February 4, 2015
Why Freelancing Will Change Your Life
When asked by a friend how I managed working freelance full-time I told them it wasn’t always easy. In fact, going freelance was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve gone through as a creative professional. There are many unknowns and uncertainties with freelancing that keeps many from taking the plunge. This article is meant to explain how freelancing will change your life if you make the switch and how to make that switch as easy as possible.
It’s probably fair to say that everyone has lost or left a job in their lifetime. This experience leaves you built up with a lot of emotions whether it’s anger from getting fired or excitement from quitting a job you hate.
In my own experience, I had been interning at a well-known agency in my home town for going on 6 months. The pay was barely acceptable and the work was bleak, to say the least. Interns are treated like interns and usually get left with the grunt work we all know and love. I was another candidate. What made matters worse was that I lived nowhere near the agency. My commute was just over an hour without traffic and about two hours with. You can probably guess I wasn’t thrilled about the experience.
Though I pretty much hated that span of 6 months it did teach me a few things which I’ll explain:
- If you are going to work somewhere. Make sure you fit in with the rest of the employees or walk.
- Don’t assume working as an intern will land you a job at the same place.
- Don’t work at a place where you have to commute over an hour to get to and from.
- Don’t expect to work on awesome projects as an intern.
- Be prepared to smile and nod.
Ok, a few of those are a stretch. My experience may vary from yours. Many people probably wouldn’t have taken the job having lived so far away like I did but It was what I thought was a good opportunity.
In the end, after 6 months I walked. I was even considered to get hired as a junior designer but the whole experience just turned me off because the culture was weak, people were fake, there was drama, and the work was lame. A few people were great to work with but others not so much.
So, I was out of a job and back at home full-time minus some classes at my college. Sounds great right? Not at all. I found ways to make some money on the side as a musician. I also got a part-time job to pay for bills but I wasn’t getting anywhere or getting ahead. I wanted more and wanted to pave my own way. For grins, I took to the web to search craigslist and more for side work to assist with income while I look for better opportunities.
To my surprise, I started gaining repeat clients. The work wasn’t great but it was something. After a few months looking for a job I sort of threw in the towel. My parents wanted me to work “somewhere” and I just didn’t see it happening. As my client list grew I starting to surprise my friends and family by creating my own freelance based agency called Justalever Creative. That business grew and grew and now I work with some clients I never would have thought I could achieve at an agency let alone on my own.
The scary truth about freelancing is that you have to put up or shut up.
There’s no easy way to transition from a full-time job to a freelance work environment. It takes a lot of factors to work and of those factors, I would pay attention to the few below:
- Produce good work people would hire you to do.
- Be active online. Whether it’s in forums, newsfeeds, or blog comments be active.
- Use people you know for referrals and make use of job boards. My best clients came from Craigslist. They are out there, you just have to hunt.
- Create a blog and write. It will help you create content related to yourself or your work and it will help you be a better communicator which is huge.
- Don’t settle. Just don’t. If you’re good at what you do then you are of value to someone. Make sure they can easily find you and the rest is history.
- Find your niche - Having a niche is wise. Some clients want an all-around designer/developer but most will pay more for a single type of niche service. e.g. “iPhone Application UI Designer”
Lifestyle and Freedom
If you work at the office I’ll bet you spend part of your day wishing you were somewhere else doing something different. Well, being a freelancing has it’s perks. The working lifestyle can be gruesome but it can also be very forgiving. You can work wherever you want and go wherever you like in between.
Over the past couple of years, I noticed I like to work in shifts. These shifts usually compromise of about 4-hour blocks. In between the blocks, I’ll take a break to get away from the screen. This break involves walking my dogs, exercising, hitting a hiking trail, running errands, or pretty much anything else I want to do.
Some people look at a freelancer’s life and think there’s no way they could live it because they simply wouldn’t be able to focus on working. The truth is, if you are driven you will get more work done than going to the office. I work a lot but I am driven to do so. I want to be successful and build my own little empire. This spark is what keeps me committed to the lifestyle and is what helps me put limits on my “free” time.
Ever get sick of the office? Sure there’s probably a common area you can go to to work but in reality to give yourself more inspiration don’t you think you would be more productive being in an entirely new space? I work from home, at a local cafe, and sometimes on the road. It’s all too easy if you aren’t tied to an office. On top of it all, can you imagine your work being exciting? Being in a new environment from time to time does wonder. Trust me.
The remote workforce is growing each and every day. This breakthrough excites me because there’s a common stereotype that is really annoying to most freelancers in that they don’t “have a real job” because they work from home or freelance. My friends assume I do very little when in reality I work longer hours than any of them. I tend to hold my tongue because I find it funny how people are so set on traditions of the 9 to 5 schedule someone somewhere put in place for God knows what reason.
Sold on Freelancing Yet?
If my background story hasn’t sold you on the freelance life yet I invite you to give it a try. Start small by working full-time at your day job and running a freelance gig on the side. Eventually, in time, you might gain more clients than you can handle part-time and move to full-time when you are ready.
You just have to make the leap and hope for the best. I did it out of necessity because I had quit my job at the time. I didn’t expect anything to come of it other than some extra money but after time and a lot of hours, I realized the freelance life was for me. Imagine being your own boss, setting your own schedule, creating your own meetings, and working wherever and whenever you want. How can that not be appealing?
You learn a lot about working for yourself as your own boss. You learn to budget time, communicate better than you ever thought you could and work with people the way you’ve always wanted to.
Useful Reading and Links: