Freelancing

My Life As A Freelancer

My Background

My journey as a website designer all started when I was studying at University. I originally had dreams of working for Pixar or Dreamworks as a 3D modeller. I studied a Batchelors degree in Graphic Image Making which basically covered everything to do with design apart from website design. I just enjoyed the 3D and motion side of it.

Whilst at University I was approached by a family friend who owned his own graphic design business. I was invited along to his studio to have a chat about my work and how University was going and he offered me a part time job there and then. I helped out with designing logos, stationery, websites, illustrations and 3D models. I also updated clients websites. At that point I hated anything to do with developing websites because I didn’t have a clue what it all meant.

Starting out as a Website Designer

So I landed my first full time job as a fully fledged website designer after graduating from University with a degree in something I hardly use now. I was the only designer in a small company full of developers. It was nice to be able to have full control over the designs to some degree, but I still had to answer to someone with no design background. Trying to explain my reasons for putting a button in a certain place or moving elements around. I always felt like I was a junior even after working there for over 3 years. I soon became bored of reskinning the same template over and over. I needed something fresh, something new. I started looking for a new job before my boredom damaged my career. Whilst working there I started to build up a freelance career by uploading items to the Envato marketplaces and also taking on the odd piece of client work here and there. It was unfortunately not enough to jack the full time career in with though. So it was on to the next job…

My next job was completely different, it was a whole new ball game. I went from a small company of 15 or so employees to a large multi national corporation with tens of thousands of employees. I even had to dress up smart each day which I hated. The last time I had to ‘dress up’ for work was when I worked at Homebase whilst at college. I was also working in a team of designer now, which was a nice change. It was good to bounce ideas off other designers. I still felt like I was competing to get the good projects.

The Calm Before The Storm

So it was in October 2012 when I set up as a part time self employed freelancer. I was working a 37.5 hours a week job and then working any evenings and weekends that I could without drilling myself into the ground. I wasn’t happy in my full time job and my boss had started to notice. I kept asking for some 3D and motion projects just to break up the routine. With working in a massive corporate company you have guidelines for everything and little if not any creative freedom. I still felt like I didn’t fit and the type of work wasn’t creative enough. I’m not sure how to explain the feeling but I felt restricted and not happy with the work. Most freelancers will know the feeling.

I carried on working on new Tumblr themes to sell on ThemeForest hoping that the sales from that would be enough to cover my monthly bills. I also managed to land a couple of clients that wanted recurring work. This was all without advertising apart from my online portfolio and Tumblr themes. I started saving all of my freelance money which quickly went up until I had enough for 6 months rent and bills. At that point I still felt like I would never get out of this circle. I still couldn’t see myself taking the plunge and quitting my secure full time job.

The ‘Hallelujah’ Moment

I wasn’t happy. I really wasn’t. I’ve read a lot of freelancers stories and most of them experienced the same things as I did. I didn’t want to go to work in the morning. I felt like some people couldn’t trust the fact that I could do my job. I constantly tried to get something new to work on. I kept thinking maybe today will be better, maybe things will change. I started thinking there was something wrong with me. I didn’t like the way things were run, always thought I wasn’t being heard and couldn’t voice my opinions because of ‘office politics’. I started to get annoyed by the smallest of things.

On January the 18th, 2013 I landed a part time contracted position as a GraphicRiver reviewer. I thought this could be it! This could be my big break! It was all systems go! I started reviewing files for GR on the 30th of January. So I was now working a full time job of 37.5 hours a week and also a 15 hour a week reviewing contract. I was working 12 – 14 hour days and working every weekend. It was tough but I knew it was worth it. I also had to squeeze updates to my themes and client work in there too. I always heard people say if you don’t work hard then don’t expect things to fall in your lap. This is a tough world and you need to work your ass off to get what you want.

A few months later my boss approached me and pretty much said I need to choose between my full time job and my freelance career. I had the weekend to decide, baring in mind I worked all of my weekends at that time. I knew what the decision was going to be. I did have some doubt but it was mainly money issues and if I could live with my cats walking over my keyboard every 5 minutes. So the following week I told them I had chosen to go freelance. I had to work an 8 week notice period which was just torture! I was counting down the days, hours, minutes.

April 12th finally arrived and it was my last day as a full time employee working for ‘the man’. I was upset to go because I had met some great people and hard workers. It was a short stay there but it was my time to leave. Like my previous job I could see myself getting worse and worse and I didn’t want to leave behind bad memories or thoughts about myself.

April 15th 2013 was my first ever day as a self employed full time freelance web designer. This is how I spent my first day:

First day as a freelancer

Since going freelance I have never been happier! I actually look forward to getting up for work on a Monday morning, which I’ve never been happy about.

If you ever get given just a glimmer of an opportunity to go freelance. Do it! It has been the best decision I have ever made. Some people say 13 is unlucky. The year 2013 is my year. Grab every opportunity you get with both hands. Life is far too short to be unhappy doing something you hate.

Always loved this quote:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”
– Gandhi

  • paulshadwell

    An inspiration to us all.

  • Seblirium

    Thanks for sharing.
    I came across your post at 5am during another night of restlessness about my own next steps – I’m in almost the same position you were in with the FT job for a corporation, which I borderline ‘hate’ and have no desire for come Monday morning; let alone being motivated enough to produce my best work.

    I’m only just starting out for myself, and well aware of the potential rocky road ahead, however at least they’ll be roads which I can navigate, rather than be dictated to.

  • Anjec Naredo

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve always wanted to jump from my science background to UX design. Right now I’m choosing between my need for money and what path I want to carve in my life. It’s always been about art though…since college I’ve always wanted to do all the designing of health brochures, banners, booklets, even now in our company- i’m in sales but I’m the one designing our product brochures and presentations because I’m unhappy just talking and negotiating prices. I don’t know how to jump from here to there. And I want to be there.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing. Hope I can meet you one day!

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