Be Free, Lance | Define Your Own Time

Before finishing up design school, I was under the naive impression that I would graduate and design all day long at my dream job. Well, that didn’t happen and I’m actually grateful for it. WAIT WHAT? Yup. Grateful. When I began freelancing, there was a lot of networking, emailing, blogging and long days. I longed to design MORE and work on projects that I was passionate about. As time went on and I developed a consistent client base, I designed a little more, yes, but it wasn’t ever what I imagined while in school. The picture I painted then involved waking up, designing beautiful things all day, and then wrapping it up. Bam, done.

Contrary to whatever little old me thought, I only design for about THREE hours per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but I would say that’s a good average! The truth is, many people don’t realize how many hours per day are devoted to “business stuff” before jumping into freelance. I surely didn’t. When you are your own boss, many hats are worn – some of which you will feel totally unqualified for at first. The secret, though, is that you are not alone. We’re all just moving forward trying to figure things out as we go. It’s a constant process and evolution of learning + adapting!

SO, what will you be doing beyond designing?? Well, you’ll manage. From emails to customer service, to answering questions and keeping things fresh on social media, it’s all a huge part of keeping things together. My advice for you is to embrace all of the hats. That is, try new things and conquer that new social media platform you’ve been shying away from. Network. Say hello. And if you ever feel that something just isn’t for you – simply find a solution that you can roll with. Whether it’s hiring a little extra help or changing things up for the better, you have the power to carve your own path.

While my three hours of designing may be different ( less or more ) from others, that’s okay! I did a little survey on this topic last week on twitter and saw a vast variety of answers from you all. It’s interesting to see how different we all structure our day and figure out what is best for ourselves. Define and do, there is no right way.

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  1. Great post Breanna. You’re totally right. It’s also important to figure out WHEN to do all these different tasks too. I learned the hard way that I am at my best in the morning between 7 and 12, and thus I do most of the tasks that require focus (like designing and writing blog posts) and leave the other stuff like phone calls with clients and social media for later on in the day when my brain starts to wander. When is your prime time for desingning?

    • breanna says:

      Yup, I’m just like you! I try to get my focused work ( designing! ) done right before and after lunch, otherwise I’m just no good. I save all the busy work for afterwards and have learned to listen to my mind when it wants a break.

  2. KAIT says:

    love all of your freelance posts. very eye opening :)

  3. It’s also a good way to make your creativity stay at a high level. I’m currently doing an internship in a big fashion company, not really my thing for many reasons but I learn there a lot about the human, and observe how people work and process. Yes, they design 9am to 7/8pm everyday because other people are there to do the other tasks (HR etc …), but really, what are their productivity like ? Your creative mind cannot be active such long hours, or inefficiently anyway.

    • breanna says:

      I always wonder that, too! I don’t honestly think I would be able to do just one task all day long, but maybe that’s just because I’m conditioned into doing what I do, now. Not sure I could pull of creativity ALL DAY LONG, ya know??

  4. Rebecca says:

    That’s so interesting; and something, embarrassingly, I never wondered about. I always just figured (though I’m not freelance) that I was kind of under-productive or less creative because I need breaks to come up with something. Even in the middle of a project, sometimes I need to walk away and come back even when it’s nearly done. It’s really interesting to see how other people work – I looove hearing about other’s creative process (why I love your other series too so much!). Thanks for another thought provoking post Breanna!

    • breanna says:

      Nope, it’s totally fine and I do the same thing as you! Sometimes when I stop @ 2PM I feel really bad and like I’m doing things wrong, but it’s not when you’ve checked off what you need to do. We just gotta learn to enjoy, right?? :)

  5. Tori says:

    I am in my first year our of school. I appreciate posts like these sooo much! I am not freelancing yet, but it is so nice to get an idea of what it will be like. I also appreciate that other people are commenting about productivity levels. It’s so helpful to learn about other others’ creative processes and to realize I’m not super weird.

  6. This is so true. Before I started my full time job I totally thought I could freelance on the side and put in an easy 2 hours after work doing little side projects. But what I’ve come to realize, is that I spend way more than 2 hours usually, and that most often freelance work happens at 4:00 a.m. Definitely not the kind of schedule I was anticipating after graduation, but I’ve learned that the quiet before the sun rises gives me focus and frees up my brain to collaborate with my coworkers the rest of the day!

    • breanna says:

      Oh goodness – – gotta give you props for working at 4AM. Not sure I could do it, but it sure does sound peaceful!

  7. Angel Y. says:

    I love that everyone’s journey is so different yet so similar. There is a lot of business work involved in my daily life and I have days where I prefer that. It’s hard for me to focus just on design work, especially when I’m not feeling like it. It’s so important to love all aspects of what you do,.

    • breanna says:

      Agreed! I like that if I’m not feeling like I can be creative, there are always other things that need to get done. Emails and all that jazz. Flexibility for the win!

  8. Charlotte says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I still think I would love to freelance though, event though it involves all the other things! The thing I would worry most about would be getting lonely.

    • breanna says:

      It can get lonely, I’ll be honest about that. BUT, it’s up to you. You can alway work in a shared space and be around people – or work at coffee shops somedays. I personally like to have Skype up and often chat with a few of my design friends! We bounce back ideas and just talk about whatever, too. :)

  9. Clare says:

    Thanks for sharing, a very informative and interesting post :) I always felt like I was designing too little but this post has enlightened me that it is important to have a balance between everything and that I am actually on the right track.

  10. Sarah says:

    Truer words were never spoken! I started my career by working at agencies, and so I wasn’t ready for how different the freelance life would be. In my experience, while working at an agency you actually are designing for 90% of your day, because someone else is taking care of new business, client services etc. Going freelance was quite the awakening, I’d say I similarly design for about 3 hrs a day. But you know what, that’s how I like it. I enjoy being involved in every part of the process. It just means that I have to bill more for my time, which was a bit hard to swallow at first.

  11. Stacia says:

    I was lucky enough to have plenty of freelance friends to talk to as I started my journey (even though I’m still building up enough of a client base to quit my “other job.”) It’s helped me be prepared for the many hats I have to wear, but that doesn’t make it any less overwhelming. I’m always grateful for anything any other freelancer has to share that will give a peek in to their world. Sometimes all I need is to know that I’m not the only one out there figuring it out when it feels like everyone else has it so together.

  12. fathima says:

    Thanks for another great post, Breanna! I’m similar, and often when it’s less than 3hours a day you feel like you’ve been unproductive and just haven’t done enough, but there’s so much else that’s been done. Blogging, social media and emails take up a lot of time, as does fighting with myself to stop procrastinating :P I often hit an awful slump in the afternoons, so I’ll take a nap and then work a bit at night.
    Works for me :)

  13. Sophie says:

    Thanks for the post! I always love reading your freelance posts. It inspires me to actually take that leap of faith and start my own business as well (leaving my corporate life behind). Maybe when I’m courageous enough one day :)

  14. Josephine says:

    Yup, I thought I’d be designing all day long too. I log an average of 3 hours a day. The rest is marketing, communications and organization/upkeep. I am so happy to because if I was designing all day I would run out of steam and then where would my inspiration come from?

  15. Ezgi says:

    Well my brain only works at night. When its dark and quite especially after midnight :) Usually I work all night and send the draft to the client at 6am in the morning and than fall a sleep :) Well I stopped forcing myself to work in the day time. I just can’t and don’t know why. it is so strange. Is there anyone working late at night?

    Like you said Bre, there is no right way. We just need to find what works best for us : ) Thank you for the great post. I don’t comment often but always check your blog :)…

  16. Joana says:

    Hi Brenna, thank you for this post! I’m considering going freelance soon and your insight is invaluable in shaping my decision. But to be honest, I’m actually really excited about the business stuff and social etc. I just have the fear that I won’t know what to prioritise and become overwhelmed. How do you know how to divide your time? I would love to see how a week for you looks like – ie: time spent on social, time spent doing accounting etc. But who am I to ask for what you should post – you already answer so many of my questions :)

    I’m really grateful for your blog. Keep being amazing! x

  17. This is spot on. I definitely thought I’d be writing and designing more–but I find that more of the time is spent on the business side of things: answering emails, networking, ordering supplies, planning, organizing, etc. Those things are the cogs behind the wheel of creativity! :) Thanks for this great reminder.

  18. Jenna says:

    You could not have said it better. I don’t think anyone who’s not a designer realizes that the actual designing part is the smallest portion of the work a designer does. I daydream of a day when I can have an assistant that does all the phone/email/promoting stuff for me. Aaah. That would be so nice. Also- love the whole aesthetic of your blog. I’ll be following!

  19. patti says:

    I am 100% in the same boat as you. While I am managing a lot of design projects, I am only designing on average 3-4 hours and wednesdays I am not designing at all unless there is a “rush” project. Like you I am spending time doing business things, brainstorming, sketching and also just generally taking care of myself and my creativity. I have a chronic shoulder/back pain that I need to take care of and that means stepping away from my computer desk numerous times a day. I think this is a valuable thing to share as young designers who want to jump into freelance or running their own business. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Kate says:

    I found your blog via Moorea and I am hooked now. This post spoke to me so much.. I graduated in June and am now in the process of moving back in with my parents because I can’t find a job. I’ve been wanting to take up more freelancing but with the little I have done in the past, I felt so guilty taking breaks and wondered if I could really make it as a designer! This helped me realized that I’m a normal person and a tired brain doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. <3

  21. Sandra says:

    Hi Breanna, I’ve recently ran into your little blog and can genuinely say that I’m inspired to finally follow my dream and take that ‘leap’ of starting my own freelance business. Your blog/life is a big reflection of myself, and it’s always nice to hear that it’s possible. This whole time I’ve been very weary and afraid to take the plunge but I believe this is the right time for me and I’m really excited for this new adventure. I just wanted to say thank you for being a great inspiration, and I would love to hear more about your ‘business’ side, to inform myself on how to really get started. Where did you get all of your information and research when it came to a business plan/ contracts/ taxes etc…?

    Thanks a million,

    • breanna says:

      That’s so great to hear! :)
      I got all of my information from asking around and googling. It was a LOT to take in, but if you research … you can find it. Alternatively, I will be launching a freelancing workshop at the end of this year that will go over ALL of this stuff. Make sure to keep an eye on my blog / social media for the announcement coming up next month!! This may be quite helpful for you.

  22. […] BLOG SERIES // Be Free, Lance by Breanna Rose I love this series as it’s especially poignant to the freelance part of my business that I hope to grow in the future. The in depth articles are thought provoking and give you tangible goals. I especially love the posts on managing feedback and defining your own time. […]

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