August 21st marks the tenth anniversary of Wildfire Studios — my freelance studio.
I never dreamt I’d be designing UIs, making websites, taking photos, and writing copy for ten years. To be honest, I never dreamt I’d still be in business after ten years! When I started freelancing, one year before I coined the business Wildfire Studios, it was mostly because there weren’t a lot of gigs for English majors in 2012, and I was approaching the end of my university years with no idea what to do with myself.
My first freelance gig was writing television commercials for a local film studio. They had big-name Canadian clients like Broil King, and immediately got me working on commercials for those clients. They invited me to a shoot I was involved in at Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie’s house.
It was an amazing opportunity for a snot-nosed punk with no reputation, no degree, and no real résumé beyond a handful of writing awards from my high school years. If it wasn’t for this client, I wouldn’t be doing what I do today. I am eternally grateful.
When I started writing scripts for these folks, the owner of the studio — who I had met when I scooped him ice cream at my summer job — asked me if I knew what freelancing was. His blunt explanation has stuck with me since: “It’s simple. I give you money for completing the work by the deadline I give you. You work wherever you want, whenever you want. I don’t care if you’re on a drug binge at 3 in the morning in your underwear, so long as you get the work done on time, and you do it well.”
From there, I tripped and fell into writing about iOS for clients like Jim Dalrymple and the MacStorm folks. I wrote hundreds of stories over a one or two year period, while simultaneously exploring wedding photography, graphic and digital design, and print advertising.
Two years in, and only one year into Wildfire Studios, I was creating full-page ads for the Canadian division of multinational clients, who placed those ads in the national trade magazines of their choice. I would do the product photography, ad strategy and copy, and art direction, and send them the finished package when it was done.
All this work eventually funneled into a focus on digital design and front-end web development, which is what I am still focused on today.
I’ve been blessed to make my livelihood on my own terms. I often joke that I’m un-hireable. I’m in my thirties and never held a “real” job, which makes office politics completely foreign to me.
I’ve also been blessed to work with a lot of wonderful clients over the years. Their repeat business, as well as the support of my wife (who I met ten years ago while I was naming the business), has made this job possible for me. Even ten years in, I’m still excited about the things I’m making with my clients today.
Wildfire Studios has always felt like a canvas of infinite possibilities to me. I’ve never felt like it’s limited me to just design. It’s allowed me to do any sort of creative work, whether that’s been photography (wedding, corporate events, and products), print advertising, website development, website and app design, and even a little writing for television.
Since 2020, my work has been focused on huge apps, websites, and design systems for clients and startups located all over the United States (much of which I am currently unable to share in detail). In Canada, I continue to focus largely on nonprofit work (like the new Donations site and evangelism site for EHC, the first two sites in a multi-year, five-part effort for their work.) I’m fortunate enough to be involved at a strategy level, sitting at the same table as executives to discuss pricing models, marketing strategies, and the opportunities for design to make an impact.
If you told me this is the work I would have been doing ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. I feel extraordinarily blessed to be a part of all this today. Ten years ago, it would have seemed so unlikely as to be impossible.
Here’s to many more years of infinite possibilities.