Lessons I learnt from freelancing
3 years ago, I left a full-time job in London to follow my dream: become a freelance UX Deisigner & illustrator. My biggest dream was to use my creativity and strategic thinking to help brands varying from solo-preneurs to big companies achieve their dream by applying their personality in visual design: be it branding, illustrations or redesigning their website to be user-focused.
I had this dream and I couldn’t spend another day doing anything else than following my passion: visual design.
Trust me, this story is not a story of: success1, success2, success3 etc. It looks rather complicated and I definitely went through more failures (by number) than successes — to which I am endlessly grateful for. Some of these failures look like this:
- ended up working on a 3 month project for free by not setting my terms & limits — I learnt to write a contract for each project: set my terms, my price & the timeframe
- ended up being underpaid for work others sold for thousands of $ — I learnt to value my work and not be afraid to charge more
- I was promised collaborations with influential UX Designers & leaders, who eventually left without notice — made me learn that nothing in life is given to you & I should not assume that I deserve every collaboration, every $ given — the more humble you are the more you will deserve
Through each hardship, I learnt a lesson — I took the refusal/ failure as an opportunity to learn the next time. I learnt from each new annoying and hateful task I had to do: write contracts, negotiate prices based on client budget, fight to get paid with unresponsive clients and even from invoicing.
Here are the main 5 lessons I have learnt by working on various projects for multicultural clients from: Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Germany, China, US, France, India, Romania, Hungary & the UK:
1. Be Accountable and Stop Blaming
When I worked in companies before it was very easy for me to blame: the lack of success of a project, task, my lack of time, my lack of motivation, etc. on the people around me or the weather, destiny & whatever else is out there.
When you’re employed you:
- receive your pay-check monthly
- you receive tasks from your boss and end up continuously asking “What else can I help with?”
- you are there just to do your job. The rest is being given to you.
Therefore, it’s very easy for you to blame a lack of success, a problem on your boss/ colleagues/ the cleaning lady etc. When you have the mindset that everything around you is “given” you end up blaming and ignoring accountability.
Working independently and with different teams from diverse projects has taught me to be 100% accountable for anything around me. As an independent worker you have only yourself:
- You create the invoices
- You check your finances and end up thinking “Is my business profitable?”, “Can I make a living?”
- You find your own clients
- You write your contracts
- You negotiate your prices and work terms — all these aspects? Are given in a full-time job. In freelancing? You create everything.
So, you learn to take responsibility for each action and potential failure you might encounter. Every time something doesn’t work out, I research and I think “How could this be done better?”, “What term in the contract could I improve next time?”
2. Adopt the “Can Do” mindset
I had the luck to work with individuals whose response every time an idea would come would be “We cannot do that” — without considering a potential solution to that “impossibility”.
Working with such individuals has allowed me to see practically why some companies revolutionise and others stagnate.
UX Design has taught me to have the “can do” attitude and for any impossibility or problem find a solution which can definitely be iterated for a better improvement across the time.
Long story short?
If there is a problem then there is a solution.
There is always a solution to a problem — it might take a while to figure out, but it is solvable. There is no such as thing as “it cannot be done”. Delete this sentence from your mind — the moment you start using it your project is doomed to failure, because of your fixed mindset approach.
3. Each failure is an opportunity to learn, don’t block.
Move on. You failed? That’s a gift.
Figure out why, what could you do better next time and become a better version of yourself. I usually use the framework below to figure out better methods of operating/ of learning:
What was the problem?
What could I have done to avoid this situation happening?
Next time, how could I act differently?
4. Growth and change is inevitable. Ride the wave.
I come from a culture where stability is encouraged and considered to be a norm. Change is felt like a “personal attack”.
It took me a few years to be thirsty for change and love the new version of myself each 6 months. Now, every time I hear “you’ve changed” I don’t take it as an offence — it is the biggest compliment I could’ve ever asked for.
Just as for co-workers & friends — surround yourself with people who push you to work harder, learn more & become a better version for yourself. If someone tells you “you’ve changed! I miss the old you” — then it is a sign that you’re on a journey of growth, allow the change in your heart. Unless you’re going through a rough moment — allow yourself to go through that pain, then plant your seeds and bloom.
5. You know best what works for you
Do I have to detail on that?
Listen to how your body reacts. It’s a great sign to tell how you truly feel.
Often times I find it hard to figure out why I feel sad/ why I feel uncomfortable — but the first time when I feel so I know that something is wrong.
Acknowledge how your body reacts, take your time to figure out what could be improved & move on.
Life is full of magical moments yet to come and learning opportunities!
A massive thank you for the lovely souls around me who never judged me, encouraged me to speak up, loved me for the newer version of myself and encouraged me to do what I love to do! ♥️