Making the Freelance Leap
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Well, it’s officially happening. I’m leaving the agency world and flying solo. I know, it sounds totally stereotypical – get married, then quit the ol’ job and start working from home. I promise, the two are not connected, except for the fact that having health insurance through Brad does make things a little easier.
I’ve loved my agency job. I’ve learned way more than I ever thought I’d know about digital marketing – some SEO, some paid media, and an understanding of the importance of analytics and learning from your data. My coworkers were fantastic folks to bounce ideas off of and grow with. In the end, though, it comes down to work/life balance and following my heart. I’ve always had freelance on the side so I could partner with passionate small business owners who really care about their company/product/customers – you guys are the people I love to work with. When you’re so genuinely amped up about your brand, I can’t help but get amped up right there with you. That excitement of growing something from the ground up just isn’t replaceable. Especially you non-profit, charity, and socially conscious startups. You guys make my heart happy.
However, working on so much of that stuff alongside a full time job was leaving little time for things like cooking, fitness, and just being in and enjoying my city. Something I made myself promise to do in 2015 was make more time for me, which ends up meaning I need to make more time for my lovely freelance clients. Which means, goodbye agency world. At least for now.
I’ve been doing lots of reading on this next chapter of my life. Here are the tips I’ve gathered that seem like they’ll be the most valuable:
1. Get your hustle on before you make the jump.
I actually put in a 6 week notice to my job. Why? A few reasons: out of courtesy, because I was having trouble hiding my plans, because I needed to actually tell my bosses so I would really actually try to go freelance and not back out at the last minute, and lastly, because I needed those 6 weeks to build up my savings a little more and line up work like crazy. I didn’t want to leave the agency world and just be doing heavy biz dev for the first month. I hustled my butt off for those 6 weeks, lined up about 7 new clients, and got started on a few projects. This meant freelance lunch meetings between agency meetings, working nights and weekends (pulling about 70 hours a week), and not seeing my friends much for a month. It’s gonna be worth it… at least I hope so.
2. Wake up and get dressed for work every day.
This makes sense to me, but I’ve heard mixed reviews on this piece of advice. I’m not a morning person by any means though, so I already know from my weekend workdays that I will absolutely move more slowly if I’m in my comfy PJ pants. Obviously, I’m not going to get all snazzy every day either. Jeans and a tee will do just fine, thanks.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no.
I’ve been practicing this for a while now. It’s so easy to say yes to every inquiry that comes your way, but to really grow as a designer, you have to hone in on the projects you really jive with. For a long time I was doing web development. Like from scratch web development where I’d inevitably get myself into coding trouble and not know how to get out… I am not a web developer and I have no interest in being a web developer, and I had to accept that and start saying no. It’s okay. That gig will eventually be replaced by another.
4. Network (and don’t burn bridges!)
I have more than just experience to thank my agency gig for. Those folks were networking fiends that collectively probably know half of Dallas. I met so many new people and made some amazing connections through my coworkers. You never know who knows who, and you never know if the guy who asked you for a band logo has a college buddy who’s opening a skateboard shop. Be nice. To everyone. Plus, that’s just good life advice in general.
5. Prepare for the taxes.
This is the biggest downside I’ve seen so far for going freelance. The taxes. Oh goodness, the taxes. I’ve dealt with this before since I’ve been doing freelance on the side as a full-time employee, so I know how easy it is to get yourself into a hole here. Take 25% of every paycheck and put it away. You’ll thank yourself later. But don’t forgot to take notes on all of your expenses! This has saved my life (and bank account) so many times. Did you have to buy a new computer this year? Tax write-off. All those client lunches and meetings over coffee? Write-off. Monthly Adobe Creative Cloud Subscription? Write that ish off. I keep a Google Sheets document of all of my expenses and their category (supplies, advertising, etc.) and income. It makes life so much easier when April rolls around. Organization, y’all.
So. This is it. The leap.
Wish me luck, guys. I can’t wait to start this new adventure, and I’m so excited about all the possibilities – partnering with new folks with new ideas, sharing more of my experiences here on the blog, developing personal projects that have been on the back burner for years, etc. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter for regular updates. Whew, working from home… Let’s see how this goes!