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Inspirational Interview: Dara

by Ashley on March 4, 2013 · 2 comments

This is one of our Inspirational Interviews in which we talk to people who have imagined big dreams, made them a reality, and are living a life they love. Today we are talking to Dara about her journey to becoming a self-employed web designer.

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1. Tell us a little about yourself!

Hi! I’m Dara, and I’m a developer and designer from Toronto, Canada. I love what I do because it’s a lot of fun, uses both sides of my brain, and lets me help awesome people. Win-win-win! When I’m not writing code or doodling in a notebook or spending hours in Photoshop, I love to take pictures, write (I have a blog called Reverie Time), watch old movies, and drink far too many cups of tea!

2. What does living a “super awesome life” look like for you?

For me, a super awesome life is one that I’m living with intention and on my own terms. It’s about feeling like I have some freedom in how I spend my time and who I spend it with. It’s way too easy to fall into a life that’s ‘just okay’ instead of ‘super awesome’ if you don’t take the time to sort out what makes you happy and figure out how to get there. It’s choosing to be happy and awesome instead of just hoping for it!

3. What was your journey like to become a self-employed web designer?

In my last couple of years of university (where I was completing a double major in history and art history), I spent a lot of time thinking about what direction my career would take. For a while, I played with the idea of being an academic or a lawyer, because those careers sounded prestigious and sensible. The only problem was that I had a nagging feeling that I’d feel kinda dead inside if I went down either path.

So, I found myself turning back to design, that old hobby that I’d been cultivating since the glorious days of Geocities. I’m not sure why I never considered it as a career path before then, but it suddenly seemed obvious. I brushed up on my design skills with a semester of courses at a local community college, threw myself into as much HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP as I could get my hands on, and finally landed a job at an art gallery where my main task was designing their website and print materials. It was amazing to be paid for something that I’d done for fun for so long!

From there, I worked for two years as a web developer at a university (in fact, the one I went to in undergrad!) and then I took a job as a front-end developer at an awesome local design agency, all while freelancing in my evenings and weekends. Just last month, I gave my notice at my job and decided to make the leap into full-time self-employment. Even though I really liked my job in a lot of ways and learned a ton while there, I knew that ultimately I’d be happier and healthier working for myself.

4. What is the biggest lesson you have learned working for yourself?

Hmm, that’s such a tough one, because self-employment is a fantastic teacher of many, many lessons! I guess the biggest one is that there’s no way to learn like going out and actually doing, as opposed to thinking and planning. No matter how many inspiring blog entries and books you read, there’s nothing like actually going out there and practising your craft, talking with clients, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t for you and your business. I tend to live inside my head a lot, but freelancing has helped force me into action. You learn way more from your own successes and mistakes than by reading about other people’s!

5. What advice to you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

First, just constantly keep taking tiny steps forward. Businesses and skills don’t build themselves overnight, and it can definitely be frustrating as an aspiring entrepreneur to see other people out there flourishing and feel like you’ll never catch up. Just keep moving forward constantly, and little by little, you’ll find yourself getting to where you want to be.

Second, realize that you’re probably already ahead than you think you are. For example, as an introvert who doesn’t have an enormous network, I wondered at first about how I’d find my first clients. But the more I talked to people in my life about my career path and aspirations, the more people started thinking of me when people asked them if they knew any web designers. Similarly, I used to often find myself agonizing about how my skills weren’t exactly where I wanted them to be, but I’ve since realized that basically every talented person feels this way. Use that angst to motivate you to keep improving at your craft, while realizing that your taste will always be ahead of your talent by some margin. This is ultimately a good thing and it’ll keep driving you forward.

6. What little things in life right now make you you do a happy dance?  Big things?

Listening to awesome music, drinking really good tea, learning to make tasty gluten-free food, the fact that spring is right around the corner, getting positive feedback from happy clients, and the squirrels that hang out on my balcony. They’re pretty good company while working from home during the day!

7. In the movie of your life, who would you want to play you?

Hah, good question. I can’t really imagine a movie about my life!

8. What is one thing you’d like to change about the world?

I’d like for people to be far nicer to both themselves and others. I suspect that if people truly liked themselves more, the being kind to other people part would take care of itself.

9. What quote best represents you or motivates you in your current place in life?

I’m not a big quotes person, but lately I’ve been re-listening to the album ‘Make Yourself’ by Incubus (late ‘90s nostalgia attack!), which is all about non-conformity and making your own path.

Thanks so much for sharing, Dara! Have y’all ever considered turning an old hobby into a career?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

The Dame Intl March 4, 2013 at 5:49 am

Usually I can’t be bothered to read interviews but I read this one and I’m glad I did because I relate to it as someone who is self employed and works from home. I have squirrels in the big tree outside my kitchen window which overlooks a large allotments where I get to watch people tending their vegetable lots :)

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