Web Design is All Hours

Working the Night Shift as a Web Designer

I've been freelancing for a while and one of the things I like best about it is that I set my own hours. But before I was a freelancer, I worked for over 10 years as a professional Web designer for a business. One of the nice things about working for a business is the job security. I had health insurance and I had a regular paycheck. But one big drawback was the hours.

40-Hour Work What? - Web Design Work is More Like 60-80 Hours a Week

When I was carpooling to and from work it wasn't so bad. I was last on the pickup schedule, so I always worked at least 9.5 hour days, and often worked longer just because my ride wasn't there yet. But after I got a laptop computer, my hours shot way up. After all, I could now work from home.

In fact, everyone I knew worked at least 60 hours a week. For the most part it was because we love the work, but sometimes it's nice to get away from the computer and stop thinking in HTML tags. When you're working that many hours in a week it's hard to let go.

Vacation - That Word Seems Familiar - Web Design Work Happens on Vacation as Well

Ironically, I was told by one friend that as a freelancer I'd have no more time for vacations because I'd always be working on drumming up new jobs. But I take more time off now than I ever did working for a corporation.

My job as Web maintenance required that I and my team be available to fix problems whenever they appeared. One year, during a big project, every major update was scheduled for a 3-day weekend to give us and IT more time to complete the work before the rest of the company came back to work. Great in theory, except that as salaried employees we weren't paid for those days, and in many cases weren't granted any comp-time to make up for the lost holiday. Oh, don't get me wrong, comp time was offered, we just wouldn't be able to take it when we asked for it because of the nature of our job.

When I quit my first Web designer job, I had 8 weeks of paid vacation accrued. I learned after that job to start taking my vacation so that I wouldn't lose it (most companies have a limit as to how much vacation time you can accrue). It was a large chunk of cash, but taking the time off would have been nicer.

Believe Me, There is a 3 O'Clock in the Morning - Web Design Work is 24/7

Before I worked as a webmaster, I thought that the only 3 o'clock in the day was in mid-afternoon. Nope. One company I worked for had an on-call schedule for the design team. Which at the time I hated. But when I moved to another company that didn't have an on-call schedule I was happy. Until it became apparent that it meant that anyone on the team could be called at any time for any reason. I never thought I'd miss the pager.

4PM on Friday is a Great Time to Start a Project - Corporate Web Design Clients Aren't Any More Organized than Freelance Clients

Especially if the project needs to be live on Monday at 7am. I earned a reputation for building Web pages quickly. This might seem like a good thing, but what ended up happening was that the people requesting the pages grew more and more complacent. They "knew" that if they gave me a mockup I'd have the page live in an hour. And even those people who didn't know me as fast, would drop projects in my lap at the last minute and expect me to pull it off. The sad thing is that as the final step in a design process, you will almost always be the one blamed if it doesn't go live on time. Even if you were only given the content 5 minutes before launch.

Get Into Web Design Because It's Fun

But don't be surprised if even amidst the fun there are some things that are annoying.

For all the complaints, I've been doing it since 1995, so it can't be that bad, right?