The Work Seminar

Ep. 2: Dave Smyth - MA in Jazz Studies Turned Web Designer

November 10, 2021 Jesse Butts Season 1 Episode 2
The Work Seminar
Ep. 2: Dave Smyth - MA in Jazz Studies Turned Web Designer
Show Notes Transcript

Dave felt destined for life as a jazz percussionist, and he pursued that passion in earnest. The website design skills he picked up thanks to a “misspent youth” were intended to help pay the bills in between gigs and teaching. But what started as a means to supplement his income soon shifted into his main bread and butter. 

Now the co-founder of Scruples Studio, Dave is immersed in the world of building websites with—you guessed it—scruples, respecting users’ data privacy and finding viable alternatives to big tech for his clients. 

In ways he wouldn’t have expected, his time earning an MA in jazz studies and his living as a musician prepared him for self-employment.

Resources mentioned

Why I'm Losing Faith in UX” by Mark Hurst

Where to find Dave and Scruples

Scruples.studio 

@scruplesstudio and @websmyth on Twitter

Check out more from The Work Seminar

Visit theworkseminar.com or find @TheWorkSeminar on social media. 

Sign up for The Work Seminar newsletter to receive updates straight to your inbox.


Support the show (https://ko-fi.com/theworkseminar)
Jesse Butts:

Welcome to The Work Seminar, the podcast for people with liberal arts advanced degrees considering work outside their fields of study. Hey, everyone, thanks for joining me for another episode of The Work Seminar. I'm your host, Jesse Butts. Today I'm chatting with Dave Smith, an MA in Jazz Studies from the Royal Academy of Music turned web designer. Dave is the co-founder of Scruples, a collaborative... collaborative web studio that builds websites withyou guessed itscruples. Dave also has this distinction of being my first guest located outside the US. Dave, welcome. Glad to have you here.

Dave Smyth:

Hi, Jesse. Thanks for, thanks for having me.

Jesse Butts:

Absolutely. You know, obviously, you have a very interesting story of going from jazz musician to web designer. Before we talk about your path, though, I'm curious if you could share a little bit about life as a web designer. Many of us have a general notion, vague idea of what that means. But what does that type of work really involve?

Dave Smyth:

It can mean so many different things. So if I, if I talk about the work that we do in Scruples, it's like typically, we, we have people come to us with like a brief. Typically, they're like a companythey already have a website. And what we like to try and do is like refine, refine the the journey, refine the, the aesthetic, make sure that their website's really reflective of them as a company and, and, and we try and we try and impart ourthe scruples that we've collected over the years and, and our thoughts on like ethics and privacy. And try and wrap all of these different things into, into a website for them. So it's the visual thing is, like, definitely a part of it. And I think that's probably the thing that people think of when when you say web design, but we do the whole thing from like, the design to the development and get the thing live. And, and, yeah, just try and try and do the whole package, really.

Jesse Butts:

What did you mean by journey, when you're talking about helping a customer with their journey?

Dave Smyth:

So it's, we try and think about what the, what the clients or customers or usersthe people who are using and visit the websiteswhat their, what the goals for this site are for them, and try and prioritize. Try and make it as easy as possible for them to complete the tasks that they're trying to do because users always trying to do things. And they like to be told and directed to like, where to go to do things. So it's really about trying to prioritize those things and make it as easy as possible. So people aren't confused about when they need to go or like what they need to do. Just sort of hand themhold their hands through, through the process of doing what they came to the website to do.

Jesse Butts:

Would you mind sharing...I'm not sure which is easier, like a couple examples of what is a website built with scruples? Or perhaps it's easier to talk about a website that is built unscrupulously? Which, whichever you prefer. Just a little background be great there.

Dave Smyth:

Yeah, I could talk about this for days. So I'll try and keep it brief. Yeah, I guess, I guess the web has evolved a lot over the years. And the other day, it was 30 years since Tim Berners-Lee created the web. And, in fact, there's a really, there's a really good article by a guy called Mark Hurst, who runs an agency called creative good. And he wrote a piece that went like semi-viral a few months ago, about user experience. And he talks about how in the different decades first, first userin the first decade, user experience meant like, helping users as much as possible. Then the second decade, it was like, helping companies as much as possible. And then the third company was like getting users to do what the companies want them to do. And lots of websites fall into that last category now. So there were loads of dark patterns, which are things like tricking users into doing things that you want them to do without necessarily realizing it. Or there's lots of tracking that goes on, that users aren't necessarily aware of. So there are lots of ways that website visitors can be exploited or tricked or manipulated and, and what I guess what we're trying to do is try and help, help companies and organizations that want to to do the right things and be open and transparent and navigate these things. Because lots and lots of these things are quite technical in nature. Some of them are less technical. Some of them are more technical. It's not a business owner's job necessarily, or responsibility, to be like, okay with all of those things. So it'swe say our role is trying to guide and, and give the sort of pros and cons to different things and, and think about some different ways that common things can be, can be achieved without exploiting people.

Jesse Butts:

All right, great. So I'd like to start with, with grad school. You know, what, what prompted you to enroll in grad school? Why were you interested in going beyondI'm not sure if undergrad is the correct term in Englandbut what prompted you to study more in Jazz Studies?

Dave Smyth:

Yeah, well, I, so I did my undergrad in music. And, and in music, there's, there's a distinction between going to like a music school or like at music college, or Conservatoire, which is where there's much more of a performance focus. And you can, you can sort of view those as like training academies to become a performer at the end. And then if you're studying music at a university, which tends to be a bit more academic. So I'd studied at the University of York, which is actually a really flexible music course. I, I picked it because I didn't have to write so many essays. And I was sort of, I was sort of struggling, wanting to be a performer, but also wanting some of the some of the academic stuff as well. So that that course really suited me. And I went there as a drummer, but also an orchestral percussionist. But I've never played jazz before. And it was something that I discovered very quickly.

Jesse Butts:

This is while you were an undergrad? Correct?

Dave Smyth:

Yeah. Yeah.

Jesse Butts:

Okay, gotcha.

Dave Smyth:

And while I was there, I was, I was really fortunate. Fortunately, the the university had these ties with some really, really incredible jazz musicians who would come up from London, and, and teach some of the students. So through that, I really got interested in jazz and playing jazz and, and things. Yeah, I guess I'd always had in the back of my mind that after university, I would at least try and go to music college, It's always quite hard, because you don't haveyou haven't had theyou haven't had this sort of performance supports in the undergraduates, you don'tat a university you don't get as many individual hours for lessons and things like that. And there just isn't that focus as there is in the music college. But by the end of my course, I'd really decided that I wanted to go into jazz as opposed to orchestral percussion, or something else. So I took a year out, and mainly to like practice and do gigs and do some teaching and things. That year out was kind of interesting because I contracted Guillain-Barr syndrome, which is a really rare neurological thing. It paralyzed me and I was in hospital for a while, and...

Jesse Butts:

Oh, wow.

Dave Smyth:

...recovering at home for a while, which postponed my audition. And there are all these things. And I really didn't think that I was going to get a place because that had interrupted the prep and I'd had to push the audition back and things. Anyway, I was really lucky to get a place. And then I find myself having this amazing opportunity to study basically, with my favorite musicians in like the whole world. So it was this really incredible opportunity that I ended up with. So yeah, I know, I guess it's like a fairly typical, like, musician journey, you know, something you've become interested in when you're younger, and then you've practiced a lot of time on it. Get reasonably good. And then before you know it, you're at college, and then university, and then if you want to be a performer, then the next step is music college. So I guess that's, I guess that's kind of how I ended up doing that.

Jesse Butts:

And when you were in grad school, what were you thinking? That, you know, this is, obviously was the next step in your journey. But did you have thoughts of being a performing jazz musician for the rest of your life? Did you think, you know, this isI'm open to whatever after this. What was that state of mind for you?

Dave Smyth:

I guess I thought that I would piece together a sort of musician's life. Which generally, especially for jazz musicians who don't havelike in the UK, there are no nationally funded jazz orchestras or there are like what maybe like one or two jazz orchestras that are associated with things like the BBC, or really big institutions. So, so there isn't really a career structure, and you find that there are internationally renowned musicians in the UK who basically still have to teach for a living and don't make enough money, doing gigs, or sessions ,or any of that thing. So I thought, basically, my, what I thought my life was going to be was doing some gigs, doing some recordings, being a teacher, having this sort of patchwork career that I suppose probably describes the life of lots of musicians, jazz or otherwise.

Jesse Butts:

And as you, as you finish grad school and you graduated, is that what life right after grad school became for you?

Dave Smyth:

Sort of, sort of, yeah, it's so one of the, one of the things in in doing the MA was that I had to move to London, which was quite a quite big move, not, not emotionally, or anything like that. But financially, it was, it was quite tricky, because it's a really expensive city. And, and when, as a musician, lots of your work tends to be location based. So if you brought up teaching, that's in one area, your reputation and your name, and the gigs that you have, they all tend to be associated with, either with people or with a venue or something. So when I moved, it was, it was really like, starting completely from ground zero. So immediately I felt under pressure to, to like, earn while I was studying. And it's very hard, it's very hard to. I didn't mind, I didn't mind that, per se, but it was very hard to sort of get any sort of foothold into, like new work or teaching. So in my case, the course was two years. And in my second year, I got a, I got a teaching job in a school, and I was starting to dostarting to get some more paid gigs. But lots of the gigs I was doing were, weren't really the sorts of things I wanted to do, though. They weren'tthey weren't very well paid, they were quite far away. And it was, I found it quite hard to sort of patch together this, this existence that I thought I was going to have. And then I guess really what wasthe what sort of kicked me into doing the web design thing was, in the September after I finished, a couple of days before I start to mentor, start back at the school, I got an email to say that I wasn't needed. The music service that I'd been working for, just didn't, didn't help at all. And I ended up sending a message to, I think it was on Facebook, to my network saying, does anybody need a website? Because I can, I can do that. Yeah, and suddenly, I was starting to do something completely different.

Jesse Butts:

And just to clarify that the school you're referring to is the one that you're teaching at? They're the ones that sent you an email saying that they no longer had a position where you?

Dave Smyth:

So I was actually working through a music service. And it was one of those situations where you're being totally ripped off. They're, they're they're taking like half the money.

Jesse Butts:

Oh, I see. Okay.

Dave Smyth:

And, and they assign you a school where I hadn't really, didn't really see eye to eye that well with the head of music at the school I was placed at. And it wasn't like we ever had a cross word or anything like that. But he wasn't very supportive. He was quite rude and, and all these things, and I think what had happened is he'd said, "I don't want him anymore." And the music service had gone, "Okay." So that, that left me in a bit of a situation because I had bills to pay and I was relying on it, and within like no notice at all. I needed to pay the bills, and I was actually quite lucky that another friend who worked in another school actually got me a position somewhere, so that was really, really good. But thentyping over butyeah, it was definitely like a wake up call that these things aren'tyou think you have some security but someone can pull the rug from under your feet.

Jesse Butts:

Nothing's guaranteed. Yeah, yeah. So you mentioned that at this point, what when, you know. like the rug was pulled on your feet, like you said. You posted on Facebook asking if people need websites. So I'm curious, when did you become interested in web design? Like over, you knowwas this something that you had been doing in your spare time? For years? How did you develop these skills? What, what led you to, to youwhat made you interested in this practice to begin with?

Dave Smyth:

Yeah, it's, it's, it's kind of funny because it was, I guess it was the result of a misspent youth. I, I started learning about websites in 1999, when I was like, way too young to be doing anything with HTML or coding. But, and I'd already, I'd always built sites for me as a musician, it was something that I could do. And very, very occasionally, I built them for other people. But I was, I was really hesitant to do it, because I didn't really have any experience of dealing with clients or like scoping work, or any of the things that when you start doing it as a, as a career, you've got to got to get on top of. I guess, in hindsight, in hindsight, it would have been the perfect complimentary gig as a musician, because you could do that in the day and then play well. It's, it's fairly flexible. But yeah, it was something that I'd been doing for 15 years. And there's quite a lot of stuff that I needed to catch up on, because I've been focusing on being a musician, and all of that stuff. But yeah, it felt like the obvious thing for me to fall back on and turn to as a way to, yeah, plug the gap I now have.

Jesse Butts:

So can you tell us a little bit about those early years, right after grad school, as you were starting, you know, into web, as you were entering web design, you know, to help make ends meet? You know, it sounds like you had some skills you neede to catch up on, as you mentioned, but also, I'm curious, you know, when you are a musician, you mentioned so much was location based, and, you know, you had to build a rapport in your community. What was it, like, building that rapport for web design work, as well?

Dave Smyth:

Yeah, so it's the first, the first gigs that I got were, as a web designer were musicians. So as you can imagine, they weren't, they weren't paid very well. But at that, at that point, I was appreciative of, absolutely everything I could get. And fairly quickly, I started exploring freelancer websites, like Elance, which was the forerunner to Upwork. Now, I think, I really saw that as, as a chance to sort of catch up on some of these things that I'd missed. And, yeah, and, and start to start to build some work and learn some new skills and things. That was kind of a funny experience, because they, they had this feature on Elance, where you couldbecause I obviously, I was completely fresh faced on this thing, didn't have, didn't have any background, didn't have a background in computer science, or previous agency work or anything, any sort of portfolio reallybut you were able to bid to boost your bids and get to the top, like, be one of three bids that a client would see. So I used that to just try and get my foot in the door a bit. And yeah, and then picked up a bit of work through that. And, and then, and then I think it's, I always describe it, like a referral snowball, like once you start, once you start picking up gigs, people will talk about you and, and people move jobs and their lives change, and they end up in situations where they need a web designer. So I think just over, gradually, over time, it just, it just built and built and built.

Jesse Butts:

How long was the period where web design was a way to, to make ends meet and to you know, obviously, from a financial aspecthow long was that period before it kind of clicked? Or like this is something that I want to build that youexcuse methat you wanted to build into your career? Or you know, that you really started thinking that this is something you could spend, you know, a significant amount of your future in as far as work is concerned?

Dave Smyth:

Yeah, I, I think it happened fairly quickly. So not long. Actually not that long after I graduated I took a hiatus a bit of a hiatus from playing because I just, Id just sort of fallen out of love with it. And, and it wasn't that I didn't plan to go back to it, but I just thought I'm just going to take a low pressure break, and it just so happened that I didn't go back. But I think it was, I think it was sometime in around 2015, 2016, I was still doing like a day of teaching a week in this, in this school. And I think, I think it was in 2015, 2016 that I stopped that because I've been building up the web design thing and quite enjoying it over for like a couple of years. And then it just got to a point where me taking that day to beto go and work in school was really disrupting the week. And I've been in these ridiculous situations where I might get an email when I was at work about something that needed to be done urgently and I couldn't do it until I got home. So it was really when I stopped doing the teaching that, yeah, I guess I'd already built it. I'd already built it and beyond the time I had available, but I guess like mentally it was the point where I cut off the relatively secure teaching income that it became like "this is what I'm going to do" if that if that makes sense.

Jesse Butts:

And just for like timeline perspectiveso 2015, 16, is that like within a few years of you finishing your masters?

Dave Smyth:

Yeah. Yeah so I think I posted on Facebook about websites in September 2013 so, so yeah, it was yeah two or three years after.

Jesse Butts:

Got it. So I'm curious when you were talking about, you know, you were enjoying this... What about web design really latched on to you? What, what in particular interests you, or was interesting to you then, that you really felt like you found something you could make a career out of?

Dave Smyth:

I think it was, I think initially what I really liked about it was that there...it felt like there was a separation between work and life. And as a musician that was really, really blurred. And there was a lot of, there's a lot of self worth wrapped up in performance and being a musician, which probably says more about me than just about the industry. But there was a lot for methere was so much, so much of the enjoyment was about how the last performance went or something that I was looking forward to. And I think when I started doing, I started doing like web design and dealing with clients in that way it was, it was much more balanced. And of course you can have like stressful situations with clients and things, but you're always being paid for it. So that's, that made a nice change from being a musician. And yeah, it just felt much easier to sort of define like work things and yeah and non-work things.

Jesse Butts:

Did identity play any role in it? And by that I mean, you know, music was a profession but maybe it was also musician was a big identity and there, and was there something appealing about doing work thatI think you said, I'm not sure if you said self worth, maybe something along those lines? But didn't feel so tied to who you were as a person versus what you did to it for a living?

Dave Smyth:

Yeah for sure. And, and it's funny because looking back it's it's easy to forget that the there was a lot that I had to learn then and to sort of catch up on. So I'm wary of looking back on it with rose tinted glasses but it was...Yeah, I remember that at that time there wasI found it quite stressful doing some of the work because like everything was a challenge and a little bit out of my comfort zone. But I do, I do remember distinctly feeling like wow, this is this is actually something I've never experienced before where it is work and I can turn it off at the end of the day. And that's, that's absolutely fine. But I think as well, what I really enjoyed was, were those challenges. Like there was there was something to learn. And I guess that's the thing with any job in tech is there's always something. That there can be always something new if you want. And yeah, it was, I guess, it was a different challenge. And yeah, like you say, it was separated from my self worth and that and that was like a really...Yeah, there was a big relief about that. Yeah, weirdly.

Jesse Butts:

I think that's, that's been a fairly common theme through some of the people I've talked to. So, you know, from what I've been hearing, and some things I thought about throughout my own journey from grad school to work definitely resonates. So just kind of going back a little to that time when, you know, it's like 2015, 16, you had left teaching and had essentially fully devoted your professional life to web. You know, can you take us through a little bit what's happened since? I mean, I know that you've co-founded Scruples. You've become really interested, you mentioned earlier, in privacy, things of that nature. What was kind of the transition from maybeI'm not sure how to phrase thisbut web design as purely work toI don't think thought leader is probably the right term. I know a lot of us don't like that term. But where, I mean, you clearly take a very active interest in not only the work, but where this industry is heading and how it shouldand where it should go. What's that been like for you?

Dave Smyth:

I guess it's just, yeah, I think it's been a bit of an evolution. And of beingit's been like a trickle of things that have happened, and I've taken notice of. So I think for a long time, I felt like I'd really found like the right balance of things, being an independent freelancer, all of the benefits that come with that, and the flexibility of the time, the control, all the time you don't really have to spend communicating, because you're just communicating with the client. So you're, you're in full control of all of that stuff. And then, I think maybe one or two years ago, I, Colin and I met, and Colin's the other half of Scruples. And we started working together in November last year. I hadn't realized at all how enjoyable it could be to work with somebody else. And like all of the other benefits of that, like when you find somebody who shares a similar outlook on things. And you have a laugh, and you make it really enjoyable to work. But also what we found is that it makes the work better. And he brings skills I don't have. Like he's a wonderful illustrator, incredible illustrator, actually, and a really great storyteller. So we really bounce off each other. Obviously it's not all rosy because when there are two of you, you've got to find more work or better paying work. Yeah, and we're really right at the beginning of our journey. But I think we both feel like this is, yeah, it's a direction that we we both really want to take. And he was a freelancer before. I guess on the, on the sort of privacy things, and I suppose you can, I suppose you can call it like the ethical side of it. But particularly the privacy, I think there have been a few things that have happened over over the last like five or 10 years that have sort of piqued my interest in things like thinking about like some of the Facebook things. Like some of the pieces of data and things that have happened there like at Cambridge Analytica. And then, like there are things like superhuman like the email, I don't know if you know about that, but when superhuman email came around, there was a big thing about like the tracking in, in emails that could reveal to individual users like where their recipients were when they picked up emails and things. Aand I guess I've over the years, I've just been becoming more and more interested in it. And I'm thinking, how can we do these things in a different way? And not have to rely on just tracking everybody and building up these huge logs of people's location history or all these other ways that people can be tracked? And the ads industry, and there's all this, there's all this stuff, it's such a, it's such a massive topic. We try and pitch the business cases to do these different things, rather than just saying, "Don't track your users because it's bad." It's like, "Don't track your users because there are all these possible business benefits that can come from doing that." Yeah, that was a bit of a rambling answer.

Jesse Butts:

It was great. But I want to get back to a little bit more about the role of work and your reflections on work after grad school. So, you know, we've talked about what you found enjoyable in work. Do you see a relationship at all between that work that you did to earn an advanced degree in jazz studies and and what you're doing now? Was there anything that you look back on and see, oh, that that's kind of a common pattern? Or, "That skill I learned has helped"? Or, do you see it, just entire them entirely unrelated, with no common thread that you can weave between them?

Dave Smyth:

I think that definitely are some some common things is as disparate as they might appear on the surface. I think being a musician teaches, sort of teaches you to be self employed. Like on a practical front, it teaches you to live on almost nothing, which is useful when you're starting out. But also, looking back through a lots ofthere is lots of crossover, overlap, particularly in the skills you learned when negotiating with clients. And all that sort of thing when you're doing gigs. I remember a musician telling me that he was a really successful musician. He told me that, when he was asked about gigs, for people's weddings and things, people would always complain at the amount per musician. They'd say, "Oh, that's too much, per musician." So his trick was that whenever anybody asked him to play a wedding, he would say, "Tell me your budget, and I'll fix the best possible band for your budget." Which, I guess, is the musician's version of value pricing. And yeah, so there are lots of things that crossed over like that. And, and I guess it also teaches you the sort of knocks of freelance life, whether that's like an off comment from a client, because believe me, people love to tell you as a musician, if they don't like something. Or if it's just like a lean period where you don't have gigs for a little while. I think one of the weirdest things for me actually was coming from an industry where there's so little money and going into something where the average salary might be like two or three heights through two or three times higher than, than that of a musician, doing some teaching and some gigs and things. So that took a little bit of adjusting, particularly with hourly rates and how to charge by the hour in that sort of situation. So yeah, there are definitely some things that brought over but also a few different things to get used to as well.

Jesse Butts:

I'm curious when you heardI was really intrigued by when you were talking about people aren't shy to give musicians feedback. I know from my experience, too, that people obviously give designers, web designers, other designers feedback. I'm wondering if there's a common thread of having to get useful feedback. I know in music might just be like, "I don't like it." And then you might ask why like, "Oh, it's, it's not my thing." Or with design, I've heard this so many times talking to my designer friends, you know, some will say, "I don't like the design." They'll say, "Oh, what don't you like?" "Like it doesn't pop, you know?" All these things that are you knowwhat are you supposed to do? Someone just says that music isn't for me or the design doesn't pop, that doesn't give you much of a chance to understand what they're looking for.

Dave Smyth:

Yeah, for sure, for sure. I think actually in design now is it's actually easier to manage it. So what we try and do to manage to sort of head that off is, is we try and get the clients involved as early as possible in the design process. So we'll show them like the wireframes. And generally make them feel like that part of it. And I think what sometimes happens is, clients might feel like, they want to have a say in it, because they feel, because everyone can have an opinion on it. It's the same with like, writing. Everybody's a writer, everybody's a designer, everyone's a musician. And so yeah, so we try and get clients involved as early as possible. And if they make a comment like that, the classic one is, "Can you make the logo bigger?" We try and bring it back to something objective, like, how will that help? How will that help the project goals here? Like if we make the logo bigger? Or, "Can you show me an example of a site that has really, really big logo? Like if you're competitors, or something else?" The other thing that we do that we'vejust for any designers who don't do this, this is super helpfulis recording videos to talk through the designs. Because that's what we found is that stops people sending it off to colleagues and saying, "What do you think?" Just like flat screens and what do you think? Because I think without the context of how you've got to a design and the decisions you've made, and things. Without including that, I think that's when you get a lot more of the could we could we try that in blue? And those sorts of comments.

Jesse Butts:

One thing I'm curious about is your thoughts on how important is fit. And by that, I mean, do you need to find work that's a passion that you love? Is finding work that, you know, you're likeexcuse meyou like, you have some interest in, or something that you know, for some people might be they just want something nine to five that they never have to think about outside of working hours. Where do you what do you think where do you kind of fall on that spectrum?

Dave Smyth:

I don't think you have to love your work. I think if you do, that's wonderful. But I think I'm really grateful to have found something that I find enjoyment in. And without it being like I was talking about earlier, being completely tied to my self worth or like any of those things. So yeah. I don't enjoy every part of my job either. But there are other parts of it that I enjoy enough to push through. And I think everything's a balance. And I think I'm really grateful to find something where I enjoy the balance. And I enjoy the challenge that I can have with it. And there's enough to dig into it. But I'm not it's not like a really boring job. Like there's lots of flexibility. And for me that it's, it's sort of perfect in that way.

Jesse Butts:

Is music part of your balance now? Have you reintegrated that into your life?

Dave Smyth:

No, I actually don't. I actually don't play at all anymore. I listen a lot more than I used to. I always used to listen to music. But now I listen to a broader range of music. I've sort of got out of my own head. But funnily enough, about three or four years ago, three or four years after I took the hiatus, I had a gig come up that was with some friends that I felt no pressure to play with. It was right right around the corner from where I was living. So it was like the perfect gig to try it again and see how I felt. And yeah, I really didn't enjoy it. Well, I didn't hate it, but it wasn't enough for me to think I want to try this again. So yeah, I don't really play anymore.

Jesse Butts:

So one thing too, I think that the audience might find interesting. You've been self employed, a small business owner, throughout everything we've talked about. Have you ever considered, or at any point did you consider, working for a company? What is it about self employment, small business ownership that really appeals to you?

Dave Smyth:

Yeah, so I guess I have always worked for myself, because I was, yeah, being a musician before. That's the only thing you can do really. I think, really, it's the flexibility that I really love. Like I say, there've been one or two times when I've thought or maybe there's been a job come up at a really great place. And I thought, maybe I can apply for that. It's interesting, it's secure. But I think when given how long I've been self employed, it's hard to put a price on the flexibility. And now I have a young son as well. And my wife is self employed. So between us, we kind of patchwork the childcare. And, yeah, once you've been self employed for as long as this, it's very hard to imagine having to be somewhere at a set time. And not having any control over the work. That something else that's evolved, like over time. So I used to take on absolutely every sort of project within certain boundaries. But now, I don't do any development, any gigs. So we only do things where we design it. And usually we build it, but maybe we don't. And we prefer to work people that come directly to us, like, rather than via an agency. And I think over time, you just build up all of these, like small, small things, and small, little red flags that you know, can become much bigger red flags. And the thought of thesethe thought of it being completely out of my hands now. I'd have to be paid a great, great deal to want to sacrifice what we're doing now.

Jesse Butts:

So for any of those prospective employers of Dave out there, there is a price. It's high. But you know, he's just shared that he's got it. Yeah, exactly. But in all seriousness, I, you know, that really, I think is, is something that each person may discover. Some people just have different tolerance of risks. Some people appreciate flexibility. Some people appreciate security. Some people feel like controlling everything is appealing to some and to others that might seem like they're responsible for everything. You know, I think it's very much an individual thing. But to wrap up, though, this has been a great conversation. For people who are in or out of grad school, who are considering work outside of what they studied, what would you recommend? That can be questions they should ask themselves, books they should read, TED talks that you've seen. Where do you think they should start? If they're in this situation or a situation similar to what you were in?

Dave Smyth:

Yeah, it's a tough, it's a tough one. Actually, whenever people ask me this, it's alwaysyeah, I don't know why it's so difficult to answer. But I think partly because everybody's situation is so different. Like you said, and people's experience, and their tolerance, tolerance of different things is is different. But one thing that I think if I had been trained as a designer, one thing that I think would have really helped in retrospect is if I'd worked at an agency before, and then become freelance. So I would for sure say before you take the plunge, it's really good to either either have clients that you're doing on the side with another job, or while you're studying, or somethings just so you can learn some of those sort of trades, and things that you need to know. Or if you can work for some time, place that will make things a lot easier because you just get such a broad oversight over what goes into it. Like what things costs, how long things takeall these things that if you haven't worked in that sector or even if you have worked in that sector actually, if you haven't worked for yourself it's very hard to work out how long those things take. And you just have to discover it yourself, which, yeah, it can take a very, very long time. I think the other thing is for anybody, possibly who wants to go freelance maybe is to build up the biggest runway they possibly can. And maybe like six to 12 months of what they need to get by. All the freelancersobviously, I didn't do that. In a way I always felt like employment wasn't an option for me even though it obviously was, but all the freelancers I know who were employed and built the runway beforehand, they've all seemed to have had an easier time of doing it in a way. Not to take anything away from their experiences, but they've always seemed like it's been a bit more relaxed for them because they haven't had to worry about working every second or taking every single opportunity no matter how poor the fit. And ultimately, they've been able to build a business that they enjoy, and sort of taking the pressure off having toyeah, like I said, take every single gig and run themselves into the ground and trying to get started and earn at the same time. Yeah, I'm not sure how useful that is.

Jesse Butts:

I think it'll be very useful for our listeners. And Dave, if there are any listeners out there who happened to need a website and they want it built with scruples, where should they find you?

Dave Smyth:

So our website is scruples.studio. And we're also on Twitter @scruplesstudio for one tweet. every two months. But I'm more active on Twitter @WebSmyth.

Jesse Butts:

All right. Well, Dave, thank you for joining me. It's been great.

Dave Smyth:

Thanks so much for asking me.

Jesse Butts:

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Work Seminar. If you like what you've heard, please take a minute to rate the show on your favorite podcast app. Know someone who would be a great Work Seminar guest? Or have a suggestion or two for the show? You can reach me at jesse@theworkseminar.com or @TheWorkSeminar on social. And special thanks, as always, to Jon Camp for the music and Isabel Patino for the cover art and design. Until next time, never cease from exploration.