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Six months as a freelance designer

On the beach with fishing nets

I've written a couple of blogs recently on my experiences of becoming a freelance designer. So here I am six months in and still managing to pay bills and eat. So all good you might say, but that would make a better status update than blog post!

A fellow designer just starting out in the industry asked me the other day if I was enjoying freelancing and if I would recommend it? I was torn with my answer. Yes I've enjoyed some of it, but not all of it. I'll start with the negatives, just so that I can end on a positive...

I miss the lack of structure in my week. I find the 'all or nothing' nature of the work a bit frustrating. It can be hard to stay motivated and focussed. Some days it's hard being completely self reliant and trusting your own judgement on quotes and pitches. Chasing money and keeping on top of invoicing is not much fun and I miss being a part of a team having others to spark off of. But, and it's a big but, there have been a whole lot of upsides.

There's all the obvious stuff, like not having to do the daily commute. Not being tied to the 9 to 5.30 timetable. There's also all the less tangible things, like having creative integrity, picking which projects and clients you work with and building your own brand and reputation. There's a lot to be said for being your own boss and only having to deal with your own ego.

Ultimately, for me the reason I'm still freelancing though is flexibility. Life has a way of throwing in a curveball just when you think you have a grasp on it. This summer I've had the luxury of spending more time with family. We've had lots of days out and made lots of memories which I would have missed out on with a full-time job. So I went to sports days, birthday parties and beach trips. I went to a castle, rode a virtual chariot and tried to steer a swan shaped pedalo that would only turn right. I got to be there for all the important stuff and that is something you can't put a price on and that I will always be thankful for. Sometimes we all need a reminder that this is just a job. Bills need paying but life also needs living.

So, to the person who asked me if I would recommend freelancing – no, go get some agency experience first. Find your own style, learn your craft in the real world and soak up everything you can about the business side of design. When you freelance you are not just a designer, you are a business owner. Once you've done all that, why not? It won't suit everyone, but I've certainly learned a lot from it, have been incredibly grateful for the flexibility when I needed it, and can take the whole experience with me into whatever I decide to do in the future.

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