A Year in Review

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.

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