Goodbye to the office, hello to the world… Let me start with a little about myself for context. I have a 1st Class Honours Degree in Industrial Design and had 2 years industry experience prior to departing. Done! So in 2015 I decided to quit my relatively successful and promising career with one of the UK’s leading Design and Engineering companies. Dyson. During my time with Dyson I was awarded two promotions, and the future was looking promising. It was also looking…the same. One day I had the stark realization that it was far too easy go from project to project, promotion to promotion until I was a 10 year man, who never has the time to explore and see the world with too many financial agreements, who is bound by 20-25 holiday days per year…This just brought on the feeling of impending DOOOM! [SPOILER] So I spent all of my money and travelled the world for nearly 1 year. However this is not a post about my “courageous decision” as traveling is now a culturally accepted right of passage for most of the lucky West (Apart from the vast majority of American’s I met but I will get onto that later) This post is for a good friend I met along the way. Aimed at those whom are considering doing the same thing, but need that little extra push. With my profession I have the luxury of being able to complete a large amount of the design process digitally. I could even sketch digitally using a nifty pen and software combo called Inkling. But I must admit, it wasn’t my intention to work on the road. I went out there ready to soak up every moment and immerse myself in a world of adventure and new experiences, people, places, tastes, smells etc. I just ended up wanting to do it along the way! THE DIGITAL LIFE BY LIAM HIGTON-SHIRT I should also admit that although I was conscious and in some cases reserved with the money I spent. I wasn’t on a super tight budget. I saved for 15 months with the intention on doing everything and anything I wanted for a year. Then it was time to crack on when I returned. So I guess your wondering why I started performing freelance Industrial Design? Quite simple really. I enjoy it! The extra money was helpful but one of the main reasons I started working again was to keep my mind busy. One of the advantages of travelling is the constant exposure to new things, cultures and ways of life. As a designer this is something that cannot be bought, and left me itching to work-up some concepts. I have never had so many promising ideas as I had on a daily basis whilst travelling. This is because you have all the time in the world to ponder and question things, no deadlines other than your next meal or flight! Plus… concept generation is something that surprisingly, anyone and everyone is willing to contribute towards. I was brainstorming with people I had met in a cafe, on the beach, on the plane! As soon as someone finds out your a designer, strangers love to share their pet hates! Most of these are trivial but 1/10 comments could be worked up into something. Now I didn’t go around with a clipboard asking people for their needs and wants. I would just say, don’t dismiss the value of a strangers opinion. Unless your waiting for a tram in LA and a homeless man starts listing the benefits of storing his old fingernails in a sock. I bought a Macbook Pro in Australia as its the second cheapest place in the world to buy apple products bar Japan. It was expensive but hasn’t let me down once, the performance, reliability and battery life is second to none. Im not a Apple fan boy I just like fast reliable machines.
Once I was armed with a suitable machine and all the software needed, I started to work. I have worked for a kitchenware company on a flexible freelance basis for a couple of years now. And by flexible I mean they send me a job whenever they fancy and I always accept. The nature of freelance is irregularity and awkwardness. But in the best possible way! Unless you have a fixed freelance agreement then finding work from scratch is very hard. But your out to see the world, so as long as your not literally relying on every penny (cent) made from freelance work. Its just a pleasant bonus that provides a necessary break from exuberant galavanting. And trust me when I say you will get frustrated of doing nothing. Actually… your never really doing nothing, driving from Queenstown to Mount Cook isn’t nothing, swinging in a hammock on Whitehaven Beach reading a book isn’t nothing. Dodging lorries on your $200 Honda Win in Vietnam isn’t nothing. I guess I mean not contributing to anything greater than your enjoyment. Its great being selfish and if anyone says it isn’t their lying. But on the other hand its even better helping someone else. This can be by bringing someones idea to life and providing them with a tool-able CAD model. Or volunteering at an English School in Myanmar. Obviously this took around 4 months to become apparent to myself as I was moving fairly rapidly and doing a lot. But it does become apparent! Stopping to work not only provides you with a little extra disposable income, but also lets you stop, appreciate and get excited for your next adventure! And should therefore be a fundamental part of anyones travelling holiday. And looking back I wish I did more myself to extend the trip. I primarily relied on two websites other than my freelance contract to gain work. These websites were freelancer.com and peopleperhour.com both sites are free to sign-up, you simply pay a 10% of the income made to them. Peopleperhour is more specialised and you have to perform a online assessment prior to listing your skills. But both work on a similar bidding principle. You effectively bid on projects people post. For example, if someone wants several CAD renderings producing I would “bid” by saying I will do the job for X amount. But evidently the market is hugely saturated with competitors each bidding for the job, so the price usually drops well below industry standards. On the other hand a higher price reflects a higher quality of work, so its a tricky game. Especially as its also based on a rating and reputation system. In a nutshell you have to start at the bottom offering to do work for super cheap in order to get the job and get the rating. Once you have a high enough rating you can start requesting more and receive more work. But this is a long and in some cases demoralising process. I would recommend doing this in your spare time to get a rep before you go travelling! A little trick of mine was to perform the initial job for cheap and at a high standard resulting in a good rating. But then ask the client to contact me directly for any further work which often brought in a higher rate.
However once you get rolling freelance work is great. You get to work on the beach, in a bar, cafe, car, camper anywhere! You are often restricted by limited internet access, so I tried to do as much as possible offline in a cool location (another reason battery life is important!) and would then grab a coffee to finish the work and upload or send. It feels great earning money doing something you love with a bottle of Chang next to you in a cool cafe, after a day of snorkeling. If you are exceptional and can find a steady contract you wont be rich, as the nature of traveling and irregular work restricts that. But you will be happy. Its not to say its all plain sailing, I missed routine, family, and old friends but thats something you have to either get used to or incorporate into your trip. I am now back home in the UK after exhausting my funds. As I worked during my travels I don’t feel rusty as a designer. I actually feel I gained more experience and skills. I was independent and managed every aspect of certain design projects, one of which is currently being manufactured. I have learnt about new cultures and trends that can only make one a better designer. This, combined with my previous experience and qualifications will help me secure a job in the future. I quit my old job, but ensured I wouldn’t be burning any bridges along the way. A lot of my piers now have a mortgage or a flashy car. But no matter how wealthy the individual is. I haven’t met anyone who isn’t jealous of my travels and experiences. And upon stating this to me I usually reply with…Well do it then, anyone can. This is true, but not always. I ensured I had little commitments prior to traveling. No girlfriend no financial agreements and nothing that would prevent me from doing this. But some people are not in this favorable position. This is not to say traveling is impossible, but its just not as easy. I don’t have the opinion that everyone should travel, and that “traveling changes you mannnn”, you just have a more rounded opinion, it broadens your mind. I didn’t go traveling to find myself, I went for a good time and to experience new things! So I don’t have anything against someone who wants to smash their career or wants a family or reliable job and nice house. But people who are truly miserable in their current situation, and whom dream of exploring the world but dare not to because they have a job, these are the people who need to realise a year to two or three isn’t (hopefully) a massively large period of time in respects to a lifetime that will largely consist of working. And as I’ve poorly tried to explain in this post, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Traveling can also be beneficial to your career, but more importantly to yourself. As I mentioned at the start of this post, whilst traveling in America (Which was incredible. You guys are super lucky to have such an amazing country with varied climate, wildlife and landscape!!) I met tons of people who desperately wanted to travel, but a staggering amount dare not due to their job. I noticed this whilst traveling around other countries. I rarely bumped into a American, and on the occasions I did they usually had beaded dreadlocks…I would like this post to speak to a lot of Americans who only care about the car they are seen in. Go and explore, even in your back garden. There really is more to life!! Travelling was the best decision of my life hands down. It was an experience I will never forget, meeting people I will never forget. I am now ready to start the next adventure. Go out and be a Digital Nomad – It will be the best thing you ever do.