It’s hard. It’s really hard. Freelancing is more than a job or an occupation, it’s a lifestyle.
In my third year of university I started to freelance. It was great! It worked with my school schedule and my other job. I was able to work whenever I wanted and wherever I wanted. Freelancing definitely fit more into the lifestyle I was living. After graduation, I freelanced for about 6 months before I realized I should check out agencies, or in-house positions, so I would have a better understanding of how the industry operates. During the job application process, I realized I was stuck in this vicious cycle:
Now that’s not specific to my industry, that is any industry. The difference now is that in my field being a print-based designer is no longer good enough. You need to know about UX design, and web development. If you have app development that’s even better! How do you compete with that? Here’s the great thing about freelancing, if you work hard and you’re lucky, you get to try them all out!
In a corporate environment your task is quite singular (you do all the collateral for printed materials, another designer might take care of the digital aspect and so forth). However, with freelancing, I’ve been able to become a better developer, a better UX designer, a better photographer, a better communicator and so much more. I get to develop skills outside of my repertoire and improve on the skills I have.
Always growing and always improving is great. You get to master your skills under uncontrollable conditions, which means, you learn flexibility. Flexibility in how you communicate and how to manage your time. These types of flexibility often open doors to creative freedom which allow you to play an integral role in the decision making process. You get the opportunity to follow-through and see your designs come to life!
Now I’ve thus far been raving about freelancing, but as my first two words said: ‘It’s hard’. There are so many challenges and risks that come with freelancing. The biggest thus far – I will just throw it out there – the pay. Invoicing sucks, following up sucks even harder, and the constant fear of not being able to pay your bills can wreck you. The truth is, if I didn’t have my partner who has supported me, I wouldn’t be able to do it full time. I will go through about 2 months without any payments (like the exact moment as I am writing this), and then about a month where all the payments finally start to come in. You really have to learn to manage your money because shockingly, December will be the driest month of your year, and that’s when you spend most of your money.
I’m not writing this post to push you into one direction or another. I wanted to share my freelance experience with you and know that if you are struggling, you’re not alone. In upcoming posts, I will discuss how to deal with difficult clients, how to get the right answers for your design needs, and being a grain star dust in the ocean of galaxies.
For me, freelancing is more aligned with my work style, my personality and my life, and (with the support of my partner) I’m able to take the risk I need to take to turn this into a successful business. Yes, it’s hard, it’s risky, it’s challenging and a pain in my ass sometimes and yet, it’s so rewarding.
The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. Mark Zuckerberg