Changing Industries

This is my experience with switching from one industry to another.

I get the feeling that there are a lot of illustrators out there who are working in-house for companies and are either worried about the economy, getting laid off or having their jobs shipped off to low cost countries. Working in the auto industry for 13 years and seeing what was happening, we were constantly in fear of losing our jobs.

Seeing the signs

It was about 3 years ago when the company I was working for started up an office in China. It was right about then that I started working on a new game plan of getting out of the auto industry. Companies all around were doing the same thing and entire illustration departments were being farmed off to China or Indonesia. I was in Michigan at the time and jobs were starting to become scarce already. I applied for hundreds of jobs, had a few interviews but couldn’t find what I was looking for.


Then after about a year of that frustration, I found a job posting in the Outdoor Apparel industry and applied. I became the number 1 candidate but after budget cut backs within that company I didn’t get the position. What I did get was a request to freelance for them, which I accepted. I worked for about a year freelancing (about 20 hours a week) while I kept my full time job, this was certainly not easy, especially with a 2 yr old son at home.

Good timing

At about the same time my current full time employer was asking me to develop a training plan to teach the 10 illustrators in our office in China to do the work of the ones we were going to lay off in the United States, at Christmas time no less. So off I went to Shanghai and did my job, not feeling too great about that, as you can imagine. It was only a couple weeks after I got home that I got the offer for a full time job with the company I was freelancing for, I gladly accepted.


What I got from all that freelancing and hard work was experience in a completely new industry that was foreign to me. This lead to a full time job with an incredible company and escape from the hell hole that was metro Detroit,  it also meant moving from Detroit to Denver while my wife was 6 months pregnant with our 2nd child. This was definitely one of the hardest periods of my life but completely worth it. I now have a job that I enjoy going to everyday and draw more and am more creative than ever.

Switching jobs is never easy, industries, even more difficult. After almost a year I am still getting used to the change. I’ve heard too many people complaining about where they are and blaming others or situations around them for keeping them down or trapped and never really doing what it takes to make things better for themselves. The one thing I learned from all of that was , my dream job isn’t going to come to me, I have to work my ass off for it.

What’s your situation? What kinds of things are you seeing in the corporate work environment? Freelancers, are you feeling more pressure due to the economy that make you feel like you need to change the way you do business? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Changing Industries

  1. Freelancing lets me ‘diversify my portfolio’ and work for industries that are up while the rest of the economy is down. Lately architectural illustration work is slow, but healthcare is booming.

    Having a broad skillset and willingness to learn new industries is invaluable, whether in-house or freelancing.

  2. David Comerford says

    I been freelancing full time, since I lost my full-time job back in April 2009.

    I have been freelancing on the side for 6 years now. It is still hard to find companies willing to let you work from home.

    Diversity is by far the important skill to survive as a Technical Illustrator. I have worked in different industries that expects from you… jack-of-all trades.

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