Change your ca­reer en­tirely

Computer Arts - - Four Ways To Go Freelance -

Mel­bourne-based de­signer and oc­ca­sional pub­lisher Dun­can Blach­ford took an­other route en­tirely into free­lance life. Pre­vi­ously a mu­si­cian, he was work­ing in ad­min at a book pub­lish­ing com­pany when the firm’s de­signer was knocked off his bike and broke both arms.

Blach­ford be­came his hands. “I was happy as a type­set­ter,” he re­calls, “and didn’t even think about be­com­ing a de­signer for a long time. Over the last 24 months, my cre­ative in­ter­ests started shift­ing from mu­sic to de­sign – and it’s quickly de­vel­oped into an ob­ses­sion.”

Although Blach­ford had de­signed his own record cov­ers and gig posters for 20 years – and was in­creas­ingly be­ing asked to cre­ate work for oth­ers – he’d only re­cently re­alised that de­sign could be a ca­reer op­tion. He’d just started ap­ply­ing for jobs when he was made re­dun­dant.

“I didn’t have a fo­lio, so I started cre­at­ing new work for each job I went for,” he says. “I had to work fast and in a range of styles and con­texts. Sud­denly de­sign seemed like a su­per-cre­ative field.”

Blach­ford was also watch­ing a lot of tu­to­ri­als, and the con­fi­dence re­stric­tions he’d pre­vi­ously felt dis­ap­peared. “I read books by Robert Bringhurst, Jost Hochuli, Nor­man Pot­ter, Paul Rand, Michael Bierut, Ex­per­i­men­tal Jet­set, Jan van Toorn, Jan Tschi­chold, Joseph Müller-Brock­man – this was all rewiring my brain, and I re­alised there was a rich de­sign his­tory with deep so­cial and po­lit­i­cal as­pects to it. I was lis­ten­ing to Deb­bie Mill­man’s ‘De­sign Mat­ters’ and what­ever else I could find on­line. Then I en­rolled in a Master of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion De­sign course at RMIT.”

The big­gest chal­lenge he’s faced, he says, is his age, and that he’s only worked in-house. “Even though my mid-30s doesn’t feel old at all, I have a feel­ing I’m seen as too old for ju­nior roles, but can’t land a mid-weight or se­nior po­si­tion in a stu­dio ei­ther as they all want stu­dio ex­pe­ri­ence,” he ex­plains. “Go­ing free­lance seems the way to go. Maybe af­ter a few years I’ll be able to move into a stu­dio, or start one with some friends.”

It’s early days still: his first clients were friends and work­mates, then friends of friends and now com­plete strangers from dif­fer­ent walks of life. He also sub­con­tracts for other de­sign­ers, and re­cently started tak­ing some free­lance shifts in larger cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions.

“Between fam­ily life, work and study, life is pretty hec­tic and I rarely switch off,” he ad­mits. “I’m hop­ing the dust will set­tle but free­dom and chaos are in­ter­twined. It’s pretty wild. I’m still green but I’m su­per ex­cited and I’ve found that peo­ple do want re­ally cre­ative so­lu­tions. And I don’t mind do­ing dry stuff that pays the bills, too.”

What’s his best ad­vice? Just dive right in. “I started late but im­mersed my­self and it feels like a new cre­ative world has opened up. Ideas are flow­ing and I feel up for any chal­lenge.”


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