Sometimes, my clients look at me like I’m the only one who can pull their websites out of the Stone Age of Angelfire do-it-yourself web design and the obscurity of MySpace, and even as I take their money and help them figure out that yes, they need to be smartphone-optimized, I feel like a fraud.
I didn’t get a degree in web design, nor, as one client put it, did I spend a hundred years on computers. I’m just someone who started tinkering with my own website back during the dark days of dial-up, and before I knew it, I had clients. I’m entirely self-taught, and I like to think I do a good job for the people who pay me, but sometimes, in the dark of night, I feel like I have to come clean.
Confessions of a Self Taught Freelance Web Designer
I Say I Work Harder Than I Do to My Friends
My friends are amazing. They’re web developers and site designers and coders, and they are all freaking rock stars. One of them coded for twenty-seven hours straight and got amazing money from her client for it. Me? I put in some pretty hectic days, but man, at the nine or ten hour mark, I tap out for some TV and some food.
I Work With No Pants
One of the first rules that the internet tells us to follow when we are reaching for success is that we should work at home just like we would work at the office. I tried that, but when there was no irritating co-worker to bug me about sports I don’t care about and when there was actually coffee in the machine every morning for me, I gave up on that.
The only thing I probably should have kept from my day job and didn’t was the regular urge to wear pants. If you talk with me on Skype, if I’m writing you an email, or when I’m showing you that cool thing that your website can do now, I’m probably not wearing pants at all.
I Go to the Coffee Shop to Feel Good About Myself
As an independent web designer, my ability to feel good about myself all depends on how much money someone has handed me on a given day. Sometimes, I need a little boost in the self-esteem department, and because I can’t afford psychotropic medication, I go down to the coffee shop.
I get to show up in my casual clothes, grab an expensive drink that can ideally leave me jittery for hours and nod with recognition at all the other people who are doing exactly what I’m doing. We all get a big kick out of anyone who’s there in a suit and needs to get back to work.
I Can’t Dress Like a Grown Up
Sometimes, I think that I need to start looking like a professional adult for my clients’ sake, and I go online. Then people start talking about color-blocking, accessories, linen blends and capitalizing on my look and I need to run back to the web designer forums where I belong. Sometimes, I’m afraid that my ideas of looking good all formulated around age fourteen, and this is where I’m stuck.
I clean up pretty well, but please never ask me to be stylish. Stylish is reserved for beauty and pop-culture websites, not for the web designer who makes them!
My Cats Can Always Distract Me
Maybe it was one LOLcat too many, or maybe I spent too much time watching Nyancat and listening to that song, but I decided to share my life with a pair of cats. It’s a lot like inviting two tiny dictators to come live with you, sleep with you and harass you into doing their furry will.
Sometimes they go for a straightforward diversion; after all, I can’t do anything if there’s a cat trying to lie on my keyboard. Other times, they’re more subtle. After all, if they’re lying in a little yin-yang shape, of COURSE I have to try to get a picture of that.
I Miss the Sunlight
I talk with other web designers who are amazingly enthused about being able to make their own hours. They talk about five mile runs in gentle warm drizzles, of staying up to watch the sun come up, and of basking in the park on sunny days. I have no idea what world these people are living in.
Maybe I spent too much time as a teen goth, or maybe I just don’t have any self-discipline, but I’m working in the day, or when I’m not, I’m sleeping because I’m desperately behind on it due to a big project. Once, I managed to wake up at nine in the morning purely by accident, and I was a little scared of all of the sunshine everywhere.
I Wish I Were As Cool As I Tell People I Am
If you are a self-taught web designer and especially if you are running your own business, there is no room for doubt, at least not on your resume and when you are making your pitch. I’ve lost track of the people who show up to pitch things and then run out of steam halfway through, degenerating into a lot of “and that’s why I think you should hire me…I guess.”
Because I like eating and supporting the two aforementioned furry tyrants, I’ve actually stamped this from my pitch. Now you’re never going to find someone as smart as me, as skilled as me and as fast as me. However, I blow a lot of self-esteem talking with clients. After that, I need to lie down flat on my face and just think about what kind of fraud I am. It gets it out of my system.
So those are my confessions. I’m a self-taught freelance web designer, I make a pretty good living, and on my bad days, I’m a partially-unclothed, barely verbal cave dweller who thinks that my cats are trying to communicate with me.
I dare you to submit some of your own confessions. And by dare, I mean, seriously, submit some and tell me that I’m not the only cave dweller down here.