What I wish I'd known 3 years ago about freelancing

When I quit my full-time job, I didn’t have much of a plan.

Just the unshakeable feeling that I needed something more.

More control, more creative freedom, maybe more recognition for my work. I didn’t know anything for certain, except that I needed a change of scenery, and fast.

Luckily I had had some money saved up, so I could afford to hand in my notice and go travelling for a couple of months. My boss offered to take me back again afterwards, and although I initially accepted his idea of a sabbatical, I realised that I needed a clean break.

Things weren’t quite such plain sailing when I got back from my trip. I quickly ran out of cash and even had to move home with my parents for a month. Having my mum ask if I’ll be back for tea when I leave the house was never on my early thirties wish-list!

But now, after freelancing for three years, I know how to find work, what to ask before taking a job, and how much I can charge.

These are all crucial questions for any would-be freelancer to be able to answer of course.

But if I could travel back in time and give my fully-employed self one piece of advice, it would be something less practical than this:

Don’t wait until you have a “Stuff this!” moment, because the worst way to go freelance is in haste.

I’d been working so long without pausing for air that my body didn’t give me a choice. I physically had to stop work, and it took many painful months to recover from my depression.

At first I blamed the design profession for what happened, but now I realise the problem was within me all along.

My gut had been telling me it was time for change, and I ignored it.


Here’s what you should know about freelancing.

Neither of the things I was most afraid of (not being able to find work, and not being able to pay the rent) has ever happened.

Sure, freelancing felt lke a bit of a roller-coaster at first, but only because I got on the ride without meaning to.

With a little planning and the right mindset, freelancing doesn’t have to be scary.

And you can probably get started sooner than you think.

Don’t take my word for it though.

When I asked other freelance designers what advice they’d give their former fully-employed selves, they pretty much all said the same thing:

“Don’t wait 10 years” or “Hurry up!”

I’m inclined to agree with the general sentiment here. Lots of designers wait too long before going freelance, because it seems like such a daunting step.


If you’re thinking about going freelance, don’t think of it as “making the leap”.

Yes, you are standing on one side of a career change, and you want to be on the other.

Yes, you could just take a running jump… but you’d probably end up taking a heavy tumble on the other side if you did.

But if you build a bridge — using materials that you already have to hand — then all you have to do is walk over.

And when you do, you’ll look back and wonder why you waited so long.

(Ok… enough with the bridge metaphor now…)

Are you thinking about going freelance?

Working for myself has been life changing for me, and I’d love to help you get to a similar place.

Hope you find this a useful post, and shout if you have any questions :smile:


Shared your email course on Inbound. :smile:

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yah quite right , i am in this field for last some years , but yes now its turned really tough game specially where software houses are there in the battle with team of developers and designers . on other hand new comers place very low bid and you will be surprised to see this rate …

@3stripe @LaurenH

How can I read the materials without provding a real email address. ?

I went to inbound and I don’t need an e-mail address?

This is a great insight into freelancing! I had my own tutoring business during my university years, and the trickiest part was negotiating rates and dealing with difficult clients. Once I had enough experience to sort that stuff out, it was easy.

I agree wholeheartedly that freelancing is about planning, and not going into it haphazardly. It’s very important to have a financial plan in place, everything from charging clients, advertising budget (or means) and having a good accountant to help with the tax stuff.


What a great post! Pretty inspiring, too.

This is a big topic of discussion in my field of design. There’s a lot of people jumping back and forth across the fence. I’ve worked freelance quite a lot in my time, and also within companies. Freelancing is hard. Another thing to think about before you go into it, is whether you are okay with being jack of all trades - at least for some time. Wearing every hat. I know for me, personally, I don’t have the right mindset or skillset to handle finances or clients, for example.

I personally prefer to be part of a small/medium company wherein I have an important role and voice, but the only thing that falls on my shoulders is what I am good at - design. That way, I can focus on that and put all my energy into that to get the best possible outcome. All of my brain power! And if I decide at some point I want to venture into other realms - say I want to learn more about marketing, or product, or the business side of things. I can do that, without the success/failure of that area falling on my lap entirely. Surprisingly, working within a company provides a lot of opportunity, freedom and chances to learn. Freelance can be lonesome! If I were to do it again, I’d want to do it with a partner. But that’d be starting our own little company, essentially! Thinking out loud here, forgive me.

There’s two sides to every coin!


You can’t get the course without an email address at this point, although I may release the course as a PDF once it’s finished!

If you subscribe you go onto a standalone email list, and will get 8 emails from me, and nothing else. That’s a promise :slight_smile:


And yes, totally hear you on this — and I actually prefer freelancing at studios rather than working solo with clients for pretty much the same reasons you state here.

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Rather timely article…

I just reached my “Stuff It” moment this morning!!!

I have had it with my career and am jumping ship. (Can’t go into all of the gory details for fear of people finding my comments online and punishing me.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have a “Plan B” waiting for me, and if I did, I’m not sure the parachute would open before I hit ground.

Regardless, I refuse to let another company abuse me the way one has over the last week! :rage:

I think these two articles are really timely and fit well with this thread. The first is Ada Ivanoff’s “5 things to consider before going freelance.” Most of her advice comes down to being well-prepared and having a contingency plan.

This article from Khurram Aziz about negotiating your rate is also super helpful. There’s different ways of charging for different projects and it’s helpful to be familiar with different negotiating concepts so you don’t get caught out.


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