The Grumpy Designer Asks: Are You Tired?
Before we get too far, let me state that this isn’t a “woe is me” post. I may be grumpy, but I also know how to count my blessings. And I’ve been fortunate in numerous ways. It’s just that… I’m tired.
You see, after 25+ years in this industry, I’ve come to realize that this job doesn’t get any easier. If anything, more layers of complexity keep being added. And the expectations from both clients and myself are higher than ever.
Then there’s the unhealthy mix of a constant stream of emails, Slack notifications, and tweets. Taken together, it’s enough to wear you out mentally and physically. Surveying the web design community helped me to see that I’m not alone in this feeling.
But it’s not only work-related stressors. There’s been a pandemic in our faces for years now. And each of us has stories of personal struggles to tell. For example, I’ve got a chronic disease (Type 1 Diabetes) along with a few years filled with family emergencies fresh in my mind. And I know that some of you have much bigger issues on your plate as well.
It’s enough to turn anyone into a grouch. But instead of complaining, let’s talk about the pressures we face. And maybe we’ll find some healthy ways to cope with them.
All of the Things inside a Web Designer’s Head
Twitter tends to be my outlet for self-expression and finding out what the web design community is thinking. When I joked that web designers are now required to be the human equivalent of a wiki, a few others concurred.
Some even quipped that perhaps all we need is to be skilled at searching Google. That’s a fair point, as so much knowledge is only a few keywords away.
Still – there are a lot of details we need to retain. And the more websites you build and manage, the harder it is to keep track of it all. How specific features work, what customizations were made, and other site-specific items may need to be recalled at any moment.
For instance, you might need that information when there’s an issue. And if you don’t have such things documented, it’s easy to overlook a key detail. That could make the situation worse.
A busy week could include several scenarios where you have to dig into a site’s code or otherwise troubleshoot a problem. If each site is unique, that makes these little details all the more important.
The web moves so quickly. Software updates such as those related to WordPress core and plugins, are a constant. Security issues can rear their head at any moment. The result is a whole lot of brain strain.
Freelancers Face a Growth Challenge
Being a solo freelancer often means trying to be a jack of all trades. It’s the idea that you can reasonably take care of all aspects of a website. We design it, write the code, and keep up with any maintenance needs that arise.
This is something I’ve prided myself on. Partly because I strive to be well-rounded, and also because I prefer to do things myself. It worked pretty well for the first couple of decades.
But this becomes much harder as a business grows. You book more clients and work on bigger, more complex projects. Eventually, you hit a proverbial brick wall while trying to scale those processes.
Growth is something many of us dream of. Yet it can also become a heavy burden. You start to feel it when you have multiple projects going on and unexpected life events that pop up.
On that last point, separating work from the rest of your life is always a challenge. But freelancing makes it nearly impossible – particularly if you work from home. It can be isolating. And it’s not as if the stress just melts away the moment you walk into the next room.
The result is that work becomes more like a wild goose chase rather than an exercise in productivity. It also sucks the fun out of being a web designer. And maybe this leads to becoming a bit grumpy…
How Do We Recapture Our Energy?
Much like the fatigue we face, the remedies are complex. The “easy” solution is to scale back the number of projects we take on. Or go back to the days of building relatively simple brochure-style websites.
It sounds nice, if a bit unrealistic. Doing so would likely mean a reduction in revenue. That’s not a scenario most of us can afford.
On the other hand, there may be several ways to simplify your business. That includes discontinuing or outsourcing some services while increasing efficiency where possible.
Those steps can help. But, by themselves, they can’t fix everything. There’s also a mental aspect that requires attention.
In all honesty, I’m still searching for answers in that area. Perhaps it starts with pacing ourselves and setting more forgiving expectations. And jettisoning the idea that we must do everything solo could also be beneficial.
And maybe the answers will be different for each of us. Our personalities and personal histories make us unique. In that way, it’s about trying to find what works best for you.
It’s Ok Not to Be Ok (And a Little Grumpy)
One might think that experience makes both our jobs and lives easier. But that’s not necessarily the case. We’re often striving to be “bigger and better.” Thus, things can become more complicated over time.
Perhaps the real benefit of experience is gaining perspective. You learn more about yourself – including your strengths and weaknesses. That allows you to identify your struggles and develop solutions.
It’s not all that different from web design. We’re used to analyzing a situation and charting the best path forward.
The bottom line is that many of us will become tired from time to time. It comes with the territory of balancing life while working in a constantly-changing industry. There’s no shame in admitting it.
Getting to the other side of it takes time. Hopefully, this little conversation can provide the spark we need to get moving.