How I Got Started as a Web Designer

After working for two and a half years as an auditor at BDO Dunwoody in Vancouver, Canada, I got laid off. I really hated my job there and at 25, I was already thinking of retirement. I thought that this was a sign and it was a perfect way to change my career and look for my true passion. I had taken a few graphic design courses in highschool and I remembered really enjoying them. Back then, it was Photoshop 4.0 which perhaps really dates me.

I knew I had to go back to school but I did not want to do another four-year degree. I just needed some technical skills so I could get a job as a graphic designer. I ended up choosing the Design Essentials Program offered by BCIT and Emily Carr Institute of Design. It was a very basic one-year program that taught design theory and software skills. I soon learned that graphic design jobs pay nothing. My first job at a pharmaceutical marketing agency paid me $34,000 which given Vancouver’s expensive housing market was not enough to survive on. Thankfully, they paid for me to take some online web design courses at so I could double up as their web designer as well. I highly recommend to budding web designers and developers by the way. If you have some discipline and extra time, you do not need to go to college.

I soon left my job at the marketing agency and went to work for a software company. In 2007, they hired a blogger and web developer to start a WordPress blog to improve their organic rankings. This was the first I had heard about WordPress and I was intrigued. Back then WordPress was purely used for blogging and companies did not fully integrate their websites with the content management system yet. I started customizing premade WordPress themes from and did some freelance web design on the side. I remember other marketing managers would refer to my clients as the “little people”.

I eventually moved to the Bay Area because I had gotten married. The software company allowed me to contract for a while remotely but eventually, the stock market crash of 2008 hit and one-third of the company got let go including myself. I got a job as a web developer at a large medical devices company in Dublin, CA. I eventually quit because it was too bureaucratic and they were not open to creativity. However, I did make many valuable contacts who became my future clients. Yes, I was a professional job hopper before I started my web design business. In fact, I never stayed at a job longer than two years.

Divorced and very broke, I had two major goals when I had quit. First, I wanted to create an online marketplace called WannaBooka where homeowners could post odd jobs that local service providers could bid on for a small fee. Second, I wanted to start my web design business full-time.

Even though WannaBooka failed because of a lack of funding and users, I learned how to better manage web developers and it introduced me some very talented web developers. By working with an experienced, reliable team, I was able to take on more clients and larger, more complex websites. This really jumpstarted my web design business and made it what it is today. I am very thankful that I get to do what I love while enjoying ultimate freedom. The “little people” are not so little anymore.

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