Some Oh-So-Great things about being self-employed…
After writing the not so up-beat, Some home truths about being self-employed, I thought it would be nice to share some of the truly great things about being self-employed.
1. Music & Viewing Freedom*
Want to blast some Britney? Have Seinfield or Buffy on constant replay in the background? Knock yourself out.
Someone on twitter pointed this out as a negative, but personally it was a big plus for me. I worked from home for the first 12 months, and being able to make your lunch whenever you wanted was so easy. No more trying to get to cafe’s and back in under 30 minutes. Even now that I have an office, its still better with no set lunch time or length, I have the freedom to do as I please.
3. 9-5 Lock Out
For anyone that’s worked outside of a built-up area you will sympathise with me on this. You can visit the Post Office, Bank, VicRoads, take house inspections etc. without having to take a day off work.
4. Work Where You Want
Like today, I decided this morning I would work from home. So I’m currently writing this whilst surrounded by pillows and tea.
5. Climate Control
Some people feel the cold, and some people feel the heat. We’re all just different in that respect, and jamming a bunch of people into the same space and expecting them to all get along when there is easy access to the air con switch just isn’t happening.
6. Office Politics
Carrying on from Number 5, I will never miss office politics…. ever.
7. Day Off
You can take them (work pending) whenever your heart desires. This includes swapping days around, so when you know its going to pour rain on Saturday, work then, and take the Monday.
8. Do It Your Way
Many workplaces and studios have processes and formulas that need to be followed, and they traditionally get more complex the bigger the workplace. They’re not all great and can be frustrating when all you want to do is design. When you’re the boss you get to instigate your own processes (you’ll probably end up using some you’ve experienced before) including organising your work folders the exact way you want.
You will learn so much in the first 12 months of running your own business then you even thought possible. I don’t know what it is, but every time I reconcile my accounts I feel completely proud.
10. No More Peak-Hour
Yes you will end up working roughly 9-5, but you can alter it a touch. Personally I like to work 10-6, and this is purely based on sleeping in that little bit extra, and missing the worst parts of peak-hour. The start to my day is already a thousand times better by the time I get to the office then it ever has been.
11. Decide on Your Office Location
For the first time ever I’ve been able to choose where I work. I searched for an office in the specific area I wanted and found one. Its near lots of other designers, great restaurants and bars, and less then half an hour away on public transport.
12. You Choose Your Clients
Whilst at the start you will probably be saying Yes to everything, eventually you will also be able to say No. Work that you have no interest in doing, or in your gut you know just isn’t going to be great for whatever reason, you no longer have to do.
13. Taking Design Risks
I can’t possibly count the number of times I was told something was too modern, or the client wouldn’t get it, and have concepts completely brushed away. Now, I can push even harder by communicating with my clients to make sure we’re on the same track and the best possible work gets through every time.
14. Pants Optional
Whilst I don’t really recommend wearing your PJs and slippers all day everyday, (however in winter it is understandable), for those of you that choose to work from home this is definitely an option, and I’m not going to lie, its a great one. No more time wasted on make-up, hair gel application and choosing a snazzy outfit, just put on something comfortable and get to work.
Note: If you’re going to do the all day PJ thing, make sure its on a day you’re not expecting deliveries at home, at this point my postman assumes I’m a professional sleeper.
15. You’re the Boss.
Some home truths about being self-employed…
Freelancing, or being self employed, is often seen as a very romantic way of life. You choose your own hours, make all the decisions, you have amazing creative freedom and best of all, you are your own boss.
I often get asked by students or designers currently working full-time for all the great details about being self-employed, but never so much the bad parts. So in the interest of a well-balanced viewpoint, here are some of the not-so-great parts of working for yourself, and where I can some little tips to help you get through those first twelve months.
1. You have to work really, really… really hard.
There are no short-cuts here. If you want to work for yourself and really make a go of it, you can’t procrastinate all day, it’s not about sitting around watching Dr. Phil and Oprah. (Which I’m pretty sure my parents still think I do). You have to work just as hard, if not harder then when working for a studio. This is because you need to not only get all your work done, but also maintain client relationships and constantly keep up a high standard of work to bring in more clients.
2. It is very rare you can take a holiday, that isn’t a working one.
Public holidays are no longer your hangover day from the long weekend, instead you will usually spend them trying to get 24 hrs ahead of clients, or finding some precious time to work on your own website. Longer breaks often mean lugging your laptop with you just incase of a client emergency, which will inevitable happen.
3. No safety net*
Bad break-up? Sick family member? Need to take a personal day because it’s all too much? Sorry but that just isn’t happening. Even when you have close freelancers you trust that can pick up the slack, your clients still essentially need to have access to you.
Unlike having a wage where your tax is taken out every week, you need to put some aside for tax time every time you get paid. Generally this is 20%, and if you’re GST registered, another 10%. This can quickly add up and if you’re not in the process of putting it away EVERY time, you can get a rude shock at the end of the year. For those of us with HECS bills or student loans these can also be tricky to navigate, this is the part where a great accountant pays for itself!
5. Work - Work Balance*
Many freelancers start out by doing odd jobs after hours separate to their day-to-day jobs. This can be dangerous when sudden deadlines come up, and over time is needed at your day job, but you’ve already promised your freelance client to have that artwork to them by deadline.
6. Knowing What to Charge*
Figuring out the money side takes time. Knowing your value and preparing great quotes (with contracts) that get accepted is all practice. Talk to other designers and freelancers with more experience and ask them honestly what they think you are worth. Don’t do it on twitter, take the time to ask them in person or via an email. If you think it’s too low, work to improve it. If you’re really not sure, grab yourself the latest copy of the 'Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines’. It has lots of pricing and contract examples that are a great starting point. You may need to adjust based on your experience.
7. Being a ‘Professional’*
I had someone on twitter give this as an example, and I think its something I don’t consciously think about but is definitely true. Everything from dressing appropriately at meetings, how you handle yourself to having confidence in presentations. These things are really important to being taken seriously by your client, which is great when it comes to guiding them through concept development and final payment.
8. Getting Feedback
I’ve been lucky that my partner is a graphic designer as well, so I have a constant source of feedback. But not all of us have this option, especially when clients are really particular about confidentiality. Having another designer you can really trust and share things with is great, and for jobs that are open, Dribbble is a great resource to get some quick tips.
9. Hardware Issues
If your computer crashes, or your crazy housemate Barry drops his rum and coke on it, there’s no one around to up and purchase you a new one. Having great insurance, (including accidental) is essential, but even with insurance you might not have a machine for weeks. Try to have a back up plan, such as keeping an old machine around, or knowing where you can rent one really quickly.
10. Back-up, Back-up, Back-up!
I’m personally completely paranoid about backing up, and I think this is the best way to be. For me I back up three ways. 1. An external HD I keep at home. 2. Another external HD I keep at the office, and 3. Cloud Backup. I’m currently using Amazon & Arq for the cloud, but there are quite a few options out there. It takes a while to set up, but if you loose both HD’s either through theft, fire or corruption, having a cloud backup provides you that extra piece of mind. NB: I back up my HD’s through Apple’s TimeMachine with a 2TB WD HD from Officeworks for $129.
11. Time Management
Sometimes you have to say No. It’s easy when you first start out to say Yes to every job no matter what, but think realistically ahead to how many jobs will be due at once and how much you can handle.
Likewise, once you have jobs, make a plan to manage them. I like to keep it simple with a digital list, (I use Wunderlist), and a very old fashioned pin board I keep on my desk with organised job cards so I have a very immediate view of everything going on. It doesn’t really matter how you do this, as long as it works for you.
12. Sometimes, There Is No Work.
When I first started freelancing there was a couple weeks when I literally had nothing on, and this will probably happen to everyone. If you are going to give this a go make sure you have some savings so you can pay your rent for at least a few months and keep yourself in supply of two-minute noodles. (This is where all those important student life skills come back to shine!) Or go back to your uni days and find a part time job just to take the pressure off. Doing a Saturday in a cafe, or a little bit of retail to get you through the first few months while you find regular work can really help. Even better, keep an eye on The Loop or Australian Infront for some part-time design jobs for extra cash.
13. Expect to Work Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.
When I first started, I had this naive view I could work whenever I wanted. But it really quickly becomes apparent that all your clients work regular hours, so you will inevitable start working them too.
I could probably share a few more things here, but this is getting a little long and I don’t want to scare you off too much. I hope this post is helpful and not too horrifying to those of you thinking of making the jump. Just remember these views are personal to me, some freelancers may work completely differently, or have different experiences, so make sure you speak to as many people as possible. Follow me here or on Facebook for a follow up post on some of the oh-so-great things about freelancing too!
Best of luck!
*Posts with stars are ones that other freelancers have contributed to or suggested. I’ve kept them anonymous unless they specifically ask me to share.