to improve. It really bugs me to think employers actually prevent their employees from gaining more experience to get better at what they do.

To be honest, I ignored this backwards rule because I have a desire to learn. You should too if any such restrictions are placed upon you. I was working in the corporate world, so I desperately needed to do something more creative or I would have gone mad. I know I am a better designer and developer as a result because I began doing the work I wanted to do and the more you do something, the better you will get at it.

Ironically I learned that I didn’t really enjoy freelance work and wanted to create something substantial of my own. I didn’t really know what that was until late last year when I decided I wanted to try and take Inspect Element to new heights. I’m already working with WordPress in my current job but I knew that if I wanted to take it to the next level, I had to learn even more about it during my own time and hence why I’m now selling WordPress themes. This is what I want to do and I’m now doing it. If it’s successful then great and if not, I’m no worse off. In fact, I’ll be better off whatever happens as I’ll have learnt a great deal, even about failing if it comes to that. Something also to think about is I don’t see it as ‘work’. When I’m in control and designing and developing my own product, it’s fun.

Inspect Element is the only project I’m involved in where I can say I truly care and that’s because it’s what I really want to work on.

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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with 9 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.