Should I go freelance? That’s the ( BIG ) question of the day! Choosing to work for yourself is both a scary and exhilarating adventure. And in all honesty, it’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. But don’t worry, us freelancers are in this terrifying/happy boat together. You are not / will not be alone. And guess what?? It also happens to be one of the most rewarding experiences. True story.

To help answer the big question, I thought I’d walk you all through some natural steps :

1. THE ITCH / Some people know from the beginning that they want to be entrepreneurs and do their own thing, while others figure it out later … but they all share one thing in common: the itch. The feeling of creating something bigger than yourself, doing what you love, being your own boss, and truly living out your passion. If you’re not happy with where your career is at, then it’s time to start taking little steps forward. If the thought of freelancing has even crossed your mind, then yes, you should definitely start considering it. Just thinking about it doesn’t mean your life will change in an instant – just take it easy!

2. IS IT FEASIBLE? / So you have the itch, huh?? The next step is to think about logistics. Yeah, it’s not fun, but you need to figure out if freelancing is even possible. I’m talking about finances, space, family, and other details. Although many people take risks, it’s definitely nice to know that you do have a comfortable amount of money backing you up. Remember, freelance does not guarantee a certain income. In fact, you won’t know exactly what you’re making until a full year is passed. You’ll have supplies, space, and taxes to take into account as well. Don’t worry, I’ll talk more in depth about finances and supplies at a later date! Just know that it’s important to look at the big picture – money wise. Make sure you’re comfortable.

3. WORK ETHIC / This is a biggie ( and is kind of hard for me to say ) : freelancing is not for everyone. You have to be able to set rules for yourself and STICK with it. The first year will be full of 15+ hour work days, coffee, chaos, and big changes. The other side of all of that is good, I promise! But you have to be able to get through it, no matter what.

4. KEEP GOING / Never forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. Good days come. Bad days go. One things for certain, it’ll be a roller coaster ride. Ben, the co-founder of pinterest, said it well in his speech at ALT summit this year about being absolutely terrified and joyful all at the same time. No matter what, keep on swimming.

I know I didn’t necessarily tell you “yes” or “no” to the freelance or not question, but in the end, it’s your decision! Give these steps a serious read through and see what your gut tells you. Sometimes you just gotta take the dive!

In a recent Be Free, Lance post, someone asked me about the business side of being a designer, which I thought would make for a great topic! The truth is – when you choose to become a freelancer, you are no longer just a creative being. You become a secretary, a customer service rep, financial manager, marketing guru, as well as countless other things. You’ll be wearing many hats, but that can be kind of fun, right!?

The trouble is, we don’t always know how to handle / do all of these things. I, for one, am a full fledge designer who definitely doesn’t have a degree in accounting. No worries, though, you don’t have to know everything about business. If you have the passion to become a freelancer, these things will come in time. You’ll learn how to balance emails, finances, and market yourself as you go. It’s all about research + patience. I remember the first year being pretty tough. I didn’t have any sort of organized system for managing clients, got easily overwhelmed by emails, and ( I’ll admit ) didn’t have the best working process.

I’m naturally an organized person who loves planning, so you can imagine that first year really threw me for a loop. For once, I wasn’t able to control absolutely everything, simply because I didn’t know how. Instead of trying to solve everything at once ( which probably would have made things worse ) – I tried my best to learn patience. I would dedicate an hour or so everyday to research a subject I didn’t feel confident in. Whether it was contracts, invoicing, project management, or who knows what – I had to figure it all out.

So, If the business side of being a freelance creative is weighing you down – the best advice I can give you is to move forward with confidence. Your clients don’t need to know all the gritty details about how you organize your business. The important thing is that you’re trying to be a successful business owner. Luckily, thanks to a little thing called the internet, there are a TON of resources out there that you can utilize. Become best friends with google and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We don’t have to know it all, that’s for sure.

A few weeks ago, I returned home from a design retreat in Palm Springs with 20 other freelance designers. The first night we arrived rather late and I found myself at the end of the table sitting next to some lovely ladies, including Star St. Germain. She gave us a little sneak preview into her Q&A topic all about web development and design. I quickly learned that Star and I have a big thing in common : knowing both design AND development. She leans more towards web, while I lean more towards design.

I’ve always been very thankful that I have knowledge in development, but recently, it seemed to be more of a hindrance. Not only did I want to focus on design and outsource developers, but I found myself a little stuck within the web design world. Because I have first hand experience in how coding works, I understand when a design would be extremely complicated to code … which means, I may shy away from some types of design in the web world. Star defines this as a hybrid designer and developer. As she explained this to me that first night, my mind was blown. I realized that YES, because I know code, the sky is not the limit when it comes to web design … but that’s okay.

Although this sounds like a negative thing ( and I thought so at first ), it’s definitely not. If you’re a designer who has coding knowledge ( hybrid ), you have a little more power in terms of understanding what will and will not work. In contrast, designers without coding knowledge can open a blank canvas and feel free to just design without constraint. They aren’t bound by div tags or jquery floating in the back of their brain. Both situations have their pros and cons … but neither is a bad place to be. For example, if you understand code, try to design more outside of your box. Design freely as much as you can. And for non-coders, maybe you make an effort to learn how to better send files to developers and make the collaboration process as seamless as possible. It takes work, but being on either end is absolutely fine. Don’t let it get you down.

Cheers to Star for making me believe it’s okay to be a hybrid. I’m that much more motivated & committed to be more free within my web design now! I know that there are so many talented developers out there that can make any design become a reality. It’s all about finding the perfect match!