Jobs, Careers and Vocations


Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay


I wrote earlier here about the gig economy and about unretirement and various other work-related topics. I just finished a one-year contract gig and assumed that would be it for me in the world of higher education and maybe in all of the work world.

But in those two weeks before my contract ran out and the one week since I have had 4 offers for new gigs. I had already decided to really stop working. Oh, I still have some clients for web services that I’ll continue working for, and I have my blogs, but no more contracts.

So why have I considered and even researched two of those offers? There must still be something that draws me – and maybe others – to the job-based life. That is a life that centers on having that one full-time job. It is what I spent most of my life doing.

I have been surfing some websites about “finding direction” and came upon a program offering at  1440 is 1440 Multiversity, which has a very new-age vibe and is self-described as “a place to experience time differently—exploring what matters to you, while surrounded by fresh air, delicious food, wellness classes, many ways to unwind, and opportunities to connect with yourself and others.”

I don’t think I’ll have the chance to visit 1440 but in their catalog, I found a course taught by Dr. Martha Beck, Ph.D. She is a writer which a number of books including Finding Your Own North Star, and Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. She is a columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine, and a contributing editor for several popular magazines, including Real Simple and Redbook. She is a Harvard-trained sociologist and research associate at Harvard Business School.

Her course is Navigating the Storm: Finding Peace and Purpose in Uncertain Times. That title might not suggest a path after working a lifetime, but in an interview with Beck she was asked, “People often conflate finding their passion with finding a job. Are they the same thing?”

“The concept of the job does not lend itself to living your passion,” says Beck. “Jobs as we know them are part of a hierarchical society that has a pyramid-shaped economy. This industrialized setup is based on factory labor and is meant to keep people infantilized into thinking there’s somebody (a boss) who is going to come in and give me what I need (money). It assumes if I do my chores I’ll get my allowance and I won’t have to grapple with individual survival in its grittiest forms.

This is why we hate jobs and we hate our bosses—because it’s not supposed to be set up this way. This is a child’s experience. In nature, you would go out and encounter the world and make your way. And as you did, that would shape you.”

She says something about one of my favoritewriters, Henry David Thoreau. She believes that when he wrote that the majority of men “lead lives of quiet desperation,” he was talking about jobs, and not men in general, but men under the Industrial Revolution who were working factory jobs.

Beck has never really had a “job” in the traditional sense, or a job-based life. She has found ways to make money which she sees as “very much like living off the land except you’re dealing with an economic system.”

Is that an earlier version of the Gig Economy?

She says, “You figure out what is needed and you find a way to play in the fields that you like until you can add some value… Jobs are going away—it makes no sense to hold onto a job you hate as it goes down.”

Writing books about this is one way she has earned a living. Doing courses and workshops seems to be another. She also thinks the place to be is online.

“If you think of something that people want and that they can benefit from, you can offer it out there in the virtual space for a reasonable price. I just don’t see why anyone would do anything else, frankly, unless you love your job.”

What about college which was once the best path to a job and career? She thinks that path is not the best path for many young people.

She suggests that things that are “high-touch” (that actual humans have put their time into) will have a high value. Create something high-touch and deliver it or distribute it online.

That is not so easy for all of us to do, though people are selling physical things and also services online and making a living. I’ve sold virtual services and will probably continue to do so for a while.

You might argue that to run your own business online will become your job-based life – just not at a company workplace. I know someone who runs her own business selling handmade products online, but she also supplements that with pop-up sales at craft fairs, etc. She doesn’t work 9-5 in an office but many of her weeks are more than the traditional 40-hour ones. She works home creating her products, fulfills orders, does the shipping and gets out there to make direct sales. It is not an easier life, but she likes the freedom of being her own boss and deciding when to work and what to do.

A job website such as might recommend that you take a personality test to gain guidance on what type of job or career suits you best.

Another suggestion about the working life comes from an interview with author  Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for Eat, Pray, Love. Listen to her interview on the Hello Monday podcast where she talks about when to choose a job over a career and also about having a vocation. There are differences.

I really like what Gilbert says:

“So you have your job that you go to pay the bills. And then you have your life outside of your job, where you do your hobbies and your pursuits and your family. And it might not be the most interesting thing in your life, but whatever. You’ve got to pay the bills. A career is something that you should be passionate about. So a career is a job that you deeply care about. That’s the difference between a career and a job.

… if you think you’re in a career but you hate it and you’re bored and it’s killing you, quit it and just go get a job… It’s okay to just have a job. Not everybody needs to have a capital C career because you can have a whole life outside of that.

And then the other one is vocation, which is like a sacred calling of something that is very holy to you, that is the center of your life that you know can never be taken away from you no matter what.”

Do you have a job or a career? Do you have a vocation? Would you dare to have more than one of those things?

Starting Your Own Web Design Business

I saw that had an article about some steps to a successful web design business. Being a freelance website designer, I had to look.

They say there are nine steps:

  1. Lay the groundwork.
  2. Create your community.
  3. Handle HR and legal concerns.
  4. Establish facilities.
  5. Get your IT in order.
  6. Set up finance and accounting systems and processes.
  7. Dive into marketing and advertising.
  8. Plan for sales.
  9. Set up systems for productivity and quality control.

Since I don’t do web design full time (and have no desire to), I don’t see you as a threat. Click that link above for more details, but here are just a few personal comments on some items on their list.

With all the free and easy to use websites that allow you to set up a basic website, a lot of people who would have needed a designer probably can go at it alone. Still, I find a good number of people who are still technophobes or just know that they won’t do it or maintain a site and want a service. I understand that. You can probably cut your own lawn, so why do so many people have a service to do it?

Groundwork covers a lot of ground. Sart with you really being able to build sites. Just knowing how to use some free sites or a bit of HTML is not enough for what most people want and certainly not enough for what even a small business needs. You may need to take some classes, workshops or online seminars. They suggest as one place to try.

There are lots of books about freelancing, and about web design if you can learn that way. There is also a lot of free info online.

Identifying pricing options was harder than I thought it would be. My first freelance gigs were for friends and I tended to underprice my work. You can have a pricing model of hourly vs. project-based billing. I find that people like project-based because they know the cost rather than seeing the hours pile up. But for my own work, I find the hours are often less than I estimated. You get better at this as you do a few jobs. I use a estimate spreadsheet to formulate a dollar or hours amount.

Don’t forget to build in meetings, travel, and revisions. I also calculate some third party costs that don’t go to me, such as buying a domain and web hosting which I will do for the client. Add in your time to do this administrative work.

My ideal clients are people I know and projects I am interested in doing. Web design is not a full-time gig for me so I can be selective. You may not be so lucky.

You may also be able to offer some other related services. If not, have some people you will recommend that may then recommend you for web work. I do some social media, photography, graphics and video work too. For many others, I refer them to people I know who have that expertise or companies that handle it. That can include branding and PR specialists, hosting, domain registration and email and more professional photo and video work (such as catalog and online store work).

I am a sole proprietor and have an LLC to protect my personal assets. These things vary by where you live and you may need to talk to a lawyer to help you with the necessary paperwork and/or use an online service such as LegalZoom.

Those business expenses can run from a lunch check with a potential client, to mileage, to setting up an office and buying hardware and equipment. Learn about what is legitimate as an expense with the IRS before you file for year one. I have a separate business bank account with its own associated debit and credit cards.

Yes, people do operate out of the local diner or coffee shop, but that won’t work for all clients.

I use a higher-end laptop and Adobe Creative Cloud for almost all my work. I backup all my work in two places -one on a drive in the office, one in the cloud.

I have made up my own invoicing forms and bill like many contractors with a portion to begin and the balance after launch. No payment, no launch.

You certainly need your own website before you take on clients. I have several that I use so I can demo different options and designs.

If you plan to do social media work, or just to promote your business, have some business social media accounts, and consider whether you want business profiles separated from your personal profiles onFacebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Get some business cards and start promoting yourself!

More at Running a successful web design business – The Garage