Last months have been a challenge because of working on multiple projects, and trying to find time to work on my website. I’ve had other attempts of launching my own online portofolio back in 2013, but my excitement quickly went away because I’d forget to update it, and when my domain expired I did not even bother renewing it.

Since then I also tried multiple website constructors such as wix, webflow, readymag, and they’re all great but not really what I was looking for (I will expand on that in another post). Finally I ended up with good ol’ WordPress, I’ve designed the website myself in Sketch, prototyped in InVision and uploaded to Zeplin, then had it sent to a friend of mine who happens to be a WP Developer, and also a really nice person.

I went with a really simple and clean design for the website, and tried not to overload it with information, the main goal of the site being to showcase client work and also provide value by writing articles on design, work tips and Interviews with other designers.

Now that I’ve told you about my website, I would like to introduce myself and tell you some more about my background, who am I and how did I ended up doing what I love, make money out of it and avoiding the corporate ladder that so much people are desperately climbing this days.

As long as I can remember,
I was a pretty rebellious kid, shy, introverted with a great sense of humor.

I am Mihai Dolganiuc, I was born in 1989, raised in Moldova, Chisinau. I come from a decent, hard-working family, I was taught from an early age about the importance of hard work and the results it can bring if you are consistent and perseverant about what you do. As long as I can remember myself, I was a pretty rebellious kid, shy, introverted with a great sense of humor, not very good at math but extremely good with foreign languages, good ear for music, driven by the impulse of creativity by making and trying new things which are essential to a person like me that gets bored pretty fast.

Me, almost 8 years old

I always had a thing as a kid for drawing, which is not something unusual for kids, but usually as you start to get into your teenage years this fades away and you start to develop other interests. Well, not for me, the more I was ascending in life, the more I would sketch all types of ideas I had in my mind, mostly inspired by Animated Movies from Cartoon Network, I remember the last page of my every notebook in school being with all type of weird drawings.

And then I got my hands on my first computer (2003) it costed something around $1K which were serious money at that time, I remember only a few of my classmates owning a computer back then, like every teenager all I did was play games, listen to music and eventually draw in MsPaint. Two years later (2005) I would get my hands on a pirated version of Adobe Photoshop 9.0 but did not install it, as I had other important things to do, such as playing games, instead I recall playing around in a Photo Editor called Ulead Photo Express in which you could apply all type of lens flares and effects to your photos, which striked me at that time as something amazing.

Three years later (2008) I am a freshman at Technical University of Moldova, on my way to become a Licensed Engineer, that would just be another doll of the system, get a job after graduation and just working 9 to 6 so he can make a living, little did I know at that time that things will not go this way for me. So as any 19 year old student with a lot of free time, tired of computer games and TV shows, I started a side hobby as a result of me finding a forum which would help people get started with Photoshop. I had a copy installed and immediately got caught in creating all type of content, following tutorials and also adding my own ideas to them. I remember thinking “Boy it would be great if I can get a job like this in which I can create visual content, enjoy it and even get payed for it”. My skills got better, and I also started to get involved into photo editing,

San Francisco, California, USA — 2011

The following summers (2010 and 2011) I would travel to the USA with the help of an exchange student program, and that would also serve me as a lesson of what hard work is, and introduce me to the adult life where you earn your own money and actually learn to save them. I bought my first camera in 2011 from the USA and it costed me around $1100 with all accessories. Big investment for me at that time. I learned what I could about photography and even made some money out of it. Meanwhile I was also getting better at working in Photoshop (well at least that’s what I thought I did).

Graduation Pic — February 2012

2012 has caught me of guard, I still had no idea
what am I going to do
with my life.

2012 has caught me of guard, I was almost to graduate but still had no idea what am I going to do with my life and where am I heading to? I worked for 1 week at a small photo studio, that printed photos and made photos for passports. It ended up with me leaving for another job as a draftsman engineer that would help creating 3D designs in Solid Works. I stayed there for two days and hated every minute of it. Is this what I really want to do in my life? With this salary? The 22 years old me was too picky and stubborn to do something he doesn’t like doing. So I quit. 

And it didn’t go well … “What are you going to do? You need to have a job, a profession, something that would feed your family” my father told me, and he was right, what parent does not want the best for their kids? My mom understood that this is not what I wanted to do and just left me alone so I can figure out what am I going to do with my life. And things kept getting worse, in 8 months from graduation I went to 20+ interviews, have sent over 40+ emails with my resume, I did everything I could to get a job, no one would take me, not without experience, and if they would, I wouldn’t accept because of the low salary, my ego was to big to go for that offer. 

I started learning Illustrator, and with one month I remember posting videos on Youtube of me tracing vector cars. Quite an achievement. I would then start sending out my small portfolio, made of works such as banners, low resolution logos that still give me nightmares, but hey, we’ve all been there. And again, no one would hire someone who has no strong portfolio, and isn’t good at anything in specific. 

Things got worse when I had an accident while skying, that left me with both hands in a cast and bonus my left leg, my right let was also suppose to go in a cast but the doctor said in a really funny voice that he is not going to do it. One month of staying just in my room and barely walking has taught me well that you have to think twice when a ski instructor says to you “You know, considering your skying style, you should not be here”.

My first Logo, for a Local Social Enterprise

February of 2013 while still being imobilized I did my first logo for a university colleague, for which I was payed ~$15. Not long ago a company has reached out to me, to schedule an interview as a graphic designer, I went there and then I got into the accident, they called me again but for obvious reasons I could not go for the 2-nd interview. Luckily for me they called again, in the begining of March 2013 to give a chance at a 1 week trial period. 

I started working March 14-th 2013 and I will never forget that day, I was eager to learn and to show what I can do. Unfortunately my graphic design skills weren’t the best at that time, and the lead designer wasn’t impressed with the banners I made. It was crushing for me, I felt threatened and had a lot of pressure on my shoulders and was almost sure I wouldn’t make it. Then one day the general manager, asked me if I could do a video of a small tutorial on how to navigate around a website, I said yes, but had no idea how to do it. I then went home that night and spent the whole evening looking at Adobe Premiere tutorials, and I managed to get a contract with my employer as a “graphic designer”. 

My next months were pretty much made of recording screens and editing videos in Premiere, I then got into After Effects, sometimes I would fool around in Cinema 4D. Later on I would start the actual graphic design work, by creating logos and website interfaces for blogs, and working on improving my animation skills in After Effects. 

In 2015 the company closed and I was again on my own, but with some experience in my background and feeling more confident but not very comfortable about my job situation. And to make things worse, I decided to have a car accident with someone who would not notice me and destroyed the right side of my car. The insurance money took some time to come.

I then saw a post on a forum of a friend who was already working at pretty established local company who would specialize mostly in web design, and was ready to help me out by offering a job. I went for the interview, the art director wasn’t pretty satisfied with my works, but gave me a shot. I couldn’t be happier at that time, a bigger salary, good team, nice office, doing what you love, what else can you ask for. I stayed there for one year, and learned and did a lot of things, animations, mostly web design work, logos and videos. 

Unfortunately in May 2016 I was laid of with other employees. I considered myself a failure at that time, but little did I know this was for the best. I started working on freelance websites where I would do random low paying jobs until eventually I met a guy from Australia who wanted to start his company, that would provide unlimited design work for a monthly fee. The salary was 3 times bigger compared to my last company, I started to sense the potential of the work I was doing and it went really good for almost two years. 

In November 2017 I was told the work has been slow and I had to go, I wasn’t very disappointed because the work I was doing in the past months was extremely boring and rarely involved doing logos, branding or web interfaces. So from November 2017 I became a freelancer and still am one to present days. 

I will be writing a post, about my journey as a freelancer, where I will be describing the perks and down side of working for yourself in another blog post, until then thank you for reading.