I took a less traveled path after design school, and I’m asked this simple question all the time … “Can I freelance directly after school, or do I need to gain some experience, first?” I wish I could give you all a simple answer, but that’s just not the case. There are so many roads that can lead to freelance, but I’m going to talk about the main two. To freelance right away ( after school ) or later. That IS the question.
As many of you know by now, I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. After applying and interviewing for a few design jobs here and there after graduating, I realized that my heart just wasn’t set on it. I would tell myself time and time again that “this is what you’re supposed to do after school,” but couldn’t escape that sinking feeling of giving up on my dreams. Did I want to design? YES. Did I want to take the first job I could get just to gain some experience? Absolutely not. I found myself at a crossroads of doing what I truly wanted versus listening to what most everyone had told me to do. So what did I do? I took the road less traveled. Good old Robert Frost. I knew I memorized that poem in eighth grade ( true story ) for a good reason!
I understand wholeheartedly that not everyone can jump into freelancing straight away. And let’s face it, most people don’t. Honestly, the only reason I succeeded was because I lived in my parent’s basement at the time. Glamourous? Nope. Luckily, I kinda really like my family and was happy to be saving money while growing my business. This went on for about a year or so.
I will ALWAYS be one of those people telling you to follow your dreams, but also to follow your gut. Ask yourself a few simple questions. Is it your dream to be your own boss and live that entrepreneurial lifestyle? Yes? Okay then, is it feasible right now? That one’s tougher to answer, isn’t it?? After all, there will always be an excuse stopping you from living your dreams, so think twice about how you answer this particular question. For those who long to define their life + business and be in charge, I will always suggest the idea of starting your own business right away. Thankfully, we live in a world where you can easily succeed on your own ( hello, technology! ) as long as you have the passion to back yourself up.
Now, that isn’t to say that working in your field is a bad idea. It’s simply a different route. There are so many benefits to experiencing your trade from seasoned professionals. You’ll learn all the ins and outs of the biz, all the while expanding your own skills. I can see how it would have been nice to already know how to structure contracts, define my process, and communicate with clients BEFORE jumping in to freelance. It would have saved me a lot of time, that’s for sure!
But if I’m being honest with you guys, that’s exactly what I loved about freelancing right away. I was able to trail blaze my own path and feel out what was right for me. Because I had to throw myself 100% into this world, I was forced to learn it all in such a quick amount of time, which was quite a challenge. I fully believe that I am the business owner I am today because of this.
I know all of this doesn’t give you a solid answer by any means, but hopefully it does make you think. The route you take depends on who you are as a worker, where you are in life, and what you truly ( truly ) want to do. Listen to your gut … I have a sneaky suspicion it will tell you the answer. Just listen.