Would you do your job for free?

Do you love doing what you do? Do you love it to the point that you’d do it for free?

I remember telling this to the CEO of the first company that hired me as a full-time UX designer: “thanks for the raise but it really isn’t about money for me. If I could, I’d do this for free.” They were really happy with my performance so they gave me a raise just a couple of months after I started working there. Until then, I had a full-time, non-designer job which I hated and I freelanced doing design work on the side. Being able to do it full-time literally was a dream come true.

I remembered this a few days ago. That moment was fundamental because I realised I really did love being a designer. But there’s another part to happiness at work that’s equally important—to love working for the company you work for.

Finding the right company to work for is as hard as finding a life partner.

Let’s say you launched a product with a subscription of $10 per month. It’s just you who works on the product so you don’t need to share your profits with anyone. You own the house you live in and you only need to cover your costs of living—food and utility bills. Let’s say that the total of your costs of living is $1,000 per month. In two months, 1,000 people sign up for your product. Your costs of running the product are marginal (server/hosting and other smaller fees). This means you’re getting $10,000 in every month and only $1,000 out. You have a profit of around $9,000 per month. That’s more than $100,000 per year and should be more than enough to support a normal lifestyle for a typical family. Would you keep your job? If no, would you still contribute to the solution your company works on?

Loving what you do and the company you work for leads to meaningful work which leads to personal fulfilment.

If you answered yes to the first question, you probably love doing what you do. It’s not so much about the money it brings, it’s more about the happiness it brings you while you work on the things you want to work on. If you answered “no”, then the opposite is probably true. If you answered yes to the second question, then that probably means that you also love working for the company you’re working for. This is the hardest part in working for others—it’s hard to find a company that aligns with your values and goals. You may enjoy being a designer but you don’t truly love working for the company that you do.

For example, I love being a designer, it’s all I ever wanted to be. I love it so much that I can’t simply stop working at 5pm. But working for my employer for more than 8 hours a day would hurt my productivity and would also be against my values. So I work on my personal projects. Again, it’s not because I have to work on them but because I want to.

I work for GitLab—an all-remote company with values that aren’t just a couple of words on a website. It’s a company that grew from an OpenSource project and established its values as it went. They aren’t something that a bunch of clueless directors came up with on an off-site event. That, combined with the fact that these values are well-aligned with what I look for from an employer, makes me think that I’d continue contributing to GitLab even if I left the company someday.

UX Buddy

It’s hard to put in words how glad I am to have found something I love doing in my life and a company that I love working for. It’s been a tough journey, one of the ups and downs and learning from my mistakes, but it eventually led me to where I wanted to get. I can’t really help others with the first question (do you love doing what you do?), but I can help with the second one. So if you love being a designer but don’t really love working for the company you’re working for, my latest side project might be for you. It’s called UX Buddy and it’s about helping UX and product designers find a better job. A job where they don’t just push pixels, where they don’t just do things they’re told, but actually get to collaborate with others and help drive the company towards solving user problems.

I’m doing an early launch for people on my mailing list who can get the course for half price, with a chance of a total 75% discount If you love being a designer but don’t love the company you work for or the work you do for them, check out the UX Buddy course!

Matej Latin

I’m a self-taught designer proving that you don’t need a design degree to make a career in design. I went from doing boring graphic design work to working for big tech companies as a Product Designer. I thrive in the grey area between design and web development and I wrote a book about web typography for designers and web developers.

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