At the beginning of August I took a leap of faith into the world of freelancing, you can find out more about what shaped my decision here. I am now four months in and still feel as though I’m learning so much every day. I’m the type of person that likes to plan down to the last detail, so I thought it would be fun to create a little blog series filled with thoughts, lessons and useful tools I find along the way. Before I left I loved reading about other people’s experiences – and this acted as a huge motivator for me. I always thought I’d need to win the lottery to be able to pursue my dreams, but seeing normal people making a go of it and being successful just made me think, “well, what’s stopping me?”
Further down the line you work out that when you want something badly enough, you find ways of breaking it down and taking it each day at a time.
I love a good analogy and for me I look at the whole thing as a bit of a Dumbo-magic-feather situation. In your head you build up all these expectations about prerequisites for success. But a lot of the time, you have all the skills you need to start, it’s just about having the confidence to bite the bullet. And the realisation that there are also so many people out there just winging it is strangely comforting.
So I suppose in a way, this series will be a way of passing the torch, to help those who are perhaps thinking of doing their own thing but just don’t know where to start. It can be a daunting prospect, but piecing together little bits of useful information along the way might just be enough to give you that confidence.
Before I actually went freelance, I always thought that the hardest thing about it would be finding the right clients. But after reading so many other freelancer stories what I actually found that a lot of designers seem to struggle with time management. I always thought that this meant getting distracted by Facebook, or something else along those lines. But what I’ve come to learn is that this can also refer to not knowing when to stop. When you’re passionate about what you do, you work from home and you’re keen to grow your business, the boundaries between working and being off-duty are somewhat blurred. For example, if you’re painting it’s so easy to lose track of time. Even if you’ve ‘signed-off’ for the day, there’s the temptation to come back to it because you’re living and working from the same environment. On my first official day as a freelancer, I worked from 9am till 2am because I got a little carried away with a project. One of my work goals next year will be create better boundaries so it doesn’t lead to burn out.
So when you actually leave and do your own thing, what exactly do you call yourself? Are you an entrepreneur, a designer, a freelancer, an independent studio, a small business owner, a creative director? Maybe you are all of them, but you still need a way to concisely group them all together to explain it to other people. I personally view labels as harmless and think people should call themselves whatever they feel most comfortable with. They tell a bit of your story, but your work should do the rest of the talking. I don’t think we should become too hung up on the exact definitions, after all different names mean different things in different places. For example, a junior designer at one agency may have a very different role to a junior designer at another agency. It’s also natural for meanings of words to evolve over the time based on their use.
From the beginning, I personally have labelled myself as a freelancer and I’ve actually found solace in this term. For me it made the jump seem not as daunting – I think ‘self-employed’ or ‘business owner’ made me feel as if I was jumping in at the deep end, whereas freelancer made me feel like I was part of a little community. This may change as my business evolves but for now, I’m happy with it. At the end of the day, it’s whatever feels right for you personally.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to find time to work on your own project. Setting your own personal briefs can be one of the most rewarding things to do as a designer. They challenge you whilst simultaneously removing any boundaries or constraints. They allow you to grow as a designer. They show the world not only what you are capable of but what type of work you are truly passionate about. I think a lot of us deep down have dream projects that we would love someone to approach us with to make it a reality. But why wait for that person to come along when you have all the tools you need now? You’ve almost got to work backwards and create that work to attract that type of client – how else are they going to know about all that potential locked inside?
Whether you’re a recent design graduate, a fellow freelancer, or someone about to make the leap I’d love to hear your thoughts!