To some, freelancing is a very attractive way of life. In contrast to full-time employment, it can appear more flexible, give you more independence, more experience and a potential to earn more money. However there are a few challenges and less glamorous parts to it.
You may have read up on the skills and qualities required to be a design recruitment agency freelancer. You may also have looked into how it works. By now, you’re probably asking yourself, “am I ready for freelance?”.
Let me pose some questions to you. Be honest with yourself, as the answers to these questions should give some guidance in knowing if you’re ready for freelance.
Firstly, ask yourself, “why do I want to go freelance?”. Are you unhappy with your current work? Do you want more freedom? Are you not getting any good experience or the type of experience you want? Do you think going freelance will help alleviate these problems you’re facing?
Now, you’re going to need a strong reason to go freelance. Crossing the threshold into freelance can be tough when you’re coming from full-time employment. There are lots of hurdles and barriers you will face and the benefits of a freelance lifestyle can take months, or even years, to emerge. It’s your answer to this question that will keep you motivated throughout the process, so make sure it’s a good one that you’re passionate about.
I’ve always been a fairly ambitious person. I initially went freelance because I wasn’t getting the experience I wanted. I tried full-time employment for a while, but found the career progression and creative variety lacking.
So, I had to take matters into my own hands. This is when I decided to go freelance. This was my “why”. I was motivated by the idea of greater creative opportunities and career advancement. I wanted to climb the ladder and achieve. Now I’m a senior designer leading my own projects and working with local and global brands.
Am I comfortable with the unknown?
The next question you need to ask yourself is, “am I comfortable with the unknown?”. Many people decide not to go freelance for fear of not finding work or earning money. There are no guarantees with freelance. It requires a lot of work and commitment to make it work, especially at the start.
Therefore, you need to be comfortable with the unknown. In fact, it should be something that excites and motivates you. The variety and flexibility available with freelance is closely aligned with the unknown, so be sure you’re okay with this.
I remember having concerns about this when I first started. It took me a while to build up the confidence to face my fear and take the plunge. But, eventually I did it and I am so glad I did.
Am I comfortable running my own business?
Now one of the benefits of permanent employment is that all your administration and finances are pretty much taken care of for you. You get your payslip every month and you don’t have to worry about your taxes.
This isn’t the case with freelance. You will need to submit invoices, fill out timesheets and self assessments, work with an accountant and deal with your own taxes. All this requires your attention, takes time and you will need to keep on top of it.
It also helps if you have a website where you can showcase your work, so you need to be able to manage this and keep it updated. Being freelance is essentially like running your own small business, where you are the brand.
So ask yourself, “am I comfortable running my own business?”. It’s a lot of work and isn’t for everyone, but you can get help. This is one of the perks of working with design recruitment agencies compared to solo freelance. There is a LOT more admin when working a a solo freelancer.
Am I good enough?
Now this is a question I asked myself over and over for months before I actually went freelance. Thankfully today there are a wide variety of opportunities available at a variety of levels.
In the beginning you will need to be confident and believe in your abilities. There may be naysayers and you may (you will) doubt yourself, but believe in your abilities and your work. If you are relatively junior with not much experience, there are still opportunities available
My advice is to talk to design recruitment agencies in your area. This is an excellent resource for feedback. Typically design recruitment agencies will get you in for an interview when you first register with them. Here an agent will give you some honest and genuine feedback that can help guide you on the industry and prospects available for you.
Do I have the experience?
So to answer this question more accurately, I called up a few of my recruitment agencies and spoke to some creative recruiters to get their professional insights. The general consensus on this was that it’s all about your portfolio.
When clients look at prospective designers, they do take into account experience, but they will mainly be looking at your portfolio. A CV may or may not appear to qualify you on paper. It’s really all about the work you’ve produced that will inspire confidence in a potential client.
A client, company or studio will have a particular job in mind and will be looking at your potential to carry it out. They’ll be looking at the work you have done in the past and if they can see you’re capable of carrying out their creative task, they’ll be happy to shortlist you for the job.
Do I have a strong enough portfolio?
So, naturally, the next question you may ask yourself is, “do I have a strong enough portfolio?”. Now as a freelancer, you will be hired based on your expertise, so you will need to demonstrate this in your portfolio.
When put forward for a freelance contract, the client, company or studio will be looking for specific qualities and commercial experience in the designer who will undertake the job. Your portfolio will need to be tailored to exactly what you want to do or what is expected on a contract. It cannot be too broad. You don’t necessarily want to be seen as a jack of all trades.
For senior roles you will need a more refined and specialist portfolio. For more junior roles, sometimes clients want someone who is a little broader, so junior designers looking for junior roles don’t necessarily need such a specialised portfolio.
As mentioned earlier, if you’re unsure about your portfolio you can seek advice from design recruitment agencies in your area. They’ll provide honest and productive feedback that you can learn from and implement.
Can I handle the pressure?
Now one fact I’ll tell you about freelance… it’s not easy!
Deadlines can be tight and expectations will be high. One of the trade offs for the flexible freelance lifestyle is the pressure you will be under to deliver to deadlines and to a high standard. You will need to be able to work under pressure, as there is no avoiding this one.
Do I have the savings?
As mentioned earlier, many people choose not to go freelance for fear of not finding work or earning money. The financial benefits of freelance can take months, or even years, to emerge.
When speaking to recruitment agents, they have often asked the question “can you go a month without getting paid?”.
There are no guarantees with freelance; there will be busy periods and there will be quiet periods. This is a reality that you cannot avoid. So, it’s wise to have savings to support yourself in the quiet periods. This could mean staying in your permanent employment a while longer until you have the savings you feel comfortable with supporting you for a couple months, should you struggle for work at all.
So, the questions you need to ask yourself to understand if you’re ready to go freelance are:
- Why do I want to go freelance?
- Am I comfortable with the unknown?
- Am I comfortable running my own business?
- Am I good enough?
- Do I have the experience?
- Do I have a strong enough portfolio?
- Can I handle the pressure?
- Do I have the savings?
Now, if you can answer some of those questions and feel comfortable with your answers then you may just be ready to go freelance. If you’re not comfortable with your answers then perhaps you need more time before you make the jump to freelance. Or you may need to reassess the first question; why?
What are your thoughts? Have you considered going freelance? What’s your “why”? Do you think you’re ready to make the jump? Let me know in the comments below.