Thursday, February 14, 2013

Freelancing Fun!

As I plunge into the world of freelance design I'm very aware that I have a lot to learn about being self employed. Fortunately I have a few essential skills which have been helping me immensely.

1. I'm super duper organised - I'm really good at making a schedule and sticking to it. If I intend to spend seven to nine hours a day working on something, I'll do it. I find it easy to avoid the time sucking temptations of the Interweb. I know that if I don't do what I have to do, it simple won't get done. 

2. I love learning new things - I don't believe there are any excuses for ignorance. If I want to figure out how to do something, I do it or I go about finding out how I can do it if it's a long-term skill that needs developing. For that reason is just about my most favourite website ever at the moment.

3. I'm persistent - The people who don't make it are the people who give up when the going gets tough. I am under an immense amount of pressure and throwing in the towel could seem like the easiest thing to do. But then I'd keep doing work that doesn't use my time and talent wisely and continue to feel a general sense of dissatisfaction.

On the flip-side, I have a few 'humps' that have come up. They aren't unbreakable obstacles but they are general challenges I've got to come up with feasible solutions to or at least remain aware of. 

1. I currently have no reliable source of income - I'm looking for design work and developing my portfolio at the same time. I'm pretty busy and I know that eventually, in six months or so, I'll start seeing my workload increase, which will ultimately mean my income will increase. But I'm still in the starting out phase so money is tight and I have to use all my excellent organisational skills to stick to an incredibly tight budget.

2. I need help - Everyone needs help. No one who ever accomplished anything great did it on their own. We all need a team of people cheering us on from the sidelines. I do have a lot of support but a large chunk of it is 3,000 miles and seven time zones away, which makes spontaneous phone calls or hanging out to de-stress rather difficult. The other chunk lives in London and anyone who lives in London will tell you that spontaneity isn't easy to do when the average journey takes 45 minutes to an hour. There are phones, of course, and email and other ways to keep in touch, and I need to make more use of them when I can.

3. There's so much to do! - I love working for myself. I love the adventure of it and the potential. I love knowing that there will be challenge to overcome and new opportunities I've not even considered yet just waiting to pop up. But I have to make sure I've got a solid base to work from which means developing my skills alongside the work that I do. Graphic design is a competitive market and the technology involved in it changes frequently. I've got a lot to do in preparation but the lack of an income also means I need to do as much work as I can to relieve financial pressure.

I know I'll be O.K. because I always am. When taking on a big life changing thing like this I like to ask myself 'What's the worst that could happen?' I came up with some pretty horrific possibilities. I'm imaginative and the multitude of painful scenarios that played themselves out were pretty intense.

But none of them killed me. 

Then I played out the worst possible scenarios involved in continuing to do jobs that I have no passion or drive for. Compared to everything I could come up with that was terrifying about taking the plunge into freelance, the idea of stagnation caused far more dread. I could go into more depth but this incredible comic of a Chris Gillebeau's take on mediocrity by Gav over at Zen Pencils illustrates things perfectly.

Alternatively the best possible scenarios I could imagine about being self employed as a graphic designer include:

Using my creativity to develop business solutions.

Having new projects that challenge me and use my imagination for the benefit of my clients.

Having flexibility in my work, where I work, when I work, how I work.

Refining my skills with Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign to the point of being an industry expert.

Taking my passion for good design and putting it to productive use, instead of hiding it away as something I would fancy doing but never do.

Expressing myself through what I do - screw work/life balance, this is my life and I should be doing something I'm good at and I love. 

Not dreading the question "What do you do?"

Collaborating with other Creative Specialists in fun, original ways. 

So ultimately, I know this is the right choice and I also know that if I hadn't made it I'd only have myself to blame for feeling trapped in an average job doing average things.

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