More and more, as the scope and lucrativeness of the Internet increase, web designers are becoming highly sought after. As the design profession gains in demand, its practitioners are put in an interesting position.
The opportunities for growth appear to be limitless, so it is up to each designer to determine their own life path.
It is a very good place to be, although it might feel challenging and overwhelming.
As a web designer, you have to ask yourself, “Where do I want to take my life? What do I want to achieve?”
Why did you decide to become a web designer?
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me… Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” – Steve Jobs
To answer this question, look back at how you got into the design profession. Go back as far as you wish, into your childhood even, when you first put pen to paper and designed the layout of your bedroom.
What feelings, qualities or desires compelled you to become a web designer? Did you fall into the profession by accident? Did you plan for it immediately following high school? Do you plan to continue as a web designer in the future, or is this just a stepping stone to success in another field?
Whether you did it for the money, the creative opportunities, the work-from-home lifestyle, or your dream of designing bigger, better and more famous websites, you’ll find that different aspects of web design hold different futures. All of these futures are guaranteed to be lucrative, but some more so than others. If you bear in mind the spark that made you want to become a designer in the first place, you stand a better chance of being happy with your career path.
The following four tend to be the motivations for web designers continuing along the path:
- Creative outlet;
- Self-determined hours;
- Enjoy coding for visual or experiential design, a mix of left and right brain work;
- The sector is growing, with huge opportunities for profit and advancement.
Web designers might be attracted to the field for all of these reasons, but one or two motivations are generally the strongest for each individual.
To plan your career trajectory, brainstorm a list of things that get you excited about your job. On the other side of the paper or in another document, brainstorm a list of things that you wish you could change about your job.
After, write a short personal narrative about the time when you knew you would be a web designer. The narrative might span several moments of clarity, but in general, with a calling, there is a particular moment when we know exactly what to do with our lives. Again, you may just be designing as a foothold to a more creative pursuit, or you may not know where to go with the job.
Perhaps your dream lies entirely beyond the typical paths of employment. With hundreds of new job descriptions being written every year, you could very well invent your own career. But you have to figure out what you want before you can get there.
Where do you want to go as a web designer?
“The difference between a job and a career is the difference between forty and sixty hours a week.” – Robert Frost
Now that we’ve covered the four main reasons why people go into the web design field, listed below are some pathways you might consider. Design is a broadening field, and the diverse skill sets involved can be exploited in a variety of ways and environments, depending on your temperament, character and dreams.
Those attracted to the creative aspect of web design might consider trying to become the creative director of a firm or a web-related business. You might thrive on the autonomy, creative control and greater resources to satisfy your every whim. Creative individuals tend to do well when in charge of a focused area of work, but they might not make the best managers or businesspeople. If this sounds like you, consider working towards the role of creative director.
Creative types might want to strike out on their own and become artists, although that profession is notoriously difficult to break into. You might have to do your own creative work on the side before switching over permanently.
If you were most attracted to the profession because of its flexible hours, then congratulations! Chances are, you’re already living the dream. Many web designers are independent contractors who work with businesses and organizations to develop their presence on the Internet. Consider expanding your business by hiring other employees or starting your own firm. You can gradually retreat from the long hours as your business begins to function on its own, bringing in dollars for you.
Coding and design
If you like the coding aspect of the job, then you might be an excellent candidate for a firm or a group to develop groundbreaking web applications and functionality. Google and Facebook are two of the biggest names in web innovation, but plenty of start-ups are looking to break into the business.
If you’ve joined the ranks of web designers simply because that’s where the money is, then there is no limit to what you might accomplish. You could go about it in any number of ways: join a firm, start your own business, become a director, or simply keep doing what you’re doing. Join the executive staff of a promising start-up, and cash in big on its IPO. Practically every new company needs a web professional, and if you have the skills, it could be you.
What can you ultimately achieve as a web designer?
“What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love. Give it the best there is in you. Seize your opportunities. And be a member of the team.” – Benjamin F. Fairless
Of course, the question of where you want to go as a web designer ultimately takes a back seat to the legacy that you want to leave behind. It is never too early to plan your legacy, and as designers become more and more influential in the world of business, politics and charity, the question of how you want to be remembered is an important one.
Do you want to provide for your family and achieve the optimal work-life balance so that you can truly enjoy your life? Do you want to provide free services to needy individuals or to struggling businesses? Do you want to donate to charities, cultivate humanity or start a non-profit to do good works in the world? Do you want to create a design that lasts forever and inspires the world?
You could do many things for the world as a designer. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently made a huge donation to the New Jersey public school system, and Google’s founders have become noted philanthropists.
Blogger Arianna Huffington has written on how to maintain one’s health in a fast-paced digital environment, while others who are not as well known simply use their development work to provide for their family. All of these are “acceptable” legacies to leave behind. The only question is, what do you want to do with your future?
A few questions to take with you
“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.” – Mark Twain
As you consider your options as a web designer, the questions below, in addition to the many posed above, should guide you in the right direction. Sometimes all it takes to get clarity and direction is a certain level of soul-searching and inner examination.
Use your answers to these questions to sketch out your ideal career as a web designer: where you are now, where you want to be later, and what you want to leave behind.
- Do you want to design for yourself or for other people?
- Do you want to work with others, hire others or be a lone wolf?
- What kinds of websites do you want to design?
- Do you prefer the code or the visual aspects of web design?
- Do you want your impact to be visible and permanent, or do you prefer working behind the scenes?
- Do you want to write about web design or actually do web design?
- Do new technologies excite you, or are you more of a “keep it simple, stupid” kind of guy or gal?
Being a web designer is hard work, and at many times during the process the slate in front of you will feel perpetually blank. Designers are keenly familiar with blank slates and endless possibilities.
So, take some of that brilliance that helps you transform nothing into something and use it to build your own life design. Like a website, a life needs to be an enjoyable, enriching, interesting experience. When you’re planning your future, you are designing a website inhabited by one person: you.
You know your challenges, desires and strengths better than anyone else, and this makes you uniquely qualified to chart your career path. The profession of web designer will become more and more prestigious as time goes on, so knowing where you’re going and how you plan to get there is imperative.
Success is in your future: you just have to make sure it’s the kind of success you desire.