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The Cost of Freedom

Matthias Petsche, a Southern California designer, tells us about his bold move, quitting the security of a full-time agency job, in favor of the independent freelancing lifestyle…
DS: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
MP: Well, where do I start. My name is Matthias Petsche. I’m a proud alumnus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Graphic designer by profession but also a kickboxer, adventurer, and artist by choice. I have a passion for being outdoors, low-brow and contemporary art, and mixed martial arts. If I am not expressing my creativity in some medium, you will most likely find me, running, practicing kickboxing, or taking a walk by the ocean with a cup of coffee. My passions and hobbies keep me balanced and enable me to focus on a project or come up new ideas.
DS: So, what made you want to be a designer, anyway?
MP: I’ve been involved in nearly every creative field since a young age. Whether it was acting, playing an instrument, drawing or painting, I’ve been involved with some sort of creative field as far back as my memory goes. I first stumbled upon graphic design in my freshman year of high school. My graphic design teacher told me I had a talent for design and went as far as pulling my parents aside at parent-teacher meeting to encourage them to push me towards graphic design. Alas, I ignored the advice and decided to pursue Chemistry as a career. At the end of my first year at Cal Poly I chose an elective called “An Introduction to Graphic Communication.” It covered the whole process of design. It wasn’t just graphic design it was the science and art behind design. Graphic Communication was the perfect combination of both my interests, science and art. I was hooked. I immediately changed majors and haven’t looked back since.
DS: What’s it like working for an agency?
MP: Working at an agency is great. You are consistently involved in a wide-gamut of projects and are surrounded by co-workers sharing the same passion as you. They aren’t just co-workers but mentors, and basically fans, pushing you to be the best designer you can be. Agency life is fast-paced, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s stressful at times, but everyone stays light-hearted and is there to help one another out. It’s important, especially for designers just starting their career, to be surrounded by like minded individuals who strive to create the best work.
DS: … Sounds  great, but something was missing?
MP: The main things missing for me was freedom and change. I have a lot of hobbies and passions that I feel are important to my continued development as a creative and with a full-time agency job my time became limited. I also began to feel stale working on similar projects and not expanding my creative talent. Between feeling stale and my hobbies slipping, I started to become unhappy. If you aren’t happy you aren’t going to be in the correct mindset for putting 100% into each project. The routine of having to be at an office from 9-5, for me, is dull and uninspiring at times. I began to find myself at my desk constantly day dreaming of being outside or working on personal design projects. It was then that I decided that the 9-5 grind was not for me.
DS: So you quit. Probably not the right move for everyone, but was it for you?
MP: So far it’s been a great move more me. I’m much happier, even if freelance is unstable at times but that’s what keeps me hungry for projects and inspired. I thrive off of uncertainty and change and freelancing definitely fills that void. It’s also great being the boss, sales rep, art director, and designer. You are never lost in translation about a project and that sometimes happens at an agency. In an agency setting you are working as a team and often projects are passed around at different stages. It’s easy to lose sight of the client’s vision. Freelancing has allowed me to see a project through from an idea to the finished project. There’s nothing more rewarding then knowing you’re solely responsible for a happy client that’s proud and appreciative of the end design. Call it selfish or blame it on growing up as an only child, but I like to be in control of every project and see it through to the end result.
DS: What’s a day in your life like, now?
MP: It’s hard to describe a single day since it’s always changing. One day I could be sketching out ideas or diligently working on a design and the next day I could out in the field brainstorming and pitching ideas to clients. It’s always changing and that’s what I love about freelancing. If I want to take a spontaneous day off to work on personal projects, further my design knowledge, hike with friends or road trip, I have the freedom to do so. I’m no longer bound to a defined place of work, the world is now my workplace and I love that.
DS: Words of wisdom for up and coming designers?
MP: There’s so much advice I could give up and coming designers but I’ll focus on an area I struggled with starting out, failure.  My advice is to fail constantly and embrace it. Nobody likes to acknowledge failure but it’s a vital part of who we are as designers. If you are always worried about failing you’re holding yourself back. Try new things, when it comes to design, and if they don’t work out as planned, learn from it and do it better next time. No one has ever discovered something or become successful new by following the same path everyone else takes.

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