The thought of quitting your office job and diving headfirst into an endless sea of opportunities might seem tempting at first, but it’s important to keep in mind that freelancing is not for everyone. Being in my eighth year of full-time freelance, I’ve experienced both the pros and cons of freelance graphic design and what it means to be your own boss. All of this has helped me to understand the key aspects of what kind of people benefit most from being a freelancer.
So, before you take the leap into full-time freelance graphic design, here are a few yes or no questions you should ask yourself to make sure it’s the right move for your career.
1. Are you comfortable wearing many hats?
As a freelance designer, you’ll be on your own for everything — literally everything: from design work, to marketing, and issuing invoices. You’ll get all the freedom you want in setting up your business, but with more freedom comes more responsibility. This can feel especially overwhelming after transitioning out of an office job where most of these things were taken care of by your employer.
When it comes to full-time freelance, you are your own boss to decide what your business strategy should be, how to get graphic design clients, defining your personal brand, what projects to pursue, etc.
Art by Leslie Soto Valenzuela
2. Do you have great time management skills?
To succeed in freelance graphic design, a lot of planning is required. Basically, you become your own project manager. It’s essential to have the skills to make daily, monthly, and long-term plans. You can do this all on your own, or you can use a free project management tool, like Bonsai, to make your life much easier. With Bonsai, you’ll be able to organize and manage all your tasks and projects from one user-friendly platform.
If you’re the type of person that thrives off of setting and meeting large goals and breaking them down into smaller tasks, congrats! You are going to rock in the freelance realm.
3. Are you financially responsible?
The planning chores that come with freelancing directly impact the amount of money you earn. Managing income becomes more challenging when you go full-time freelance since there are higher risks when it comes to getting paid in comparison to relying on a steady monthly salary.
However, in the freelance world, with higher risk comes higher reward. Eventually, you may take several projects at once or make a decision to increase your hourly rate. If plan out your finances carefully and intentionally, you could find yourself earning more than what you might normally make as a design employee.
Art by Lucas Wakamatsu
4. How well do you handle uncertainty?
Sometimes I call freelance design life a controlled instability. There are situations that can’t be determined in advance but day by day you learn how to handle the unexpected. The sense of uncertainty is usually caused by working on multiple different projects (sometimes all at once), communicating with different people (probably with different mindsets), and having to evolve from a designer to a broader specialist (because of competition).
"If you thrive off of having a work-life that is constantly shifting, freelance will grant you that."
So, if you thrive off of having a work-life that is constantly shifting, freelance will grant you that. The thrill of the unknown each time a new project starts will feel exciting to you rather than stressful. On the other hand, if you tend to panic in moments of uncertainty, you may want to reconsider freelance life.
5. Do you consider yourself a good communicator?
Freelance is unfairly called social isolation for a designer. However, I disagree with this statement. Rather than a complete absence of communication, freelancers have to adapt to different methods of communicating — think remote interactions with clients and partners.
Nowadays, there are so many tools and techniques to master this type of communication that it doesn’t feel so odd anymore. Moreover, a freelance graphic designer has the advantage of planning communication and preparing for the chat beforehand. In the freelance world, there are less spontaneous chit-chats over coffee and more scheduled online calls and texting.
Art by Tessa
6. Can you identify your perfect environment for productivity?
With less spontaneity comes more room for focus. When you determine your own workspace as a freelancer you’ll need to create an environment that nourishes productivity and a high level of concentration. The same can also be said for the tools you use to get work done.
Using tools like Bonsai and being able to manage all your tasks, projects, and paperwork from one platform is beneficial to creating a high level of productivity. Since we’re all different people with distinct needs, we may require different conditions to activate our state of flow.
As an example, some may benefit from having white noise in the background, while others need absolute silence. When you are a freelancer, it’s up to you to create a workspace that induces productivity and creativity so you can create your next masterpiece. If you don’t know the answer to this question, you’re probably not ready to go full-time freelance quite yet.
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7. Do you constantly seek self-development?
While there is so much to figure out when it comes to freelancing — schedules, goals, clients, workspace, and more, a freelance designer also has to find room for self-development. You won’t have any senior colleagues around to mentor you as part of their job responsibilities. Finding a way to evolve will be up to you, the designer.
There are many ways to get inspired and receive help, but you’ll need to take initiative by reaching out to other freelancers or your local design community. You’ll need to actively keep learning from graphic design books, blogs, etc. to stay on top of your game. I strongly recommend reading books not only about design, but about other industries too. This is how your brain flexes its muscles and eventually upgrades itself to an abstract way of thinking. If growth is something you constantly strive for and feel enthusiastic about, you’ll enjoy this aspect of freelance life.
Art by Michelle Kathryn
Is freelance graphic design right for you?
How many questions did you answer with a confident “Yes”? If you’re comfortable with all aspects listed above, there’s a high chance you are going to thrive off of being a full-time freelance graphic designer. However, if the majority of your answers were “No”, it’s probably better to give it a second thought.
There are many pros and cons of freelance graphic design so make sure to think about each of these questions carefully and thoughtfully. Remember to be honest with yourself because going full-time freelance is a huge decision that will drastically change your life!
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