I grew up in the 90s in a soon-to-be transformed traditional socialist country where you’re not to think you are anything special. It’s called Sweden, and it’s a country where the greatest knowledge you could get is by listening to your teacher; I’ve always had a very hard time listening and learning. During High School I studied economics since that’s the normal way in Sweden, if you want to become rich and have a decent life.
The hunger for success and making a career grew on me. I was desperate. Here I was, 17 years old, still in High School, studying economics when at the same time mathematics was my worst subject. I actually had to have special help and be in special help groups to be able to manage the mathematics. I’ve never liked to work with calculating numbers, which is also a bad thing if you want to work with economics and be successful.
I managed to graduate High School, barely passing mathematics. As a lost teenager in a country where the job rates are as low as the prices at IKEA, I had nowhere to go. No one would hire me. Who would care for a newly graduated student? I spent some time in college studying politics and national economics. Halfway into the process, I had a wake up call. What am I doing? Why am I here? If I want to be as successful as badly as I want to breath, then why am I making half-ass attempts to become a decent economist? I left collage and created a startup, which would also be the startup of my designing career.
I created a cleaning business, since in Sweden there was a new legislation which said that you get extra funding from the government and you pay less taxes if you’re in the cleaning business. We were one of the first modern cleaning businesses in Sweden with gaining most of our clients through Google thanks to our great Search Engine Optimization. One day I read an article from a major marketing company that said something like “So you’re at the top of Google Search? But who would like to buy something from you if your website looks like dirt, who would stay on your website if it looks unprofessional?”. They had made their point, our website looked like crap, it was a big mystery how we even managed to get clients.
We didn’t have any money to hire a designer, we didn’t have the money to hire a developer. We were a startup, no million dollar funding, 8 employees, I was 18 years old, I was the CEO of a business. Someone had to do it, and that someone was me ––The kid who wanted to be a millionaire economist who never studied arts or digital media in High School.
I installed Photoshop in January 2012 for the very first time and my first impression was that it looked like a more extreme version of MS Paint. This reminded me much of mathematics in High School because I had no clue of what I was doing, but unlike math, design grew on me. I started spending less and less time on the business itself and more time on learning to design better, making something look complete without any flaws. I realized that I had to get a mentor. I searched through Google and found a link to Dribbble. This opened up a brand new world to me. I spent less time with my girlfriend, when she went to sleep I always stayed up till 3am in the morning just to look at other peoples designs on Dribbble.
I found a Swedish mentor on Dribbble, his name was Patrik. He had 400 followers and was from a neighbor city called Orebro in Sweden. He was my biggest idol. He worked for Envato and had been in the business for many years. I wanted to learn to be like him, and he accepted my request to become my mentor. He always helped me with feedback, and my strange rookie questions, until one day when I asked him if I could get an invite to Dribbble. I felt ready, at least that was what I thought, he didn’t agree. He told me that I have to prove my skill before I would receive an invitation, so I spent an entire month doing everything he told me to do: UI-sets, Icons and WordPress Themes. My last task was to create a button set. I nailed it, and I was invited to Dribbble. This opened up a new world to me.
I didn’t need my mentor anymore. I had an entire design community where I could get feedback. I started out re-designing apps I wasn’t happy about. And my popularity grew slowly, so did the work inquiries. After having a job offer from a company in Stockholm, Sweden, I sold my cleaning business and moved to the capital city. I had about one month experience from Photoshop and I was going to work at an iPhone app startup with 5 million users. I had no clue how to design for iPhone, but Dribbble taught me. I stayed with them for three months completing their entire app and website. Then they realized that they needed no in-house designer, so they let me go. So here I was, unemployed again. Like a lost artist I wandered home to my childhood home, opened up my laptop and became even more hungry for success.
This was the first time I realized, in order to be successful you have to have passion for something; you would need a job that is no job, it’s an interest, it’s a hobby you would be willing to do and give up that extra hour of sleep just because it’s so much fun. Economics wasn’t that hobby, design was.
I started getting more followers and more close friends through Dribbble. I learned from them and they learned from me. I spent more time learning different styles and how to make pixels look perfect than I did with my girlfriend. The result of this was a lot of freelance jobs and much traveling. At my 5th month of designing I was invited to job interviews in Copenhagen, Barcelona, New York, San Fransisco and London. So I started traveling a lot. All this thanks to Dribbble. I ended up working in Copenhagen, Denmark. Since it’s close to Stockholm and my girlfriend, I travelled every week to Denmark to work. And I still do. But that was not enough, I didn’t want to stop there; a full time job wasn’t enough to satisfy someone who want to be successful, someone who spent 18 hours a day designing. So I started working 150% with an extra 50% working for a company in New York. When I reflect over this year so far, it’s been an amazing journey and I realize: if it wasn’t for me reading that magazine in January I wouldn’t be here today. And it is odd that it’s those little things who can totally change your future. I’m not done yet, I have barely begun. I didn’t become that local miserable economist, that went to his 8 till 5 job, that I would’ve ended up to be.
I ended up happy. I’m never going to go to work anymore, I’m just going to keep spend the rest of my life with my newly found hobby: design.
A special thanks to Caleb Lummer for getting Victor’s featured image just right!