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Are you looking to become a freelance designer?

At one point or another, every designer wonders what it would be like to become a freelance designer.

Maybe you’re a student dreaming of tackling the world after graduation. Perhaps you’re an in-house designer tired of working 9-5 designing similar things for the same company year after year. Maybe you work for a design agency as part of a larger team of experienced designers, and you feel like you are not being used to your full potential.

Regardless of where you are in your design career, the thought of becoming a freelance designer, to run your own business from home, to be your own boss, might be something going through your head.

I’m a big advocate of freelancers. I’ve focused Resourceful Designer specifically on helping home-based designers. But I’m also the first person to say that not every designer is suited to freelancer life. That’s why I put together this list of 5 things you should consider before deciding to become a freelance designer.

Why do you want to become a freelance designer?

The first thing you need to ask yourself before handing in your resignation letter is why do you want to become a freelance designer?

Is it for the flexible schedule? Is it for the ability to choose your clients and projects? Is it for the tax write-offs? Is it for the ability to work in your pyjamas at any hour of the day? Is it simply to be your own boss?

Whatever your reasons, make sure they are good ones before you make the leap and start your design business.

Here are five things to consider before deciding to become a freelance designer.

1) How will you deal with the isolation of working from home?

Working from home can get lonely. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons designers give up the freelance life and go back to a 9-5 job. It’s a big enough issue that there's an entire episode of Resourceful Designer where I talk about coping with isolation when working from home.

Ask any home-based designer, and they will tell you that isolation is a real issue. If you are someone who enjoys talking face to face with colleagues throughout the day, it's something to keep in mind.

Before you decide to become a freelance designer make sure you can handle the loneliness that comes with being by yourself most of the time.

2) How good are you at time management?

When you are an employee, chances are someone is telling you, or at least directing you in what you need to do on a daily basis.

Once you become a freelance designer, you won’t have someone telling you what to do anymore. Some people see this as a benefit, but you need to make sure you are disciplined enough to not only create a work schedule for yourself but to stick to it.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Not having a boss looking over your shoulder and keeping you in check can lead you astray.

Without someone making sure you’re working on what you are supposed to be working on when you're supposed to be working on it makes it very easy to get caught up on tangents. Before you know it, you’re spending way too much time on YouTube or Facebook, or succumbing to the temptation of that brand new season of your favourite show that just dropped on Netflix.

Make sure you know how to manage your time and make sure you know how to stick to a schedule, even one you made for yourself.

3) Can you plan for the future?

Running your own design business is not about the here and now. It’s about the future. When you are an employee, chances are there’s someone else worrying about the future of the business where you work. But when that business is your own, it’s your responsibility to ensure for your future.

No matter how good your clients are, or how big the projects your working on become, there is no guarantee they will still be around in a few months.

You need to be able to look ahead and prepare for slow times by continuingly looking for new projects and new clients to sustain your business.

A home-based designer’s life is full of ups and downs when it comes to projects. The trick is to minimize those downward curves by preparing ahead for them.

4) Can you be your own boss?

When you become a freelance designer, you don’t give up a boss. You become the boss. But are you boss material?

Are you able to keep yourself accountable to not only get the design work done but to handle the other day to day activities that running a business requires?

Designers thinking about freelancing don't often think about everything involved. Running your own design business is much more than just designing.

If you want to know what else is involved in running a home-based design business, listen to episode 38 of Resourceful Designer: The Many Hats Of A Home Based Graphic Designer.

5) How good are you at finances?

One of the many hats you will need to wear after you become a freelance designer is that of an accountant. Freelancing is not a financially stable profession. You don’t get a steady paycheck every week. Some months lots of money may come in and other months barely a cent. Especially when you first start off.

You need to be able to handle your income in a way that is sustainable for you. That means making sure that not only are you covering your bills but that you have enough saved up for those times when work is slow.

Is the freelance life for you?

Many designers think that life would be so much easier if they started their own design business. The truth of the matter is that freelancing is very difficult and requires a particular type of person to succeed at it. You might be that type of person. But ask yourself these five questions before you quit your job to become a freelance designer.

Do you have what it takes to become a freelance designer?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Shenai

I know some universities have classes that cover some of the legal issues with designing but mine did not offer this. If you have advise on when you should trademark designs, or other ideas of design protection – I would love to hear that episode! In a time where everyone is marketing themselves on social media, I have a huge fear of being ripped off and really don't know at what lengths to go to cover my bases.

To find out what I told Shenai you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Coolors.co

This week's resource is the website Coolors.co. Coolors.co is a super fast and super easy way to create, save and share colour pallets for all your projects. Choose from a gallery of readily made pallets or create your own from scratch or based on some pre-selected colours.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com.

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