6 Ugly Truths About Becoming A Freelance Designer
First Clients Are From Hell
Well, not literally from hell, but you can trap into uncomfortable situations many many times.
It's all starts with experiments. Quantity matters more than the quality at the very beginning. So that you can't control the quality of clients from the start and you're being very lucky if you have great clients right from the start.
Because you don't have much of experience, you're going to make mistakes that will make some clients mad.
Perhaps you'll get clients despise all warning signs in your first conversations and that's because you're not aware of those signs. That's what you learn practicing.
It's something that you'd better know. So you can prepare beforehand for bad client situations and by this, you'll reduce the chance of them happening when you just starting your freelance career.
You Will Need To Maintain All The Aspects Of Your Business, Not Only The Design Part
You might be thinking that if you choose the freelance way then you'll spend all the time designing or other creative stuff and people just come to you and giving you money for your craft.
Sorry, but this fairy tale is far away from the reality. At least in the very beginning before you have a retainer or a sustainable business system that brings you clients and money.
If you're just starting out you can expect to spend about 70-80% on a business and marketing stuff and the rest 20-30% on the design work.
You need to search for clients in many different places, follow up with them, manage your inbox, posting on social media, do accounting and much more.
It could be overwhelming and completely different from an office job where you have colleagues who usually handle this kind of things for you. That's where you start using ToDo lists and/or project management software where you can put everything you need to do, doing, and what you've done to track the progress and properly allocate future tasks.
It's Not Enough To Have Creative Skills To Attract Clients. Marketing Is The Must.
Even if you're very experienced, knowledgeable and so-called super "talented" designer you'll not land any clients with talent alone.
Also, when you're just starting out nobody knows what you do. Your business and marketing depend on you. It's not enough to just build a portfolio and put it out on Behance or your website. A lot of designers and creatives do that and platforms like Behance became crowded nowadays.
There is a lot of work like searching for ways bring the attention to your portfolio and things you do to right people. Also, promoting your services and products on social media. Figure out where your ideal clients spending most of the time. Start your blog and create a content that brings value to potential clients and companies that you want to work with and much more.
But if you have any troubles with marketing and you think it's not your thing you need to learn it, choose the way and platform that works best for you and get used it. Because, that's where people are coming from.
You'll Be Stressed If You Don't Have Any Savings
Before quitting 9-5 office job I made sure I have savings for at least half year. So even if I don't have any clients during these first 6 months I could easily live out this money.
Even tho I didn't spend even a cent from this money I saved ahead of time it gave me a confidence in decisions I was making at the very beginning. I haven't looked for any job possible and been selective right in the beginning. I don't think I could behave in the same way if I didn't know how I'll pay my rent for the next month and how do I buy groceries, etc.
I didn't have a business plan or any business skills. It was just a vision of what I wanted to do and how I will do it. And of course, savings that I could use at the beginning.
It's a rarer case when you have any kind of stability at the beginning of doing a business. I had my ups and downs, and even if I didn't spend any money on savings it was a great insurance for my freelance business.
Work and Life Balance
Working 9-to-5 automate a certain amount of things. You have a pre-defined amount of time you're working per week. You know where you supposed to be in the office and where these office hours end.
Basically, it works like a system and you don't think about your schedule very much. You know that you're definitely busy from 9 am to 5 pm and somewhere in between, you have one hour for a lunch. The rest of time and weekends are up to you.
You don't bother to think about work outside your office time and it makes things easier if talk about work and life balance.
I assure you it's a pain in the ass when you are a freelancer. Yes, you don't have to wake up early and go to work and back when everybody does it. However, you don't have any limitations either. You can start working and never finish it slowly transitioning to the beginning of the next day.
What about weekends? Well, after years of working remotely and making my own projects sometimes I don't even feel the difference between workdays and weekends. I just do what I do and I wonder when I just go for a walk or to a coffee shop and see that out there is a different vibe. No one is rushing and it feels calm during business hours. Wait a minute, it's probably a Saturday, Sunday or Maybe a holiday.
That kind of behavior leads to so-called burn out syndrome. It's a new kind of mental illness, but it affects you physically as well. There are no effective meds that solve exactly this problem and recovery can last for months or a couple of years. I'm not saying that you'll definitely have it, but I experienced it a couple times, know how it feels and I recommend to avoid this in any possible way.
So that's one more dangerous thing that worth to take into account if you want to be a full-time freelancer.
No Coverage for Vacation and Illness Days
It's great when we are young, healthy and full of energy, but there are things that you need to manage yourself.
Even if you're a freelancer and can take a day off anytime you want, you still need longer periods of time to take a break and recharge your batteries. It can be 2 weeks, 1 month and even a Year.
This is something that needs to be planned ahead of time. Because even you're an independent and working remotely you have clients and customers. People count on you and their business on some level depends on you. So if you want to have a good karma you can't leave all of them, disappear for an undefined amount of time and then come back and continue working as you never left it.
Also, you can have a strange feeling when you let's say went on a vacay for a month and your income is zero. Moreover, you spent more money than usual on flight tickets, hotels, food, etc. Nobody covers your time off and it's totally up to you.
The same thing happens when suddenly you became ill. And good if it's just a cold or something not really serious, but even if so it feels sucks in times when you have a deadline, but you disabled to do anything or working for the same amount of time as usual. Again, no-one will pay for your treatment except you.
The good news is that you can prevent most of the things. You can plan your vacay or a sabbatical ahead of time. You can change your diet and start eating healthy. You can exercise or at least having long walks instead of using a car or commuting on a public transport. There are many ways you handle it, but it requires a different approach.
Don't be scared of things I listed above. It's something that makes you tougher anyway.
Ask yourself if you're ready for ugly truths I mentioned above and think about possible ways of resolving or avoiding cases like these.
Think about a positive side of the coin and make sure it's something you really want despite negative aspects.
There are tough times at any beginnings. So please always remember why do you choose this lifestyle, and you'll be able to work through anything on your way to success.