Thanks DN: Am I a real UI designer? (3 year update)

almost 6 years ago from , Design by Marcus

Hey guys,

So I’m still at it 3 years on. I’ve come a long way since I started when I had no idea about design and was worried if I could actually make this fun hobby into a career. I've made 3 other posts over the years, the first one being about impostor syndrome and the other 2 being career updates. I started learning design when I was 33 and my life was going nowhere employment-wise, I'm 37 now and very happy with how it's gone since I started this journey.

Here are those previous threads:-




My UI progress:-

2014 - http://imgur.com/a/GqTQq

2015 - http://imgur.com/a/OuMlk

2016 - https://imgur.com/a/Hrzam

2017 - https://imgur.com/a/cLO3u (There are others but they're under NDA)

It's been an up and down year. Financially it's been way off the mark. My best year to date has been year two (I worked with an agency for 8 months) but this year my income has actually been less than year one. My hourly rate has been at $50 for about nearly 2 years now I'm still happy with that but I really need to get more hours each week.

I've had remote roles since I started and I love the freedom it affords me. I spent the first 6 months of this year in Thailand which was a dream of mine. Unfortunately, my work dried up as soon as I got there so the trip ate into my savings but it was an awesome experience nonetheless. I plan to do a ton more travelling over the next few years but I think they'll be shorter trips, I miss my creature comforts too much e.g. designing on a 34" ultrawide monitor ;)

The main thing I need to do this year is diversify the way I find clients. I've relied on a single method so far and the odd referral. I've recently bought a book called 'Book Yourself Solid', hopefully it'll give me a shove in the right direction. Ideally, I'd work remotely for an agency again while I work out better ways of finding my own clients.

I'm pretty confident 2018 will be better than 2017 and tbh it won't be that hard because it didn't turn out great. Like last year I need to work on the marketing side of things and get more serious about learning UX so I can offer it as a service.

Here's some things that helped in the beginning and throughout this journey:-


UXPin Ebooks (these are free)

The Non-Designers Design Book

Steal Like an Artist


Nguyen Le’s Process Masterclass

Paul Jarvis’ Creative Class







p.s. Special thanks to my Slack buddies Laura, Helen, Marko, James & Imran for being awesome!


  • Mike M, almost 6 years ago

    Very cool read Marcus! I signed up to DN after reading it...hoping to connect and learn from go-getters!

    1 point
    • , almost 6 years ago

      Thanks, it's a great community. So many great discussions and awesome articles over the years!

      0 points
  • Account deleted almost 6 years ago

    Good for you. Cheers and all best in 2018.

    1 point
  • Darren Krape, almost 6 years ago

    Nice work! Pretty easy to see the improvement over the last few years.

    What's the main method you've used to acquire clients (you referenced it, but didn't say what it was)?

    I've primarily relied on referrals, and relationships with a couple small agencies who I will occasionally sub-contract with. I have a full-time job, so I don't need a strong pipeline right now. However, I'm always considering ways to improve, and curious what others are doing.

    1 point
    • , almost 6 years ago

      Hi Darren,

      It's nothing innovative but I'd rather not say what it is because it might introduce more competition. I think I need to do something similar to what you're doing and work with a few agencies. When I worked with one previously it was 100% of my income and when it ended I had nothing lined up so I'd like to avoid that happening again.

      0 points
      • Matt C, almost 6 years ago

        You may have enough experience now to consider longer term contracts as well. I personally find it way more enjoyable joining a real team for 3-6 months at a time than playing design merc with an agency. Plus the pay is better and the work is more reliable.

        0 points
        • , almost 6 years ago

          I'd love to do that, working on a project for a longer period will definitely be a change of pace for me. The security, as well as the regular pay, is something that interests me immensely.

          I've always disliked the worry of wondering where the next project is coming from and being pretty bad at marketing/selling myself has been a big thorn in my side so far.

          0 points
  • Mike Flores, almost 6 years ago

    Well done!

    1 point
  • , almost 6 years ago

    btw, how do I add a line break?

    1 point
    • Darren Krape, almost 6 years ago

      Looks like you figured it out, but for others, click on the "Markdown supported" link and it'll show you the various formatting options.

      You can create a horizontal rule with three dashes "---".

      1 point
  • Robin RaszkaRobin Raszka, almost 6 years ago

    I see less progress, this time

    0 points
  • Chris CChris C, almost 6 years ago

    First of all, great job turning things around – most people just continue down the same path no matter how unhappy or stuck they become.

    "I really need to get more hours each week" might be the wrong way to look at it. Don't you want to work less to spend time on more important things? Family? Other hobbies? Travel? I would suggest raising your hourly or do something completely different and charge based on the value you're delivering instead.

    Good luck.

    0 points
    • , almost 6 years ago

      Definitely an option to raise my rates but I'm not confident enough to go beyond $50/hour, I feel like I need to bring more value to the table before I can increase it.

      As for more hours you have to understand that I probably worked 10 hours per week last year. 10 hours at $100/hour would be amazing but I'd be very happy with 20 hours at $50/hour for the foreseeable future.

      I'm not the best at selling myself and talking about the value I can bring. I want to price on value one day but right now I don't feel like I can explain the value I bring to projects. It's something I need to work a lot on!

      0 points
  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, almost 6 years ago

    I would say yes, you are definitely a real UI designer, quite good one too - I remember your posts from previous years and it's good to see the progress.

    The question is, what next? The way I see things, there are two ways to grow from here: either stop following trends and the work of others and start thinking about your own ideas and become one of those insanely creative designers that come up with truly fresh stuff (think http://oberhaeuser.info or https://www.craftedbygc.com), or you start looking at the other half of product design: UX, and start delivering value by considering way more than how things look. I don't think you can achieve much more by following the same path and as others have said, your work this year is not worlds ahead of what you had last year.

    Anyway, that's my 2c, keep it up.

    0 points
    • , almost 6 years ago

      Hi Cristian,

      Thanks for the awesome reply. I've been reflecting on that exact question you posed for the past few months. I'm definitely going to work towards the latter, I'm sure my designs can still improve but just like last years to this years progress it's going be much more incremental rather than quantumn leaps.

      I have a few books and the odd course about UX and delivering value and that's what I plan to concentrate on this year. This way I'll be a more rounded designer and I'll also be able to take on larger parts of projects rather than just the visual.

      0 points
      • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, almost 6 years ago

        The same problem has been on my mind also for a few years and what I came to realise is that past a certain point, the only way to grow becomes being in an environment where you can actually work on complex problem and have people who are better than you to learn from / discuss ideas with / etc.

        In the meantime, I found some of the people here to be super helpful: https://twitter.com/72mena/status/889971011948498945 (I could privately share my notes with what I learned from the people I spoke to if you'd like).

        0 points