Join Cory Lebson for an in-depth discussion in this video Working in-house, consulting, and freelancing, part of Planning a Career in User Experience.
When I started my own career I was a consultant at a small user research oriented consulting firm. Companies would hire the firm to do user research projects and I'd get assigned to a particular project for a short period of time. I'd do the research present findings, however they needed to be presented, and then move on to the next client and project. This consulting model, even back then, was very comfortable to me. And I discovered that my natural inclination was to be a consultant. I loved and still love the challenge of jumping in and experiencing other work worlds for brief periods.
I loved never knowing what is right around the corner and what new project's suddenly going to pop into existence in front of me. Long-term loyalty to a single project, on the other hand, has a much lower appeal to me. At times, over the course of my career, I've experimented with working in-house at a company focused exclusively on that one company's needs. While these stints never lasted particularly long for me, I know of many UX colleagues who very much enjoy and seek out exclusively in-house UX experiences.
For those people, the depth that they can get into a project and their ability to see the impact of their work on the final product over time brings far more satisfaction than a short-term stint as a consultant. They also prefer the long-term relationships that they form working with a relatively stable project team over that long period of time. There is a middle ground as well, which is the role of in-house UX consultant. Some companies with multiple projects going on concurrently have consulting teams with UX skills that can bounce between projects as needed but only within that company.
For the past few years, however, I've neither been a consultant for a larger company nor in-house employee working on internal projects. Instead, I've enjoyed having a role of freelancer or independent contractor through my own small business. I still consult in the same way that I functioned as a consultant for a larger UX consulting firms but this time I'm on my own. I have a greater risk of not having work but I also have greater flexibility in my schedule, and if things are successful, the opportunity to earn a higher income.
I should also point out that whether working for a consulting agency or as an independent contractor there's also the possibility of staff augmentation. In such a role while you may not be an employee of a company and instead be called a contractor or consultant the long-term placement may not feel that different than being an employee of that company. As a UX professional any of these options is fair game and where you end up will be based on a combination of factors: what options you have available to you based on where you live or your willingness to move around, your desire to experience the depth of a project versus to explore more projects but in a shallower way, and your tolerance for risk.
If you're starting your career you can try out these different kinds of UX roles over time. See what resonates most with you. There is no one right starting point and there is no one right place where you should be ending up. If you end up in a role where you bounce from project to project and client to client you may perhaps gain valuable knowledge from exposure to different approaches to UX and different methods for completing UX tasks. If you end up with an internal role focused on one project you could gain deep and cohesive knowledge and experience about how UX is practiced by the company.
You may also gain deep knowledge about whatever industry you are in.
In this course, UX expert Cory Lebson breaks down the sub-disciplines of user experience (the trifecta of design, research, and strategy), so you can learn about the different jobs that align with your strengths and passions. Cory helps you understand job responsibilities as well as the benefits of working full-time for a company vs. consulting or freelancing. With his guidance, you can create a more compelling resume and portfolio package and make sure that you properly brand yourself as a UX professional.
This course offers focused career advice for job seekers, tips for recruiters and employers who want to better understand UX, and a necessary framework for grad/undergrad students exploring the next step in their career. Along the way, Cory highlights training in the library to build specific UX skills.
- What is UX?
- Should you be a UX generalist or a specialist?
- Available UX career types: design, research, and strategy
- Working in-house, consulting, or freelancing
- Telling a story with a portfolio and resume
- Working with recruiters