First of all, I'm happy to celebrate my first National Freelancers Day! Though I've been freelancing for years, this one holds special meaning as I am and have been fully independent for a few several months now. This shift has had a huge impact on my life and I figure now would be a good time to reflect on the changes freelancing has brought, both good and bad.
My motivation is directly tied to my work
My own success lies solely on my shoulders now. The clients I pursue and work with, the creative I design, the money I make is all my own responsibility. This has been huge for increasing motivation as a designer. Allowing for a more direct relationship between motivation and my output has increased my productivity and happiness overall.
Flexibility is huge
It's possible that the flexibility has been especially desirable lately given that I'm planning a wedding, however the flexible lifestyle so far has been amazing. I bike more, I'm eating better, I have a renewed focus on myself. I can leave my desk for a walk to clear my mind. Of course, flexibility isn't about taking afternoons off, but the ability to allow for life to happen during the day has been great.
I have a vested interest in extracurriculars
Given that I'm working mostly alone and that I'm responsible for drumming up my own business, I've taken a new interest in networking and becoming a more active member in the creative community. Beyond that, I've also taken a renewed interest in some more traditional art forms to help keep my creativity up. Of course, I could have done this when I had a traditional job, but now these types of activity have a more direct positive impact on my life.
Passion is off the charts
This one I didn't see coming. I've struggled with finding passion and joy in design in my career. Be it the constant nagging question of creating more noise in an already noisy world, or questioning if design is even valued nowadays, I tend to feel these doubts in waves. However, now that I'm working with multiple smaller clients, I have a greater impact on their brand and visuals. I'm able to consider things that I wasn't able to previously such as big picture concerns, longevity of assets, implementation of design, and truly working collaboratively with clients. I'm sure I'll still have waves of doubt, but those waves sure have been coming around less frequently as of late.
The variety of project and clients is key
At the end of the day, my main reason for going freelance is placing a renewed focus on pursuing a variety of work that I felt more strongly about. And so far it's going well. I'm working my way toward a great set of ongoing partnerships with clients. I have realized that my fulfillment as a designer stems from working directly with a client to help realize their passion in a visual manner. I have a more direct impact on brands and can apply a larger set of my skills in any given day from marketing strategy to illustration to photography to design. I'm settling in nicely to my personal design sweet-spot.
Every waking hour has potential profit attached to it
One surprise side effect of going freelance has been the transformation of how I view my time. Unlike a regular job, every single waking hour now has a potential to earn. Initially it was really hard for me to turn off at night. Iw as constantly checking forums, twitter, job sites for potential work. I was constantly planning on networking events and happy hours. I quickly learned that even though ever hour of my waking day I could possibly be growing my business, that doesn't mean I should.
I still work... a lot!
At my previous position I would normally clock more than 40 hours a week. I didn't really expect that to change too much, and it's holding true. Sure, I don't necessarily work more then 40 billable hours in a week but given the amount of time I sink into admin (billing, proposal writing, communication, meetings) it's always over 40 hours a week. Freelancing is hard work.
Learning to curb (work) distractions is hard
Sure, my first week or two at home I did laundry and cleaned during the day just for the sheer novelty of it, but I haven't done house chores during the day in months. Luckily I'm someone who doesn't need a clean house to focus. Beyond that, however, balancing work distractions has been a sticking point so far. I'm putting a focus on developing a better discipline on things like email, phone calls, and chunking small tasks like checking my normal list of job sites or general invoicing admin into just one point during my day instead of 15 minutes here and there (which adds up!)
Practice the juggle
Of course with multiple clients, comes the workload juggle. I now have about 5 consistent clients and managing my workload, timelines, and daily tasks has been an interesting challenge. This goes along with distractions, too. If I get an email from a client A while I'm working on client B, I have to decide between giving into that distraction or plowing through what I'm already working on. Most of the time, if it's not a fire, I chunk client work into morning/afternoon blocks in order to increase productivity.
The Conclusion (for now)
So, the big question: Is freelancing worth it? A million times, yes. It's a lot of hard work and a lot of different type of work but by far, it's been the most fulfilling few months of my career.
Cheers, and Happy Freelancers Day!