When I quit my full-time job, I didn't have much of a plan.
Just the unshakeable feeling that I needed something more.
More control, more creative freedom, maybe more recognition for my work. I didn't know anything for certain, except that I needed a change of scenery, and fast.
Luckily I had had some money saved up, so I could afford to hand in my notice and go travelling for a couple of months. My boss offered to take me back again afterwards, and although I initially accepted his idea of a sabbatical, I realised that I needed a clean break.
Things weren't quite such plain sailing when I got back from my trip. I quickly ran out of cash and even had to move home with my parents for a month. Having your mum ask if you’ll be back for tea when you leave the house was never on my early thirties wishlist (Thanks though Mum, if you’re reading this, love you).
But now, after freelancing for three years, I know how to find work, what to ask before taking a job, and how much I can charge.
These are all crucial questions for any would-be freelancer to be able to answer of course.
But if I could travel back in time and give my fully-employed self one piece of advice, it would be something less practical than this:
Don’t wait until you have a “Fuck this!” moment, because the worst way to go freelance is in haste.
I’d been working so long without pausing for air that my body didn’t give me a choice. I physically had to stop work, and it took many painful months to recover from my depression.
At first I blamed the design profession for what happened, but now I realise the problem was within me all along.
My gut had been telling me it was time for change, and I ignored it.
Here’s what you should know about freelancing.
Neither of the things I was most afraid of (not being able to find work, and not being able to pay the rent) has ever happened.
Sure, freelancing felt lke a bit of a roller-coaster at first, but only because I got on the ride without meaning to.
With a little planning and the right mindset, freelancing doesn’t have to be scary.
And you can probably get started sooner than you think.
Don’t take my word for it though.
When I asked other freelance designers what advice they’d give their former fully-employed selves, they pretty much all said the same thing:
@j_greig Don't wait ten years to go freelance.— Gray (@gray) March 6, 2015
@j_greig Jump ship now!— Victory Chimp (@VictoryChimps) March 6, 2015
@j_greig hurry up— Paul Macgregor (@SocketStudios) March 6, 2015
I’m inclined to agree with the general sentiment here. Lots of designers wait too long before going freelance, because it seems like such a daunting step.
If you’re thinking about going freelance, don’t think of it as “making the leap”.
Yes, you are standing on one side of a career change, and you want to be on the other.
Yes, you could just take a running jump... but you'd probably end up taking a heavy tumble on the other side if you did.
But if you build a bridge — using materials that you already have to hand — then all you have to do is walk over.
And when you do, you’ll look back and wonder why you waited so long.
(Ok... enough with the bridge metaphor now...)
Are you thinking about going freelance?
Working for myself has been life changing for me, and I'd love to help you get to a similar place.
So I've collected everything I've learnt about freelancing over the past 3 years into an email course.
You'll learn what steps to take next, how to scope out the freelance job market where you are, and how much you could earn.
<a href="http://greig.cc/beforegoingfreelance" ><img src="" alt=""/></a>
Posted to Freelancing, Undesign in 2015.