Going Rogue in Northern Michigan: Becoming an Independent Graphic Designer

Posted on Posted in Design Mind

There is a certain direction you expect in life. A momentum that pulls you and guides you forward on your journey toward the future you expect and plan for. Then one day the realization hits, a pile of bricks—an anvil to the head—this is not working.  

It is time for a change. It’s time to focus on the things that truly matter in life. It is time to go rogue.

At the end of May, I did it! I pulled up my bootstraps and left my position as Art Director at Traverse Magazine Magazine to began a new wild journey as an independent graphic designer. The decision did not come lightly (choosing to leave a well-paying job full-time job should never come lightly) but family troubles and a part-time remote work opportunity finally fueled the decision.

What surprised me most about the decision—the moment I started putting feelers into the world—there was interest in what I could do and offer. The fear of jumping into the deep end of small business ownership was abated ever so slightly in knowing that my pool party would not be lonely. I could do this thing.


Now, just a couple months into the full-time independent life there are a few key truths I have discovered.

Building Client Relationships Is Fun!

Throughout my career as a graphic designer, I have often been the person behind the scenes. In fact, at my first job, I only met my primary client once at the holiday party. There was almost always an account manager conducting the day to day communication with clients. This always kept clients separate, as something other. Now, I really have the opportunity to really get to know my clients, what they like, what their lives are like and how to produce great work for them. It’s the bomb diggity.

You Determine Your Schedule.

Timelines! Schedules! They can really quickly weigh you down to become heavy burdens. No matter how many Gantt charts or deadlines are set, bottlenecks happen. When your day is rigid there is almost no way to fix the bottlenecks but work late into the night, but somehow when you can determine for yourself how the cards will fall, the bottlenecks are not quite as tight and when they do happen, you can sleep in the next day to keep everyone’s spirits high.

Me! outside enjoying the sun.
Outside, enjoying the sun!

Procrastination Is Mostly Not Helpful.

Spending a Tuesday afternoon hiking at Sleeping Bear Dunes or fishing on Big Bass Lake is not likely to do much for anyone’s business goals but it certainly does a lot for the spirit. It is important to take the time to relax and enjoy life, but procrastination does not equal much forward momentum. No one hires people who don’t work, so…work work work… but stop and smell the roses from time to time too because burnout is real (dude).

Better Work.

Choosing your workspace is magical for creativity and comfort. Right now, as I write this, I am sitting outside on my patio soaking up the sun on a nice warm sunny Tuesday afternoon in July. I would never have this opportunity if I was in an average office—I would be chained to a desk in an overly air conditioned office. I can work from anywhere, and I do. My work flow is better, my creativity is enhanced, I explore more ideas, and my attention to detail is better than ever.


So far, at this stage of the journey, I can honestly say that the decision to move into small business ownership as an Independent graphic designer has been good. I have fallen in love with each of my clients, their unique needs, and personalities. I am excited to meet new clients and find out how we can join forces and build better stronger businesses and brands.

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