Why I Quit Graphic Design

“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time… ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.” — Tim Ferriss, “The 4-Hour Workweek”

It hit like an uppercut. I sat stunned in my black, 2004 Saturn Ion. I replayed the track over and again while sitting in the parking lot of my client’s office. “Tim Ferriss is right. There is honor in quitting and correcting course if it’s for something greater,” I thought. But I felt trapped. Results Creative, my design studio—my baby, had become my biggest headache. Gone were the days of sticking my chest out with pride when mentioning my self-employed status. Truth is my studio owned me. I hadn’t built a business, I created a job—and I hated it. How did that happen?

It started in spring 2005. I was fired from a copywriting job that I had become bored with after 18 months of service. While writing was my passion, trying to persuade college kids to apply to colleges and universities had me twiddling my thumbs. I freelanced for six months making little money, but gaining valuable experience. In fall 2005, I created TeamKids, a tabloid newspaper that covered youth football games. I charged a dollar for the paper the first year and double that the second. It was a hit. What was more, photography sales boomed. By 2007, I was poised to take it to the next level, product lines and expansion.

Can We Talk?

My then wife began to express concerns about the amount of time the family spent building the business. I was on my own, she said. I knew that without their help, I couldn’t maintain the business. So I folded. It was the saddest moment of my career. I pursued graphic design as a full time venture in 2008. I had the backing of a degree and experience, so I figured if I couldn’t write, I’d design. Blogging was foreign to me and newspapers weren’t looking in my direction. I found success early on and before I knew it, I was able to support my entire family.

Ah, Clarity.

As the years passed, I grew irritated and disgruntled with being a designer. It was unfulfilling and frustrating. It was during this time of desert wandering that I rediscovered my love for writing and I realized in that moment that I had to find the kill switch on my design business. Then I made some decisions that would change the course of my life. Here they were:

  1. I started writing morning pages. These are three longhand pages of stream-of-conscious writing. I wrote about anything on my mind from the weather to why sleeping frustrates me. It was here that I uncovered a blog idea and followed up by developing it. I built the website, managed the social media pages and had writers working with me.
  2. I aligned myself a local publication. While blogging, a local magazine reached out to me to collaborate. I had written for them before so there was some familiarity. The relationship I developed with them opened the door for me to become the publication’s next part-time editor.
  3. I joined a mastermind group with three other guys I knew. I connected with like-minded men who wanted to soar. We set some ambitious goals and held each other accountable daily. My goal: get back into writing full time. The accountability and the required reading from the group helped to create a winning mentality for me that pushed me towards closing my business and pursing my passion.
  4. I made the decision to let go. I made the declaration that I would not do anything I didn’t enjoy anymore. This was the hardest choice to make, but relieved the most stress and set me on a course of rapid growth. Telling my clients that I was no longer in business felt good and indirectly affirmed my dreams. I still three clients, but they don’t interfere with with goals.
  5. I attached my success to honoring a memory. My grandmother passed away just before Christmas in 2012. One of the things she loved most was the joy that writing brought me and she loved to read my work. I locked in to that and decided that my writing career would be forcefully advanced in her memory. So I applied to a publication a few hours away from where i lived, won the editor position, packed my family up and moved.

Since making the decision the quit design, I have written some of my best stories, participated twice in NaNoWriMo, and I’m writing my first book. I’m also working on a submission plan for several national magazines while working with my publisher and staff to take the magazine I work for to a national platform.

In the 90s there was a television commercial that stated “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” I call bullshit.