Before we get too far, let me say that this is not a “woe is me” post. I may be grumpy, but I also know how to count my blessings. And I was lucky in many ways. It’s just that… I’m tired.
You see, after 25+ years in this industry, I understand that this job doesn’t get any easier. If anything, even more complex layers are being added. And the expectations from clients and myself are higher than ever.
Then there’s the unhealthy combination 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 see that I am not alone in this feeling.
But they are not just work-related stressors. We have been facing a pandemic for years. And we all have stories of personal struggles to tell. For example, I have a chronic disease (Type 1 Diabetes) as well as a few years filled with family emergencies fresh on my mind. And I know some of you have much bigger problems on your plate too.
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 deal with them.
Everything inside a Web Designer
Twitter is usually my outlet for self-expression and finding out what the web design community is thinking. When I will mocking that web designers are now required to be equal to wikis, some others agreed.
Some even said that all we need is to be trained to search Google. That’s a fair point, because so much information is just a few keywords away.
Still – there is a lot of detail that we need to keep. And the more websites you build and manage, the harder it becomes to keep track of everything. It may be necessary to remember how specific features work, what customizations have been made, and other items specific to the site at any time.
For example, you might need that information when there is a problem. And if you don’t have such things documented, it’s easy to forget important details. That could make the situation worse.
A busy week may involve several situations where you need to dig up site code or troubleshoot a problem. If each site is unique, these small details are even more important.
The web moves so fast. Software updates such as those related to WordPress core and plugins are constant. Security issues can rear their head at any time. The result is a whole lot of brain pressure.
Volunteers face a growth challenge
Being a freelancer often means trying to be a jack of all trades. The idea is that you can reasonably take care of every aspect of a website. We design it, write the code, and keep up with any maintenance needs that arise.
This is what I am proud of. Partly because I strive to be well-rounded, and also because I prefer to do things myself. It worked pretty well for the first few years.
But this becomes much more difficult as a business grows. You book more clients and work on bigger and more complex projects. Eventually, you hit a proverbial brick wall when trying to scale those processes.
Many of us dream about growing up. But it can also be a heavy burden. You start to feel it when you have multiple projects going on and unexpected life events come up.
On that last point, separating work from the rest of your life is always a challenge. But freelancing is almost impossible – especially if you work from home. It can be isolated. And it’s not like 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 than an exercise in productivity. It also adds to the fun of being a web designer. And he might get a little grumpy from here…
How Do We Reclaim Our Energy?
Like the fatigue we face, the cures are complex. The “easy” solution is to reduce the number of projects we take on. Or go back to the days when fairly simple websites were built like brochures.
It sounds nice, if a little unrealistic. That would probably mean a drop in revenue. That’s not a situation most of us can afford.
On the other hand, there may be many ways to simplify your business. This includes discontinuing or outsourcing certain services and increasing efficiency where possible.
These steps can help you. But, alone, they cannot fix everything. There is also a mental aspect that requires attention.
Honestly, I’m still searching for answers in that area. Maybe it starts with pacing ourselves and setting more forgiving expectations. And the idea that we have to do everything on our own can also be beneficial.
And the answers may be different for each of us. Our personality and personal history make us unique. That way, it’s all about trying to find what works best for you.
It’s okay not to be okay (And a Little Grumpy)
One might think that experience makes our jobs and lives easier. But that doesn’t have to be the case. We often try to be “bigger and better.” So, things can get more complicated over time.
Perhaps the real benefit of experience is gaining perspective. You learn more about yourself – including your strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to identify your struggles and develop solutions.
It’s not all that different from web design. We are used to analyzing a situation and charting the best way forward.
The bottom line is that many of us get tired from time to time. It comes with the balancing act of working in an ever-changing industry. There is no shame in admitting it.
It takes time to get to the other side. I hope this little chat can provide the spark we need to move.