I Went Freelance Full-Time Before I Was Ready, Here’s What Happened (Part II)
Last week I discussed all of my pain points when I started out as a freelance designer. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I recommend checking it out to learn (or laugh) at my mistakes. Today, I am here to talk about how jumping into freelancing before I was ready really transformed my life in beneficial ways. I am totally completely a new shiny person! Just kidding. But I can tell you that I did grow a pair and gained some new character traits that I’m glad to call my own.
1. I learned how to stand up for myself. I know this first one sounds cheesy and even predictable, so I’ll make the point quick. Across the board, when it came to saying “no” to a project or client, sticking to my rates, and being mindful of my time, I have dramatically improved. There is no more guilt tied to these actions like I once felt before. All it really takes is practice. People will not take it personally, and if they do, you will not want to work with them anyway.
2. People will no longer take advantage of my time. I have been working long enough to know when my most productive working time frame is, the difference between work and my personal time, and how to distinguish boundaries with my clients. In the end, clients respect you more for this over you always being there at the drop of a hat to attend to their needs and rush deadlines.
3. I can and will be picky with who I work with. I no longer choose to spend my time working for people who talk down on me, expect deliverables outside of the original contract, and disrespect my time. Luckily, there are ways to spot the signs in a finicky client before you actually agree to working with them. I will discuss these warning signs and particular character traits in a future post.
4. Being flexible is great, but being too flexible may cause you to break. This point relates to #2 in that a big area that new freelancers are flexible is with their time. Being always available and quick to deliver is a great trait to have, however if you have a client that takes advantage of this and expects you to make revisions at 2am in the morning, your tolerance may reach its limit and you will begin to resent this client (and rightfully so!). Another area that new freelancers are flexible in is the type of projects and number of projects that they decide to take on in the beginning. I know that feeling of not knowing if and when your next client will be, so we want to say yes to every one that comes our way. The problem with this is that you might find yourself spreading to thin, which could backfire if your quality of work goes down. I do want to mention that it is recommended to work on different types of projects fresh in your career in order to narrow down what you enjoy the most and create your specialized niche over time. However, pay attention to the amount of projects and clients that you can take on at once, and make a mental note (or hell, write it down) of the number that is the tipping point for when you notice your quality of work start to go down.
5. You can’t control other people and you have to be okay with that. I know, it sucks. I really wish I had Eleven’s superpowers from Stranger Things to make my clients’ fingers dance across the keyboard and reply to my emails in timely manners (because that’s what I would be focusing on if I had telekinesis, right). Not being able to understand why a client dropped off the face of the earth, why they are not paying on time, or not getting your perfectly thought-out concept for their logo design is tough. But it’s part of the bargain of freelancing. You get to work on your own time, but you have to be persistent in many cases and get on people (figuratively, of course). And in the end, things won’t always work out with every client. There are 7 billion people on this spinning blue and green ball. That’s 7 billion different personalities we’re navigating. Honestly the most important thing I learned from freelancing is to not take other peoples’ decisions personally.
6. It takes many other skills outside what you offer in order to freelance full-time. Your specialization might be writing. It might be design. It might be video, programming, or photography. Just remember though, it takes many fundamental skills in order to pull this whole working for yourself sh** off. For instance, marketing is key. You will definitely need marketing skills as a freelancer. This includes anything from creating ads on Facebook, advertising your services across social media, SEO, and more. These are only a few examples. It also takes business skills to set in place contracts, invoices, and understand all the other written jargon we must know. Then there are sales. Are you exceptional at selling yourself? Maybe you hate the idea of being a salesperson. Too bad. I’m not saying you have to go door-to-door or cold call as a means of letting everyone know how awesome you are. There are other ways of selling yourself which can happen organically in just a simple conversation at a networking event. I highly recommend creating a business plan in the beginning and including crucial skills you would like to focus on and develop in order to make it work long term. I wish I had sooner!
7. Maybe freelancing isn’t actually for me. I had this thought at one point. I felt intimidated by always getting pushed out of my comfort zone, I got fed up with the inconsistency, and I also got bored being at home all the time. Maybe, just maybe, freelancing is not my cup of tea after all? I remember I went into it thinking, “Okay! I’m a freelancer, I have made it and I get to do this for the rest of my life!” Then, six months later, I found myself antsy and wanting to be back in an office. I liked the office environment and interacting with my coworkers on a day-to-day basis. I like the routine it forced me to have, and the productive nature it encouraged me to prolong even after the workday was over. So, now I look at working and my life a little differently. I know myself and I know that I like change. Today, I am working in a corporate office, and I gotta say that I do in fact enjoy it. However, I know that I will return to freelancing full-time one day. Will it be for forever though? Probably not. We’re all kind of tied to this idea of having to settle down on something, whatever it may be in our life. Freelancing in those first 6 months showed me that I need variety in my life, in every regard. Maybe freelancing isn’t actually for me, maybe it is. I’m okay with the idea of always changing my mind. You should be too. The unknown is a precious period of time. ✦
Cover photo credit to Gratisography. (Love his work, and you will too.)
About the Author | LinkedIn
Nicolette Shasky is a creative soul with a specialty in visual storytelling and UI/UX Design. She currently works as a Visual + Analytics Designer at Interactions Marketing in San Diego, California.