Four Types of Freelancing: Running a Freelance Business Full-Time (Part 3 of 4)

3 Comments 22 January 2010

Four Types of Freelancing: Running a Freelance Business Full-Time (Part 3 of 4)

This is part 3 of a 4 part series that looks at dif­fer­ent approaches to free­lanc­ing and which one may be best for your sit­u­a­tion: Part 1: Work­ing Full-Time while Free­lanc­ing and Part 2: Work­ing Part-time while Free­lanc­ing.

Free­lanc­ing Full-time

To me, there is noth­ing like the feel­ing of run­ning your own free­lance busi­ness. It’s one of the most reward­ing —and most challenging—things I have ever accomplished.

I spent the major­ity of my design career work­ing full-time as a Cre­ative Direc­tor for a pub­lish­ing com­pany while run­ning my free­lance busi­ness on the side. A few years ago, I left to start a busi­ness with a part­ner who was a friend. I ended up leav­ing that busi­ness after one year because of some unex­pected issues that arose. My wife and I were expect­ing our first daugh­ter at the time and I was for­tu­nate to return to my pre­vi­ous employer and soon to my for­mer position.

That was a tremen­dous learn­ing expe­ri­ence, how­ever, that made me much stronger and wiser. I resolved that the next time, I would only go into busi­ness for myself and I would be much bet­ter pre­pared for suc­cess. That ‘next time’ was a lit­tle over one year ago and, so far, has been such an incred­i­bly reward­ing experience.

But what was it about the allure of run­ning my own free­lance busi­ness that kept draw­ing me to it?


The pros:

When you free­lance full-time, you are finally in con­trol of your own des­tiny. You’re no longer at the whim of a com­pany buy­out or other cir­cum­stances that are beyond your con­trol. My busi­ness is depen­dent upon many dif­fer­ent clients and I’m con­stantly gain­ing new clients through word-of-mouth, refer­rals and a lit­tle mar­ket­ing here and there. If I do lose a client or two, the impact on my over­all busi­ness is minimal—or at least short term as I con­tinue to pick up new clients.

Being an inde­pen­dent designer is the ulti­mate free­dom. Want to work from home? Then do so. Want to take time off? Then take it. You set your own sched­ule. Sure you have to be self-disciplined and moti­vated for it to work—but how pow­er­ful is that to no longer be under the con­trol of an employer’s rules and restrictions?

My wife and I have two young daugh­ters. I didn’t want to be the Dad who gets off at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. and has to face an hour com­mute home. And if one is sick or has a spe­cial event com­ing up, I don’t have to ask someone’s per­mis­sion to spend time with my own child. Think about how crazy that sounds! I didn’t want to look back on this time of their lives and have any regrets.

You get to cre­ate your own brand that uniquely reflects who you are. You’re the one who lays out the vision and direc­tion for your busi­ness to go. That was very appeal­ing to me as a designer and entre­pre­neur. I was used to design­ing brands, web­sites and mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als for other com­pa­nies. Now I had the oppor­tu­nity to apply my knowl­edge and skill to my own business.


The cons:

I even hes­i­tate to call them ‘cons’—perhaps ‘chal­lenges’ might be a bet­ter term. For­tu­nately, each one can be addressed and man­aged, but let’s take a look at some of the biggest challenges.

Many Hats
As a full-time free­lancer, you have to wear many hats. You’re now the book­keeper, the recep­tion­ist, the owner, the designer, the sales­per­son, the col­lec­tions depart­ment and even the janitor.

Long Hours
There is no doubt that with suc­cess comes hard work. As a result, you can find your­self work­ing longer hours than if you just worked full-time.

Feast and Famine
If not care­ful, you can expe­ri­ence the feast and famine cycle where you may have lit­tle work or receiv­ables com­ing in for a while. Then by con­trast, the next month you may be faced with mul­ti­ple projects that are all due at the same time.

A com­mon theme of free­lanc­ing is feel­ing iso­lated if you don’t take the proper steps to guard against it. Some­times, it can even lead to depression.



The pros far out­weigh the cons here in my opin­ion. You just have to be aware and man­age the cons so they don’t get out of con­trol. I believe when you free­lance full-time, you can expe­ri­ence the most reward­ing and cre­ative time of your life. It takes hard work and ded­i­ca­tion, but so does any­thing in life that is worth having.


Your Turn:

What is your expe­ri­ence? Do you free­lance full-time? How long have you been doing so and what are some of the biggest rewards—and challenges—that you have faced?

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Neil Brown

Neil Brown - who has written 16 posts on Freelance Show.

Neil Brown is the founder of the Freelance Show and runs Brown Advertising, LLC, a successful graphic design studio.

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