I need to make a decision about my future as a designer. Things are not working very well at my current job, so I am thinking to leave and start freelancing. What do you think of that?
most important thing here is: should designers code?
This is getting kinda old..
Think of a job listing as a low ball offer. It's a negotiation. What they would actually settle for is always much less than what they are asking.
Sure, I'd love to be able to hire a unicorn designer/developer at $15/hr. But once I see the candidates who applied, I quickly learn I'll have to hire a designer with some very light knowledge of development at probably 4-10X that rate.
Welcome to market economics.
I'm a primarily designer but an expert on HTML/CSS/SCSS/Gulp/Git but not PHP, AJAX nor ASP.NET. I don't deal with back-end.
I'm a designer with expert knowledge in HTML5, CSS3, CSS/SCSS, Gulp, and Git and really poorly written jQuery. Not advanced JS, PHP, AJAX, OR ASP.NET, that's for back-end developers.
I would suggest you keep your current job for a few months, to allow you time to
- Read-up how to succeed with freelancing—it’s quite different from employment.
- Prepare your portfolio.
- Build an online presence—you need to be ‘everywhere’.
These things will help you find clients abroad and get the ball rolling.
If you’re looking for local clients (Hello Romania! :D) then searching/asking through connections/referrals is a better approach.
Also, save up some money for cushion on those dry months (there will be), read up articles on freelancing, and do your research! Good luck!
Thank you Alex for the quick response, the thing is that I don't know if I can stay a few months there, it's kind of complicated.
I've been a freelancer for 3y now (did stuff on free time for ~5y before that). Started programming, now moving towards UX/Design/HTML-CSS...
Anyways, a couple of pointers that worked for me:
- Have at least 3 months of savings. I'd say 4-6 is ideal.
- Have at least one client/project that can cover the first couple of months, so you don't start at home alone and... "now what?".
- Build an online presence. Maybe it's your name, maybe you come up with a studio name. Whatever, build it, make a simple website, a mail account and launch it.
- Don't think as a freelancer, but a problem-solver. Be aware that you might end up designing less and doing some administration, client hunting, project searching, research, others. I recommend this book also: Stop thinking like a freelancer
- It's not for everyone. Be methodic and set yourself a daily routine. Working from home/cowork/shared office doesn't mean you can't do 9-18 or whatever.
I think I could go on... Hope this helps!
Thanks for the great advices!
I've been there, worked freelance for roughly 18 months, it was fun yes. But it is tough as hell to retain clients, do the work and acquire new clients.
My solution was to start a digital agency with 2 friends of mine, to compliment each others qualities. That was the right way for me to go, because I am now able to fully focus on the design part.
I don't think everybody has 2 friends designers to start a agency.
No, but if you reflect on my comment. I am trying to say that freelancing isn't as fruitful and glorious as some might think.
For every great story there are dozens barely making a living.
I glad that you find a solution, thanks for sharing. As @Robert says not everyone has people to start a agency.
There isn't a golden solution to this, I've merely shared what worked out for me :)
Try out stuff, there are plenty of good suggestions here.
If you have the balls, ask your current company if they'd keep using you if you went freelance. I did, and it was my first client and longest client relationship too.
Also! You probably wouldn't have made this step if you didn't start working for yourself to begin with.
Actually it was in the plans all along, we seeded the idea of an agency several years prior to doing it. It was only about getting the timing right.
This is exactly what worked for me, two of us able to help pull in the work and contribute to that monthly income with complimenting each others skills. Daaaamn its still tough tho!
I'd recommend starting to freelance on the side while retaining current job or with a new job. Working at different companies helps you build your own network of people you can use for future work, coders, designers, pm's etc.
Working while freelancing on the side gives you stability, depending on what your current situation is, if you have a lot of outgoings, i.e. house, car etc then you'll need some stability.
These two books are pretty amazing and have helped me out so far: • Creative Truth: Start & Build a Profitable Design Business • Work for Money, Design for Love: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business
Focus on what makes you unique as its a pretty competitive market, get your own site up and just see what you can win. There are plenty of jobs boards requiring freelancers but its a tough gig and often hear 0 back.
All the best hombre!
Thanks for the answer and the book recommendations.
No worries, I'm sure you'll nail it whichever way you go :D
Ask yourself :)
Do you work on your own and can execute instructions with very limited supervision?
If you can, freelancing is a good choice. But remember, you will have to be confident and a problem solver. Freelancing is not as easy as it seems.
Hope this helps!
Thanks for the answer, this is a big thing for me so I hope I am ready to start on my own.
I would ask you remember that "starting to freelance" is actually "starting a small-business." There are taxes, accounting, marketing, and clients relationships to consider. Many freelancers do not understand this and then wonder why it didn't work out. (I go into more detail in another comment on DN.)
Whatever you decide, I wish you well on your journey! Good luck.
Completely agree with this. In addition, as others mentioned, be sure you have the discipline to get out of bed and work (and know when to STOP working so you have a life!). And the tenacity to bug clients about invoices/payments, and always be hustling for the next client.
That's true the taxes and accountability are clearly some drawbacks of freelancing.
if you have clients and some savings, then go for it. If not, I'd apply for a new position in your current company (maybe a less time-intensive job) and gain clients while working that position.
I can't apply to a new position at my current company because is a small company and I am the only designer.
Then it might be a good idea to look for positions elsewhere. We're extremely blessed to be in an industry where there is a huge demand for jobs. Take advantage of that.
This is quite a big question, and plenty has been written about it elsewhere. As someone who freelances full time, I'll do my best to give some quick, digestible help:
- The daily life of a freelancer is quite different to an employee. The ‘freedom’ must come with discipline – do you want that change or might you be better suited by a new job?
- Do you have some savings in case of tough weeks or months? I'd strongly recommend it.
- As above, do you enjoy a relatively expensive lifestyle? Or have dependants? These things are very possible as a freelancer, but harder to pay for when starting out! That's speaking as someone who has a family, pays rent, etc, etc.
- Do you have any freelance clients or projects lined up? There is nothing to stop you lining these up or even doing some on the side before going full time (better check your current contract first, just in case).
Hope that helps!
Thanks for the elaborate answer.
What's stopping you from finding another full-time design job? Surely going freelance is not the only alternative; Or is it because you actively wish to freelance?
The problem is that where I live there aren't so much jobs as designer.
Ah I see, well alternatively perhaps you could find a position that will allow you to work remotely.
That could be an option.
The fact that you make a clear distinction between job and freelance suggests me that you haven't tried freelancing.
And if i'm correct and you've never freelanced before, if you've got no client base or recognition, i'd suggest starting the freelance stuff while having a full time job. That's what I did. I'd freelance during weekends and past my full time job.
Eventually i quit my full time job because my freelance stuff was way more interesting and I just couldn't wait to get home. :)
You should always have a portfolio and linkedin, always explore your opportunities - either you're freelancing or not. Just don't fall into HR traps, they're evil.
I had some freelance experience but only in my free time.
I'm not sure what your situation is at your current job, but you should know (or be reminded) that as a freelancer you won't just be doing design anymore. You will be the finance department, pr, project manager, among many other roles. Count the cost before you take this leap. It's not a terrible one, but count the cost first. And if you haven't already, read Mike Monteiro's book "Design is a Job".
Thanks for the advice and book recommendation.
I would recommend sharing your portfolio to the community for feedback before even thinking of next steps. Having a solid portfolio is key to landing clients.
Freelance while having a fulltime job until you surpass your fulltime salary. At that point, leave. Never before.
No, you should: Start freelancing then quit job!
Have a strong reason to make the move with clients and a network. Getting started can be tough.
Another option could be to work part-time somewhere whilst you pursue being freelance, say three days. It could just be a temporary job that isn't even design related. Maybe even a Christmas job?
If you have a couple of months pay set aside, getting a part-time job basically extends the amount of time you have to try out being freelance because you have some other income coming in. This can be especially good at the start. It also takes some of the pressure off getting freelance work. I find that financial pressure and creative thinking are rarely a good combination – at least for me.
I work three days for a local design company and two days for myself on The Print Handbook. I find this a great balance. It takes away some of the pressure of selling enough books.
We all wish you the best of luck.
Thanks for sharing your solution.
I know this thread is crowded with advice, but let me add my 2 cents.
You should think about the difference between moving away from pain (your current job) and moving towards pleasure (freelancing). What are your exact motivations? Are you really looking forward to what freelancing means for your life? Or are you just looking to escape the pain of your current job? Now they can co-exist, but make sure you are not moving into something new that "does not work out".
Don't be fooled: the first months (or years) of freelancing can be overwhelming, and having an existential crisis while you are busy staying afloat as your own boss does not give pretty results. It will mean lots of stress.
Think about what your needs are, what excites you in life, what components are needed to make you happy. Is being your own boss one of those things? What about the contents of the work? Should it be creatively exciting? Should it have meaning?
There are few (small) business owners who became great entrepreneurs out of necessity, so make sure you become one out of passion. Otherwise there are probably alternative jobs out there that better suit your needs. I promise you, if you have a clear picture of what you need and go for job interview that match those, your new employees will be excited to hire you.
If you decide to freelance, here's some advice from me.
Finding larger clients that want to hire you for a longer period of time will mean more money and more ease. Less sales overhead, less lost hours context-switching between freelance jobs.
Thanks for taking time to answer!
I think you should leave and start freelancing immediately. However, Im not saying freelance is the best answer or sulution either, but, at least you can make some money until you figure out what you wanna do next; you will also learn so much, and you'll have more flexibility. But that also comes with a cost-- you'll be spending more time managing than designing but you'll get use to it and its part of the growth/ experience process.
Pro tip: always do a contract before you start any job (including friends/family) and make sure you communicate very well what the ground rules are from the beginning! I also use this to manage my projects: https://www.hellobonsai.com
Cheers, Phil https://twitter.com/Captnphilip
I heard about hellobonsai and if I decide to go freelance I think I will use it.
I wouldn't quit abruptly though I know from experience this is all you want to do. I've been there and done that.
Instead, I put up with working full time for over 3 years and freelanced on the side to build up my:
- Client Roster
- Web Presence (through content, marketing, social media)
This part took a while but it allowed for a much smoother transition. Quitting and starting from the beginning is incredibly challenging unless you have ample savings to tide you over. It can be done if you're prepared.
- Most sacrifice the salary and benefits for the lifestyle. Some can obtain both but you have to really accel at what you do.
- Don't expect job boards to be a reliable source of quality leads
- Networking locally will yield more results than online (at first)
- Find a niche of a skill you are best at and promote only that through your work, content, and network.
- Optimize your website/portfolio to be searchable based on keywords that actually apply to work you want to do.
- Be a part of the conversations on sites like product hunt, designer news, popular blogs, and more.
- Share insight for free. It's a lure for attention and from that you can convert subscribers and new clients.
This list could be massive but I hope it helps.
Thanks for all the tips from your experience.
What does your project pipeline look like? Do you have dribbble work inquiries coming in? Are you well connected to a network that can fill your project pipeline?
What does your financial situation look like? Do you have savings to get you through a couple bad months? Do you have any dependents?
Are you a self starter? Do you enjoy going after things and making things happen?
Do you want to put in the non-design work it takes to run a business? Taxes, pay roll, accounting, sales?
Can you handle the stress of an uncertain financial situation?
Is it your company specifically you are unhappy with or just being an employee in general?
These are questions I would answer before you make the jump. I think freelancing is a great option for some and a terrible one for others. Some people are established, connected and sought after, this makes freelancing a whole lot easier for them (not easy, but easier). When you don't have to constantly worry about drumming up business you can create. But if you don't have a way to get work leads it can be a nightmare. When running your own shop there is a lot more weighing on you than just executing great work, this is just one of many considerations.
Best of luck!
Thanks for your help, some very good advices there.
Imagine this: from this moment, you're free from your job, sitting at home in front of your computer. Can you tell me (or yourself) what will be your next move? Do you know anything about accounting? If not, do you have an accountant that you can rely on? Do you know how to handle expenses, budgets? Do you know your rate / price? What services can you offer to your clients? If you get a new client that needs a website or a new app, I'm sure that you can come up with a design, but can you deliver the final product (working website or published app on the store)? If not, do you know some friends / colleagues that can complement you on that part? Do you know where will you find work? Do you have hosting or know how much it will cost you.....?
If you know answers to most of this questions (and they are only just the tip of an iceberg) then go for it! ;)
I think that if you can afford to take the risk, then you should try it.
I have savings for two-three months so maybe I should try. What do you think ?
Do you have any children?
No, I don't.
Then I would just go for it, I'd love to go freelance again, but the fear of not being able to provide for my family is stopping me.
Thanks for your support!
I feel ya here..
Well, you didn't share much info so don't expect a concise answer. If you feel like the current situation is not for you, you definitely need a change. Maybe that's a job change or maybe that's starting to freelance. The right answer lies in you. But one big question is: if you start to freelance will you be able to earn enough money, do you know people/clients?