Faded commercial sign from a neighborhood convenience store, long-since closed, reading “BUSY CORNER GROCERY since 1910” followed by a mostly-illegible list of product that includes “Helium,” “Wine,” and “Gift Baskets”

A career manifesto is just words

Published 2023-04-15

I realized when I went back to Courier Prime for this website that I had done this before. So I looked at the first time I redesigned this site after porting it to Django and it was ten years ago to the day

I remember writing that manifesto, the week after leaving my last regular full-time job at Mercy Corps. In that two-week interregnum between quitting and having quit I had developed the notion that I would freelance full-time. But on about Day 3 of the Interregnum I started to get job offers.

It was hard at that moment, with five mouths to feed, to “rage quit regular jobs forever” while potential employers wooed me, which is why that manifesto is so mealy-mouthed. I went onto what was technically a full-time, W-2 type job, for about a year. But my side gig was as large as that main gig, and the main gig was kind of squishy too. For example they never offered me any benefits.

But here’s the thing about manifestos:

Anyone can say anything

So upon reviewing my 2013 manifesto, how did I do?

“I work for me, for now”

See, the “for now” just gives the whole game away. I wanted to play the field but I was already getting marriage proposals. But after the last sort-of real job evaporated in 2014, I have indeed worked only for me.


Ahem. Mercy Corps is my biggest client.

“Up or out”

I thought I might advance in my career in a way that has always eluded me. I occasionally get “director” or “manager” in my job title somewhere but that never quite sticks. People pay me to do things and generally I would rather do than manage.

“Never again,” etc.

I want never to give a fig about fonts.

I wish I could quit fiddling with fonts but I just can’t. I can’t not design logos or match colors or any of the other fiddly graphic design stuff. I’m maybe not so good at it, but I have turned “being kind of good at lots of things” into a general career.

“The price of tomatoes”

I raised my rates in 2013 just after writing this manifesto, and then slightly more again in 2017. I was fine with that rate, theoretically forever, but inflation forced my hand. I raised my rates again last year.

“My ‘brand’”

I can’t keep my personal “brand” such as it is stable but I have a bag of look/feel tricks I always return to. I eventually settled on a personal sigil ✳︎ that has a little bit of emotional resonance for me, and I ceaselessly dink with the colors and fonts. But I only color within certain lines. No one but me cares.

Professionally, I solved this problem by separating my business identity from my personal identity. I defined the business identity six years ago and have left it mostly untouched. It’s fine, I like it the way it is.

”I never wrote a career manifesto before”

My career, two decades old now, Just Kind of Happened. I stumbled upward. The next thing was always the obvious thing. I was a Student and then I was an Archaeologist and then I was a Developer and then I was a Designer and then I was an Art Director and then I was a User Experience Designer and finally I was a Senior Designer.

This is accurate, mostly, and a good summary of the last 30 years. I am lucky lucky lucky, in personal life as in professional life.

The new “manifesto”

Geez idunno this isn’t a manifesto any more. Words are cheap, and I have 30 years of data to form a kind of Grand Unified Theory of both my life and my career.

  • My life and my career are closely aligned and I have always kept their borders blurry
  • I am not an especially original thinker
  • No one would consider me a thinkfluencer (or whatever) but millions of people have seen and interacted with my work, which spans decades, and I can claim credit to having generated millions of dollars of revenue (mostly fundraising)
  • Work gives my life meaning
  • I would rather do than manage
  • I keep foxing at the exact moment I should be hedgehogging
  • I work for my friends, and make friends of my clients
  • I don’t have a lot of patience for office politics when it affects me directly
  • I am super interested in office politics when I am at a professional remove
  • I can square the last three points by transparently charging money for the value of my labor
  • If I had to qualify what I do in a single phrase it might be “blue collar web work”