I quit my “day job” last year for a variety of reasons. One was that I had enough of a blossoming skills set in graphic design and business management to make some money freelancing.
et me just pause my narrative right here and assure you that this is not an income-generating thing for me (or us) at all. At this point I’m pretty much covering the (minimal) cost of various subscription services to fun things like the Adobe creative suite (eg: Photoshop and Illustrator) and paying off the computer I bought when I had to give up my “day job” computer.
Everyone in my real life can attest that, since the change in work situation, I am notably happier, calmer, more well-adjusted. My quality of life has increased leaps and bounds.
What’s been interesting in freelancing is learning how to manage my emotions and my reactions when I’m free to behave pretty much however I want. It never even occurred to me that would be an issue but it turns out that being in “day job” mode has kind of a built-in regulator and set of expectations for behavior in general.
Now that I’m in the Wild West of client interaction I am able to behave pretty much however I want without a whole lot of lasting damage. Unlike my previous work, now my relationship with clients isn’t long term and (for the most part) we aren’t working on multiple projects together over years. Other than basic human decency, there’s not a ton of motivation to get along – for either party.
Among the many things I’ve learned, there are a few particulars I’d like to mention. The first is that I have way more control over the time frame of a project. One of the things that used to drive me nuts at my 9-to-5 was the constant state of emergency over things that were not even close to real emergencies. It was kind of a Boy Who Cried Wolf situation all the time. In the new world of t-shirt graphics and website updates, there are very few hard and fast deadlines, and when they exist the rest of it can kind of smoosh around to make room (and time).
Another thing I’ve learned is that, while I never get as much praise as criticism on any given project (in any job), I do get a ton more positive reinforcement now that I’m freelancing. People are generally happy with what I do. What I’m doing is generally an improvement over what they have. They usually mention that which is a BIG change from corporate work. And it feeds my soul in a BIG way.
Yet another learning “opportunity” (those are sarcastic quotation marks) is the necessity of learning to take criticism gracefully even when I don’t have to. I mentioned earlier that I don’t really have to get along with anyone anymore, but it’s more than that. In the narrow confines of my previous job, the work, the outcome, and the steps to get there were fairly well-defined from the outset. Both I and my “client” (ie: bosses) had a similar idea of what the finished product would look like. That was never something I even THOUGHT about until I started working with clients who have an image in their head and zero experience explaining head-images to other people.
There’s more teaching in freelancing than I expected. A lot of my day-to-day work is in doing multiple drafts so we all have some visual point of references, or in finding articles or resources that the client can take a look at to get a better idea of what my limitations are.
For example, t-shirt graphic costs double every time a new color is added. That six-color example the one client sent me IS really neat looking but it also costs an insane amount of money for that family reunion.
Another example is fonts and typefaces. MOST fonts have some kind of commercial copyright – meaning you can use them however you want in your personal life but you can’t make any money from them. This means that I can’t use them to make a design for a client (since I’m making money by using the font). It also means that clients can’t use it for a header on their e-store website.
There’s a LOT of stuff to know, to communicate, and to understand. Add that to the fact that I am pretty much just winging most of this and it makes for an Interesting (with a capital i) work environment.
And don’t even get me started on billing and invoicing. Never understood the need for business managers or accountants until I started this stuff!
What I delight in is that, even with the steep learning curve and the frustrations of communicating abstract ideas with strangers, I am so much happier. I get to be creative on a daily basis. I get to try new things constantly. And I get to see my work walking around the grocery store months after I’ve sent it off! How cool is that?!