OK, so technically it’s my fourth month of freelancing but January 2019 was my first full month freelancing on my own, without any retainers, prospective jobs or guaranteed income.
It was a bit scary at first.
But 31 days on and I made it through. I brought in enough money to cover my outgoings. I made a handful of strong contacts who have already commissioned more work. I learned how to sell myself and pimp out my skills. I even learned to love LinkedIn.
Over the last few months I’ve been jotting down ideas and some things that I’ve realised. These are some of the things that have come to mind over the last month:
1. Making Human Connections
I used to consider myself an introvert. I certainly have introverted traits, but in the last few months I’ve discovered I really like meeting new people. We tend to fall out of the habit after we get our first job in the Adult World, and outwith colleagues it’s not so easy to meet new folks. For the last few years I’ve definitely been living in a comfortable bubble of familiar familiars.
But now, through meeting new clients, messaging folks on LinkedIn and going to courses and meetups I’ve met a hodgepodge of new, really interesting people. And I am loving it! I never thought this would be something I would look forward to.
I’ve found it’s easier (and more interesting) now that I’m older and have got a bit of life experience behind me – it’s easier to ask slightly different questions and make real connections. Something just a little bit deeper than who you both know in Glasgow, or if we’re going to have The Beast from the East Part Two this year. Reframing the conversation slightly so that it goes a little bit deeper.
Of course there are boundaries: I don’t go around asking their in-depth family history or their opinions on Brexit (although this can lead to some really interesting conversations/arguments!). But just making that effort to go a tiny bit deeper I’ve found makes all the difference.
The Lesson: Ask real questions. Try to steer clear of small talk. It’s easier than you would think to make deeper connections with people by asking more interesting questions.
2. Pushing Yourself
I’ve found out that with the odd nudge here and there I’m capable of more than I thought. It’s so easy to stay in that omnipresent comfort zone and go about your business like you always have (more chat about this in point 3). But with some self-reflection I’ve been able to push myself a little bit further in a couple of different ways.
I can be just a little bit braver, and message that massive company about my work. I’ll be a teeny bit more realistic, and propose a longer (and more reasonable) deadline. A dash more creative, and don’t be afraid to take that brief slightly off the beaten path.
I’ve read that being freelance it’s difficult to know when you’re doing good work. So far, I think as long as I can feel myself pushing just a tiny bit all the time then I know I’m on the right track.
The Lesson: Check in with yourself. Ask yourself if it’s really your best work. Be honest when you could have worked a little bit harder on a project. But don’t chastise yourself – just learn and remember for next time.
3. Design Your Career the Way You Want
About two weeks in I realised I had been masquerading as the type of designer I thought I should be. It could have been a hangover from my previous job, a role I had been in for eight years and was difficult to move away from.
The whole point of going freelance was so I could be the type of designer I wanted to be. It hit me one day when looking through another’s portfolio – I can do this however the hell I want! It might sound obvious, but it was a big moment for me and immediately shifted my mindset. The idea that I could design my business the way I wanted was extremely liberating.
To help me remember this feeling I wrote a post-it and stuck it on my keyboard: “Do Things Differently”.
The Lesson: Ask questions. Of yourself, your work, your abilities, your goals and of the industry. You’ll be amazed at some of the answers. It doesn’t have to be the same old results.
I’m feeling a lot more calm as February has gone on. Hopefully freelancing isn’t quite so scary after all!