Going freelance and why I made the jump

Freelancing or being self-employed sometimes isn’t a viable option for some career paths, but for designers and developers, it’s a very real and occasionally, a very worthwhile option both financially and mentally. Providing you’re ready to fully commit to your decision and ultimately, your future; going freelance can change your life.

Amongst a few others, the main reasoning for me to become self-employed was to take some control over my career. If I wake up at 5 am (which happens more than I care to think about) and want to crack on with a project… there is nothing stopping me. If I want to work through the night to get something finished… happy days!

Freelancing is allowing me the time to work at my pace and in line with my lifestyle and schedule. This has then allowed me the space to produce higher quality work, within a less stressful and more productive environment.My weeks have shifted from cramming as much as possible, workwise, into 5 weekdays and then cramming as much as I physically could into my precious weekends - to having 7 glorious days at my complete disposal. Things that I previously wouldn't have been able to do without using up valuable annual leave, have now become very available options and the best part is that Sunday nights are now just another day in the week that I can use to my benefit if the opportunity arises.

Why now?

I'm sure this must be true for a lot of people but for me, I came to the realisation that over the course of my career I had developed a complacency to receiving a regular wage every month and as a result had become naive to the fact that there was always someone else in control of my destiny. No matter how hard I worked or how much effort I put in on a daily basis, there was still a niggling thought in the back of my head that someone else held the keys.

On one of the many trips down memory lane that I'd been exploring, over my 10 years or so of full-time employment, it came to the stark realisation that I'd been a control freak in more or less every other aspect of my life except for my career. Since making the switch to freelancing, this has hit me square in the face and despite the fact that I've been an employee a lot longer than being a freelancer, right now, I'm in control and I love it.

Before this was all confirmed, I spoke to a few other freelancers, read some articles and listened to a couple of motivating podcasts that other successful freelance designers and developers had been involved with - something that I would whole-heartedly recommend if you're seriously thinking about doing the same - and the same messages kept cropping up. Things like, "It's scary, but it's worth it..." or "You know what you're doing, you'll smash it!" were more or less what they all ended with, but there were a couple of times where I read about going back to employment if it doesn't work out. After reading this, I somehow remembered a poem that I studied during an English project in secondary school:

Some say risk nothing, try only for the sure thing, Others say nothing gambled nothing gained, Go all out for your dream. Life can be lived either way, but for me, I'd rather try and fail, than never try at all, you see.

Benjamin Franklin

When I was doing these stories and poems in school, I didn't think that they'd stuck in my head, much less that they might become useful later in life, but it seems like this one did. Trying and failing never really enters into my psyche. It's usually the opposite for me. So much so that unless I'm more or less certain that there's a high chance of succeeding at something, whether it's a new hobby or interest, a life choice, or anything in between... I generally won't even attempt them. I suppose that this is one of the reasons why people around me seem to think that I'm good at everything.

The truth is, I just stick to the things I can do well and throw the rest away.Freelancing, self-employment... whatever you want to call it is something slightly different to me. I WANT to succeed at it and I think with that mindset I'm on the right path to doing so. Ask anyone who knows me well and they'll tell you how much I commit to something when I start it.

Going both feet in

A little over a month ago now I made what I thought was going to be a very scary _jump_ into the deep, dark world of freelancing. However, looking back over the past few weeks, I've realised that it was 100% the most logical step for me at this time in my life. I’ve been working full-time as a designer for a few different agencies and companies since I left college some 10 years ago this summer.I've loved pretty much every minute of my career, but this year I turn 29 and it was definitely time to do something.I've had the plan to start up a small design and development studio before I turned 30 since I can remember. Something that I was fast coming to the realisation that I might not be able to achieve - mainly because I couldn't find the time to start it up when I was working a full-time job. Catch 22 is the perfect cliche I guess. When I opened my eyes and realised that I was quickly closing in on my 30th birthday milestone without having made any steps towards my goal, something had to be done.

This all sounds great... there must be a catch?

As much as I’ve loved freelancing over the past month, and as much as I can sit here and tell you it's all hunky-dory... it’s not been 100% plain sailing. There have been a couple of moments when I’ve questioned decisions and questioned whether I’m cut out for it. Luckily these have only been passing feelings and my focus hasn’t shifted from what I’m trying to achieve or how I’m planning to get there, but they’re still present nonetheless.These thoughts might come across as being negative, but I treat them as the kick I need to commit further to my decision and make what I'm doing into a lifelong career path rather than just a passing phase.If you know you’re the best and everything you do is awesome and turns to gold… then a level of ignorance to your craft may start to creep in. I’m a firm believer that a little questioning and feedback that might make you question yourself often helps breed a new outlook on the original decision you made. It’s what you do with the answer that can change you.It’s been a whirlwind ride for the past 5 weeks. Connecting with new clients, creating working relationships with other professionals and figuring out where I am happiest and most productive has been great fun and I genuinely can't wait to see what happens over the next few weeks, months and hopefully years.

Should I do it?

I wasn’t planning to sit here and preach to you about how awesome being self-employed is or tell you how much you should do the same if it wasn't going completely to plan, as that really wouldn’t be a help to anyone. Especially if you’re genuinely thinking about making the leap yourself. Speaking from my experience, there’s never really a logical time to pack in a relatively stable career with a decent wage every month to take on a life where the complete opposite is true.

For me personally, going freelance has been an excellent decision and for many different reasons. It has also been, in certain respects, a relatively easy transition to make. Just don't take it for granted. If you’re driven and ready to put the level of effort required to make freelancing work for you... Go ahead. I don't think you'll regret it at all. Just remember, nothing will just come to you, and if it does, you're one of the lucky ones.

My advice would be to get yourself set up physically, mentally and financially. Surround yourself with a network of others in the same boat and get yourself ready for a rollercoaster of new and incredible experiences. As William F. O'Brien so rightly wrote...

I'd rather try and fail than never try at all

I can't really close off this post either without mentioning my wife. She's been absolutely amazing throughout this process. She's backed me since we started discussing this venture, she's incredibly organised, level-headed and pragmatic in her outlook on life and I definitely could not have done this without her.

🡐 Older Note

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Newer Note 🡒

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