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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?