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That time I realized I was a designer

graphic design life changes memoir true story

In my young “professional” life, I spent a lot of time chasing pipe dreams and bad decisions. I never felt like I fit in with normal work environments, so I tried to find ways that would provide me income that allowed for my own set of rules. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my entrepreneurial spirit talking to me. However, this story is not about me being an entrepreneur.

When I wasn’t working at some dead end job, waiting to quit or get fired, I would spend my time perusing copies of Entrepreneur Magazine, because it spoke to my enterprising nature, and was filled with countless new business opportunities that had me dreaming of a better life. It gave me visions of doing what I wanted to do with my life, instead of what some boss-man ordered me to do.

One of those business opportunities was a fledgling niche that was starting to gain popularity — windshield repair. Now that may sound like complete drudgery from the outside, and you’d be right, but to a starry-eyed kid hunting for money trees, it sounded like a great opportunity to learn a skill, be my own boss, and harvest some greenbacks. It also helped that the buy-in to the program and equipment was fairly cheap compared to other business opportunities.

After thinking it over for a few weeks, I finally pulled the trigger on purchasing the equipment and my very own license to print money. At least that’s what I thought I was getting.

When the shipment got delivered, I couldn’t be happier. A lot of entrepreneurs say that the two best days in your business are the day you begin, and the day you quit. I didn’t know this adage yet, so I was coveting all this shiny new equipment, as if I’d stumbled on King Solomon’s mine. Now I just needed to learn how to use it.

The paperwork instructed that I call the company right away to have my orientation over the phone, and to schedule my in-person training. I got myself orientated, and I was scheduled to attend a training seminar in my area in a few weeks. In the interim, I bided my time by trying to do things that felt business-y to me. I came up with a clever business name: Busted Windshield Repair. Then I took that information and filed a DBA with the county. I took that information to my local bank, and started a business checking account, handing over $500 cash money to the manager.

The accounts manager ordered me some of those large, business check, the ones that come in a perforated sheet of three apiece. I remember the day they came in the mail; I smiled ear to ear because this meant I was officially in business for myself. The fact that I couldn’t do any actual work in my business yet was minor detail that I would rectify soon enough.

I drove direct from the bank, to the local copy center to buy myself some shiny new business cards. If a checking account didn’t already make me feel like a businessman, having business cards certainly would do the trick.

I walked up to the counter, head held high, and asked the clerk about the business card services. She pointed me to a large folder on the counter that gave all paper and style options they had available. The choices were not as fancy as I had imagined, and I was a bit disappointed, but I resigned myself to the idea that these would only be my first set of cards, and I could improve upon this once I made my first million.

The clerk told me that if I didn’t like those style options, I could sit down with their desktop publishing professional and he could design me something. The clerk flipped the page on the folder to show me some of the design samples they had done in the past, and I was redeemed. These new designs were more inline with what I was thinking — custom, creative options with real personality.

I asked what was the cost of desktop publishing, and she told me they charged by the hour, but the average cost was around $200 to $400 dollars for business cards, plus the cost of printing. I nearly fell backward from the news. Sure, I could afford the design fee, but I wouldn’t have much money left for other expenses, which I knew were inevitable. There was just no way I could risk that much money on a business card.

Hanging my head, I told the clerk I’d think about it, and made my retreat to the parking lot defeated. I knew I was going to end up with one of those lame business card designs, and that thought took the rest of the wind out of my sales. To make myself feel better, I decided to go to the local computer store and look at the latest video game software, because why not. I didn’t have money for custom business card design, but I had enough to buy Castle Wolfenstein, with plenty of money left over. I could drown my sorrows in pixelated gunfire.

As I walked through the store, I noticed they had a section for graphics and desktop publishing software. Intrigued, I decided to investigate further. I didn’t know much about these programs, but I had heard the name CorelDraw before, which was one of the software packages on the shelf. It enticed me with all the vibrant colors on the box, and teased me with the countless, free graphics that came with the program.

I looked at the price tag, and it was $120. That was a lot of money for software, I thought, and I could almost feel the buyer’s remorse even before I made the purchase. I had recently upgraded to Windows95, which was the juggernaut of software back then, and even it was less than $100. Buying CorelDraw better be the best damn software purchase on the planet for that price.

I rationalized to myself that $120 was still a lot less than $400 for custom design services, and I was sure I could work this software well enough to come up with an image suitable enough for a business card. That was all the self-assurance I needed, so I snatched the box under my arm and headed for the check-out counter. If buying my way into the windshield repair business was the best investment I’d ever made, this software was the second best, or so I thought.

I went home and immediately loaded up the software, which took a long time because of all the diskettes required for installation. An hour later, I had one of the most powerful graphics programs around loaded up on my PC, and I was ready to make windshield repair business history

This is an excerpt from the original post, which can be found on Medium.com account. You should go check out the rest of the story, and make sure to hit the "heart" button at the bottom of the page. That would be mighty cool of you.


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