A year ago (almost to the day) I parted ways with a very reliable full-time job, and set out into the world of the unknown, as a freelancer. Leaving behind a pension, full-time hours, benefits, and an office full of people I had come to think of as family, I was nervous but excited.
Not one to be much of a salesperson or hustler, I was sceptical of my ability to find enough clients to actually pay my bills. I’ve always done freelance work off the side of my desk, mostly as a way to combat the doldrums that come with doing graphic design full-time for one company. But this was different. Now my livelihood depended on those clients.
I prepared myself as best I could by saving up a few months worth of mortgage payments and treating the Canada Revenue Agency’s website like it was good bedtime reading. I set a very reasonable financial goal for myself and made a few plans for how I might achieve it. Those plans included setting a weekly goal of billable hours that was not overwhelming or unachievable. Facebook advertising is cheap and as a graphic designer, it’s a great way to spend very little money reaching a large audience since I don’t have to pay someone to design ads for me. I took some basic training in social media for business, and made efforts to connect and network with online communities. And, I managed to acquire the world’s cutest filing cabinet (see above).
Right before leaving my job I lost two reliable clients which was more of a psychological blow than anything. I had already given my notice so there was no turning back. It made the first few months a bit stressful but I strived to see the big picture.
2016 was a year of learning and growing for me. I learned how to work alone from home. I learned how to manage my time in order to take on enough work to live comfortably. I learned how to collect GST, how to calculate income tax and how to manage multiple projects for multiple clients. I learned how to gain clients, I learned how to lose clients. For the first time in my adult life I actually looked forward to getting out of bed in the morning, coming down the stairs, putting on a pot of coffee and checking my email. I became the most organized version of myself that had ever existed.
I believe that one of the reasons I succeeded is because I prepared myself for failure. Both mentally and physically. Before clearing out my corporate desk and saying goodbye to full-time work, I mentally prepared myself for the outcome of having to find another job. I gave myself a timeline of six months, and I made a promise that I wouldn’t be hard on myself during that time. I saved up so that I could survive for that time on practically no income, and swore an oath to myself that if I failed at freelance, I wouldn’t let it get me down. I would simply chalk it up to experience, and shelve it as a chapter in my life.
Moving into 2017 I couldn’t possibly be happier! I’ve got enough work that I’m comfortable, and my eye is on the future. I have received a ton of support from my friends and family and for that I could not be more grateful. I have amazing clients who challenge me everyday to be creative and cutting edge. I pay attention to design trends, and the amazing things my peers are doing in the industry.
I’ve become an accounting whiz, and have actually learned to love spreadsheets. I enjoy tracking my earnings, and setting attainable financial goals for myself.
The freedom of freelance, for me, far out-weighs the security of employment. Down the road I’d love to open a design firm, but for now I’m content sitting behind the computer in my downtown condo with a cat on my lap, and wondering what I’m going to make myself for lunch.