When I first decided to become a freelancer, I had big dreams about what it would be like, how I would work on my projects, how I would organize my time and work flow. At the time, I worked a 9-5 job that didn’t fulfill me creatively in the slightest, so the thought of being paid to design and do what I love filled me with SO much joy.
I followed lots of design bloggers for at least 2 years and I was always in awe of the pretty moodboards they had created, the beautiful Instagram profiles they had curated, and the wonderful testimonials from wonderful clients about how wonderful the design experience was.
I know there are lot of people in my community who want to quit their jobs and become freelance designers (or start other kinds of businesses), so I wanted to take the opportunity today to share a few truths with you.
Before we start, I want you to know:
I absolutely LOVE what I do and most importantly the path I chose for myself – professionally speaking. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Starting my brand & web design business has been one of the biggest adventures of my life. My business allows me to live the life I want: a life of financial freedom, travel freedom, it also allows me to spend quality time with my daughter, and all-round independence, and for that I view my business as a real BLESSING. I truly feel thankful and appreciative of everything I do right now.
But, even though there are hundreds of great things about being a freelancer, and even running your online business, there are just a few ugly truths that no one ever really talks about – so I am going to try my best to break them down for you.
1. FIRST YEAR OF BUSINESS?
You’re going to get a few nightmare clients.
As a newbie, your first year of business will be highly experimental. You probably won’t understand how to legally protect your business, how to onboard clients, how to handle tricky client situations, or how your design process should go from start to finish.
Spotting a bad client early on is key to keeping both your sanity and a sustainable business. But how do you know what they will be like as a client before you start working with them?
Because of your lack of experience, you’re going to make mistakes that will make some clients mad. Or, you’re going to take on clients you shouldn’t have because you weren’t aware of the warning signs.
Trust your instincts. In my experience, a client who is difficult or frustrating to deal with during the initial discussions and pre-contract phase, is not suddenly going to turn into the perfect client once you start working with them.
The reason I’m bringing this up today is make sure you’re as prepared as you can be for nightmare clients. If you’re aware and you prepare beforehand for bad client situations, you’ll reduce the chance of them happening when you start freelancing full-time, and you’ll be able to handle these situations well if they do happen!
2. WEB DESIGN SKILLS? NOT SO MUCH.
You’ll spend most of your time doing business maintenance.
Your days will most likely look like this: 3 hours designing, 5 hours business maintenance.
For your business to grow and run smoothly, you can’t just design for your clients. You need to manage your inbox on a daily basis (YES – daily!), follow up with clients, be active on social media, do your bookkeeping, and so much more. To a new designer it can seem overwhelming, but trust me it’s not. If you can get yourself motivated enough to keep a daily and a weekly task management system, you will soon realize, you can do this!
3. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?
Running your own business isn’t for everyone.
A lot of people dream of starting their own business but many fail because they didn’t realize how much self-motivation and self-discipline you need to make a success of it.
You are out on your own when you start your home/online business. That means you don’t get to work with a team of employees who are all vested in making the company successful. You’re the one who’s responsible for making your business successful. You don’t get to work together with a large team of people to take the company to the next level. It’s all on you. If you find it hard to motivate yourself to get up in the morning, to build your portfolio, to work on your own instead of meeting your friend for coffee then try and harness these qualities more before quitting your day job.
If you have a flexible schedule, it’s easy to slip into a lazy schedule and slack off sometimes. Family and friends who deeply understand the importance of your work (despite your apparent flexible schedule) are absolutely vital as well.
If you’re in the business planning phase, you’re probably feeling pretty happy, dreamy and determined right now. And that’s a great thing! In fact, if you don’t feel that way then starting a business probably isn’t the right thing for you.
I’m not telling you these ugly truths to discourage you from becoming a freelance designer, and I’m certainly not doing it to burst the dreamy bubble you’re in.
THERE IS MORE!
There are two things I want you to go away with and also do after reading this article:
1. Take another look at the 3 ugly truths I listed above and ask yourself if you’re prepared for them. Preparation is the key to a successful start.
2. Take out a pen and paper and write down three reasons why you want to become a freelance designer, and three things a freelance lifestyle will you allow you to do that a 9-5 job wouldn’t.
Once you’ve written those things out, I want you to stick them up somewhere you can see them as you work on your business each day.
As time goes by and you encounter bad clients that make you want to quit freelancing, slow stages that make you doubt yourself, and times when you just don’t feel cut out to be your own boss, I want you to look at those notes and remember why you’re doing this.
There will be tough times. But as long as you remember why you chose this life and how it blesses you, you’ll be able to work through anything.
PS. If you can think of one ugly truth + one beautiful truth about freelancing that you think newbies should know, leave a comment and tell me! I’d love to hear your thoughts.