Don’t Get a Job Make a Job by Gem Barton

Notes & Highlights

Brief Summary 

This book discusses the various ways people launched their design business during times of economic crash and high unemployment. These designers talk about their struggles, how they overcame them and give advice to creative graduates who want to pursue their own path in their careers. 

Why I Read This Book

As a graduate who struggled to find a job during the pandemic I was interested in learning other peoples experiences and how they used difficult times to their advantage and push through. My freelancing journey began due to a lack of employment, carving my own path. Focusing on personal branding and myself as an individual was the best decision I made. 

My Top Aha Moments

Our experience is that we learn most when we act on our ideas rather than question them to death. The act of doing is more satisfying, enjoyable, and worthy than the act of thinking about doing. Don’t become overly jealous of others are involved with, and try to forge your own path.

Look at what everyone else is doing and go the other way — seriously. There are too many people following the same path. You are creative — swim the other way.

Don’t wait for things to happen — you are the one who can create opportunities. Draw the art you want to see, create the events you want to attend, write the books you want to read.


  1. 🟨  It is simply not enough to graduate anymore, the world demands more from you. 
  2. 🟨  If you cannot find an opportunity that you like/want, then you owe it to yourself to make your own!
  3. 🟨  Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”.
  4. 🟨  Your personality becomes your brand.
  5. 🟨  I spoke at every event I could, and made sure that all of these interactions were broadcast via social media.
  6. 🟨  Try to work as closely as you can with the people who will actually fabricate the project as early as possible in the design process.
  7. 🟨  Do what you like don’t listen to others.
  8. 🟨  Would say ideas often come from frustration.
  9. 🟨  The image of the artist should reflect the values he stands for.
  10. 🟨  Follow your instincts of what you think you will be interested in and specialism will happen along the way.
  11. 🟨  I’ve found that to get anywhere in the world of art/design/architecture, you need to be proactive, especially early on in your career. 
  12. 🟨  If you are willing to work hard toward your goal, no obstacle is too great.
  13. 🟨  You have to know yourself really well in order to understand what is best for your well-being.
  14. 🟨  If what you want to do is already being done by someone or by a company then go work for them, but if you cannot find that then you must create it yourself.
  15. 🟨  Take every opportunity you get by the horns and push the project to its absolute max… make that £1k projects look like it had a £10k budget, as that will get you the next project with a £15k budget and so on…
  16. 🟨  Everyone wants to succeed and needs help… what can you do to help them and help yourself at the same time?
  17. 🟨  Many people daydream at work of all the other things they would rather be doing.

Actionable Implementation

  1. If entering competitions and bidding for commissions isn’t for then take your ideas to the streets. 

Icecream architecture and Alma-nac did just that. They took their architecture skills and offered free consultation to the public. By doing this they increased their chances of meeting people, showcasing their work to a wider crowd that otherwise would’ve not seen their work and met new clients. 

2. Trust your instincts 

Many of these designers, architects and creatives pursued their own path because they knew there is nothing out there that meets their way of work or creative abilities. I think deep down everyone knows what they really want to pursue, some people just don’t let it be just another dream. 

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