Doing “valuable, and fulfilling work” is not something many would argue with. The issue isn’t the variety or the amount of work available, it’s the quality of work and the investment you put in towards solving problems with creative solutions.
Many instances, good work requires working with a team of talented people, simply because everyone contributes something special to the project that you may not be an expert in. I’ve always had the problem of wanting to do everything on my own. I want the ownership of the product and call it mine. I’m aware that I can’t possibly be great at everything because that just means I’m really good at nothing…
I want to feel proud of the work that I create, but also be open to constructive criticisms that can propel it to another level. I think we all need that, a level of self-awareness and check-up. I’ve seen portfolios of creative directors that worked at agencies where they had multiple designers of every skill set on the project, yet they seem to take all the credit for the work. I’m really not a fan of that. It’s impossible that every project they work on is a home run, yet they present themselves as an ultimate award-winning beast.
My advice is.. Don’t look at what other people are doing. Focus on yourself. If you keep comparing yourself to someone that’s miles ahead of you, you may be wasting the time that could have been used to improve.
I guess that’s the difficult challenge here. People who are likely to hire someone on a contract basis would be a startup before Series A funding. They need a design assassin to create their mockups to take to market, or even prototypes for investors. Once the company raised enough money, it’s highly likely they’ll need someone dedicated FT. The risk is high because you have a 50/50 chance that idea could just fall flat on it’s face, and your product vision would never come to light.
Picking the right project, and doing good work is a direct result of the people and the projects that you work on. We all have limited time and same amount of time in a day. Make it be from the work you want to be proud of!