Career Angst

I’ve been a freelancer for over a year now, and at my current in-house job for almost five years, but change is in the air, my resumé is out in the world, and with the change comes the professional angst I face whenever the prospect of progress looms over my career options.

I’ve worn many hats over the last decade of my working life: writer, editor, graphic designer, video editor, web designer, web developer, web executive, video archivist, blogger, freelancer. The diversity of experience opens the field up a bit for me, but forks in the road mean career confusion. “Web designer and developer” is my current niche, with a focus on usability, standards, and designing for content management systems, but web designers of middling skill are a dime a dozen, so competition can be stiff, especially with precocious web-savvy kids pricing well below your margins, as it’s been ever since the web was invented.

It’s caused me to wonder whether I should go back into the much more specialized field of video post-production — but then I remember the long, late nights and weekends, and the tedious playbacks to directors and agency creatives and clients. It was great keeping hours like that as a single 22 year old, but I’m not so sure if that would be best in my upcoming married early 30s. Plus, my experience with digital video editing at Omnipost is almost a decade old at this point, and mostly Media 100-based (not counting the passing acquaintance I had with Final Cut Pro at MICA).

As for my entrepreneurial venture, it certainly hasn’t been a disaster, but it hasn’t been a roaring success, either. Financially, 2006 was the Year of Treading Water, in which I learned and applied the basics of running a business in the District: doing my own taxes, keeping track of income and expenses, negotiating contracts with clients, managing overseas talent — and making just barely enough to break even after taxes. I know it takes time, money, perseverance, and luck to build a successful business, but savings are low and I’m getting married in three months, and what I need now is stability, structure, and a regular in-house paycheck. Still, I can’t help but feel a twinge of regret — and a nagging feeling of failure — at my inability to make my first trillion dollars in freelance web design, and I wonder if I couldn’t have tried to do a few things better.

What field to work in, then? As of now, my career strategy is still what it’s always been when I go job hunting — go with whoever hires me soonest, and as the song goes, “bloom where you’re planted.”