Have you been dangling on the fence about whether to leave your full-time design job to go freelance? Perhaps you find yourself staring out your window at work (or more likely your tiny, claustrophobic cubicle) and daydreaming of one day being your own boss. Or maybe you calculated what you are bringing home hourly at your current job and feel gypped. Leaving your full-time job (and regular paycheck) is a big decision; you are right to consider it carefully.
I’m going to break the decision down for you into three simple categories: experience, finances and personality.
Don’t underestimate the value of prior experience. In my opinion, you need to log some tough hours in the real world before starting your own business. Use your time wisely while you are working for someone else. Learn from your mistakes (cause you will make ’em!) Take notes from your superiors. Enjoy the collaborative design process while you have the luxury of working in an environment with other creatives. Don’t jump ship before you have learned the ropes of the biz.
You may think that freelance will be more lucrative. And it can be. But most likely it won’t start out that way. It will take hard work to build up your clientele and earn a steady income. Before turning in your resignation, I implore you to SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. It is a good idea to have approximately 6 months worth of living expenses saved before making the official leap.
Personally, going freelance was less of a strategic career move and more of a quality-of-life decision. I had a goal of being able to quit my full-time job so that I could stay home to raise my kids. My freelance business has afforded me the ability to do just that. That being said, my husband and I started preparing financially a few years in advance. We were very purposeful in committing to a mortgage payment that we could pay with ONE income, not two. We watched our spending habits – we did not let ourselves become accustomed to living on two full incomes. Because of this preparation, it didn’t seem quite as difficult to give up that regular paycheck.
Not everyone is cut out to run their own business. Just because you are a strong designer does not mean that you will be an effective freelancer. Successful business owners share key personality traits; they tend to be organized, self-motivated, driven, goal-oriented, confident, passionate, budget-minded and self-reliant. Keep in mind that you will spend less time designing and more time running the business. This includes networking, pursuing new work, selling your services, meetings with clients, phone calls, invoicing, accounting, etc.
This advice is not meant to scare you or discourage you from pursuing a freelance career. If anything I want to adequately prepare you! Going freelance was one of the best decisions I ever made. I can’t tell you how great it is to finally call my own shots, make my own schedule and choose to take on projects that I am passionate about. I especially appreciate the relationships I have built with my clients.
If you are currently considering going freelance, do you have any specific questions? Or, if you are already working on a freelance basis, do you have any additional tips to share? Love to hear from you!
About the author: Lauren Kaczmarski is a designer & blogger based in Charlotte who loves photography, typography and eating Nutella straight out of the jar.