Becoming a Full-time Freelancer
Well, I did it! I wrote a blog post. Anyone that knows me probably understands that this gives me some anxiety. I have a hard enough time coming up with an Instagram caption, so this is a struggle. I’ve been freelancing on my own for almost a year now and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that I needed to start a blog. The thought of it makes me a little nervous, but I thought I’d give it a try. If it helps out other designers or potential clients in any way, then I’m all for it. I’m still learning a lot in this freelance adventure of mine, so I’m happy to share some of my knowledge along the way. If anyone benefits from it, great! For this first post, I thought I’d share how I started freelancing and eventually pursued it full-time.
I graduated from Ohio University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design. I always liked the idea of freelance and having the ability to work from home, but I had no idea where to start. In my mind, I just needed to get a job as quickly as possible to start paying off the ridiculous amount of student loans I had. So that’s exactly what I did.
First, I worked for GX Magazine, which was the magazine for the Army National Guard. As you can probably tell from my work, it was completely out of my comfort zone, but still a good experience. After that, I worked for a company designing and illustrating things for children’s books and teaching products. It seemed like it was going to be a dream job, but I quickly learned that bright primary colors and cutesy fonts were not my thing. Eventually I moved on to design for a women’s healthy living website, where I worked for three years. Although I loved the people I worked with, it wasn’t a place I could grow and develop my design skills in the way I wanted. The work environment wasn't great and the direction of the company was changing constantly. I felt really stuck and I wanted to get out badly, but didn’t know how.
In 2015 I married my sweet husband, Brian, who I had been with for 8 years at the time. He knew I hated my job and always encouraged me to take the leap and do what I wanted. I was still too scared, so I started doing small things on the side. I first designed all of the stationery for our wedding and decided to teach myself calligraphy. After seeing my work, a local bride asked me to design her invitations which then turned into a few more clients. It was nice to finally have something I enjoyed doing and I started to feel like it was something I could actually pursue. I took on more and more small stationery & branding projects and constantly researched the world of freelance. I started following other designers, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and seeking every opportunity I could to learn more.
Even though I was getting more clients and I knew I wanted to freelance full-time, I was still terrified to leave my job. Those pesky student loans weren’t going away any time soon and I just couldn’t imagine not having a steady paycheck. So, I stuck with my job even though I was miserable.
In September of 2016, the company I worked for was bought out. People were getting laid off every week and eventually it was my turn. Although it was scary, I was extremely relieved. It was exactly the push I needed to get my stuff together and start working for myself. Within two weeks I designed a simple website (nothing great, but I’ll probably never be satisfied with my own site) and started reaching out to anyone I could think of to generate business. For wedding related jobs, I emailed event planners, venues, florists, and other vendors. For branding projects, I checked Facebook groups and found a few people in need of logos and other branding services. Every small project was a step in the right direction and a couple of them led to bigger projects. I also used Instagram as another way to get business and that’s still a big help today.
I really have taken everything day by day, week by week, month by month. I make a lot of lists and goals, but I also try to not be so hard on myself. It’s not always easy, but I feel extremely lucky to finally be doing what I once thought wasn’t possible. I’m so thankful for the clients that have trusted me with their projects and for my darling husband who encourages me every day to just keep going. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
I plan to use this blog as a space to share tips, educate, showcase recent projects, and keep you updated behind the scenes. If there’s anything you’d like to see or if you have any questions, please comment below! I'll be sharing more in-depth posts in the coming months, so I’d love to hear from you!