Evidentally going freelance isn't a great idea

About a month ago, I decided that I’d had enough with corporate misdirection and decided to head out on my own. I’d been planning this little endeavor for a while and had acquired a computer, software and training to help me in this venture. When the time came, I fully expected to get some work from my previous employer. Well, this was not to be as there is some serious ego flying around.

Anyhow, this is a word of advice to anyone else thinking of leaving the corporate world in hopes of doing it better. DO NOT DO IT!!!

That said, I still think I can manage to get things to work. I have quite a few projects int he works at the moment. More than enough to keep me busy for a few months, but after that I may start looking for another full-time gig. Of course this will require me selling my place, leaving me friends and moving to a place where I know of no one.

Again, don’t do it. I screwed up so learn from my mistakes.

Thats sad to hear. I guess the timing for you wasnt really a good one, but seems like it wasnt anything youd not expected either.

I do hope that things will look up for you though, and im sure they will. Aside from the “dont doit!” lesson, what are the most valuable experiences youve gained?

It’s only been a month… things can turn around quickly. You say you went wrong, but where did you go wrong exactly? Is it because you were expecting your previous employer to hand over a ton of work to you for an increased price? Part of being successful in freelance (I’m speaking in theory of course because I don’t freelance) is constantly selling yourself and finding more work. That becomes your full time job until you get to the point where you have so many repeat clients work starts coming your way without trying very hard.

Maybe someone else wants to chime in here.

Care to elaborate? “don’t do it” are pretty strong words and you haven’t really given any reason. there are tons of freelancers out there who are very happy with going freelance (myself included) and if anything I’d give the complete opposite advice -"do it as soon as you can (given enough experience, financial freedom, contacts, etc.).

Is it because you expected work from your previous employer and that didn’t pan out? You can never bank on that alone…

R

It got to a point where I was working every waking moment of the day on Cerevellum (the whole digital bicycle mirror thing) and freelancing. This, in addition to the full-time job, slowly killed me. Having received a grant and finding my initial angel investors for Cerevellum, I found myself being pulled in that direction. In order to make things happen with that company, I figured it would be best to go rogue for a while. That would give me the ability to focus entirely on Cerevellum and also have time to do the freelance projects that are of great interest to me. I had also banked on the idea that I’d be receiving a significant amount of work from my previous employer. That hasn’t happened…

But whatever, I have nearly 10 SOLID years of experience in industrial design and I hope to be able to utilize those skills acquired during this time to find new opportunities.

I left my 2nd full-time Industrial Designer position over a year and a half ago (because the company worked at went bankrupt) and decided I didn’t want to leave Austin, TX because I love it here so much.

I’ve been successfully freelancing ever since. Some times are tough, that is certainly no joke. But right now I have more projects than I know what to do with, and the income is coming in too. There’s ups and downs. Who knows how 2 months will be from now, but you learn how to predict this, and how to extend/arrange projects to fall later down the road for you.

I don’t recommend freelancing for all designers. In fact, I told the only other Industrial Designer at my full-time company to try it out for a few months after the company shut down, she didn’t like it (at all), and she ended up moving to Houston for another full-time position.

I have a lot of experience, less than some, more than others, I’ve got a solid portfolio and always working on it to make it better, but it doesn’t matter if you’re the best designer in the world if no one knows about you. You’ve got to fight tooth and nail to get yourself ‘out there’. You have to be super resourceful, you’ve got to be search for new clients through all of your networks, much of the time new clients find me by contacting me cold out of nowhere, a factory I work with recommended me for a major project working with a huge automobile company and I got it, some clients come back, some never call again, some clients refer new clients, etc.

It is definitely a way to earn a living successfully, it’s not for everyone. I equate it to being a real estate agent. There is money in it, but I would hate every moment of it. Maybe it is just not for you, and thats ok.

Do you guys ever find that other freelancers milk their friendships or try to take advantage/abuse you too much in an effort to find leads? Does it ever become a nuisance or a socializing issue?

I dont mean to sound like a male reproductive organ, but seeing that times are obviously tough and people get increasingly desperate to make a living? Im still just a student, and havent stepped in to the professional realm yet, and this thought just occurred for me when I thought about your situations. One being positive and one being very negative at the mo.

Do you guys ever find that other freelancers milk their friendships or try to take advantage/abuse you too much in an effort to find leads? Does it ever become a nuisance or a socializing issue?

I hear you loud and clear here, some people I know personally could definitely fall into this category.

I generally don’t ever offer my services unless the conversation is already there. Usually I’m the one who is asked and generally have to deny to offer. 100% of your friends and family members have ideas that they want made into a product, and 99% of them will never have the cash or interest to go forward with it. I think its pretty shallow to market to you friends / family members relentlessly. This is one more reason why I would hate being in real estate.

Just be careful how to market yourself. Be professional. And know which networks you can/cannot/should/shouldn’t be advertising within.

You can’t throw in the towel that quickly, only a month?!?!
You freelance the way you would run a business, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Your plan should never rely on hopes of having one main client (that you haven’t already worked with under this arrangement). While you’re working for someone else (or have some other kind of security like a years worth of savings, etc…), you have to start to try to build a base. Then as the work comes in (or doesn’t) you can gauge your potential success, see what you need to work on, decide whether or not it’s right for you. That can easily take a year to figure out.
You jumped out of the boat before knowing whether you can swim or not. Don’t give up, it takes time to get it flowing and it’s something you definitely can’t try to rush, incoming projects don’t know or care about your rent due dates, they come when they want to. Just get out there and keep hunting until they come more frequently and you can solely rely on it. If it’s a matter of funds, you may have to pick up something consistent on the side to live on, but then you let the freelance business build itself. Good luck, don’t give up!

“acquired a computer, software and training…” Obviously these are good things to acquire before going freelance, but you missed an important one - a network of clients!!!

I just chucked the corporate world a month ago, but spent 10 years building up a network (in China) to hit-up for work once I bolted and went into strategic and ID consulting. I’ve booked the first 12 months worth of jobs already.

It isn’t about the hardware / software, it’s about the network…

You guys are absolutely right. It’s only been a month. Fact of the matter is that I grossly miscalculated my network. I haven’t reached out to everyone yet as I was so intensely focused on Cerevellum, but that’s the plan for next week.

It’s amazing how much time Cerevellum takes up. Meeting with lawyers, investors, sourcing, developers, etc. I’m glad to have the time now to place my attention on the project.

As for freelancing, I’m going to focus on selling myself as more of a sporting goods designer considering my background.

Anyhow, thanks again everyone!!

Congrats man! And absolutely right.

Freelancing can be a tough game… you can be as talented as the best of them but people won’t give you work if they don’t know that you exist so networking is THE most important part of the puzzle.

The retail design game is a little different to the kind of work you do 6ix as the turn over of work for me is constant… I assume the design and development is a lot longer in ‘pure’ industrial design and so jobs are fewer and further between. I couldn’t image having work lined up for 12 months in advance when most of the work I do typically has a turnaround of 1-2 weeks.

I would say stick with it too… you obviously know what you are doing so things will drop into place eventually, give yourself at least 12 months, which I know can be tough financially but if you get things worked out you will be laughing.

I’m now at a stage when a) I don’t stress when I have little to do as it is a good time for me to reflect on things and get some of the boring paperwork & finances sorted out, knowing more work will be around the corner and b) I can turn work down that I feel is either not something that would contribute to my own development as a designer or is from a nightmare client.

Being freelance can be extremely rewarding and very lucrative but you need many hats… salesperson, marketing person, finances person, businessman and, of course, designer.

Some good replies here and different perspectives-

My perspective is that there are different models of freelancers and any one of them (or combo) can lead to success-

  1. Networked. You have lots of contacts and good networking, so can always have something going on, be it smaller projects or large, your contacts keep you busy.
  2. Unique service/talent. You either offer something very specialized, or are highly skilled at what you do. You get by on being the go to for some specialization or skill.
  3. Workhorse/sales. You get the job done. Maybe at a lower price, or over a lot of smaller projects, but you work hard and are competent at what you do, and can sell yourself out there to clients to get the job.

R

To the OP, I’m certain I warned you that this might happen.

ETA, yeah I did warn you.

I’ve found that it can be rare (for political reasons or whatever) for an old employer to give you freelance, especially after you’ve just left them. Perhaps because you are rubbing their nose in it a bit, one minute you’re an employee costing x number of dollars a day, then, suddenly, you are after doing the same job for x times as much! I’ve seen plenty of freelancers make this mistake. Infact a year or two ago, we had to help someone who was struggling because his entire team ‘had gone freelance.’ Needless to say he was a bit pissed and wasn’t going to contract them all back in order to do the work.

A big trading company went under over here earlier this year and pretty much all of the team went freelance and were immediately on the phone to another of our clients (because he used to be a director there). Did he give them any work? No.

I am currently working on a project with my boss from almost ten years ago, ironically it was me who contacted him, we both run our own companies now and I needed his sourcing expertise.

In a nutshell, don’t expect to be able to run a freelance business solely off the back off old employers especially if you worked for them recently. You need to build your own client base.

Finally - one month isn’t enough time - it took me six months to get my first work, I reckon it has taken us six years to get properly established!

I make it my mission to make friends with my ‘rivals.’ Because IMO we need to stick together. I’ve passed work on and vice versa, we can share info about bad and good payers, it has been to my advantage (what do I have to fear, anyway, our business is successful).

I get mildly annoyed when someone I’ve not spoken to for five years asks for work out-of-the-blue and my current bugbear is lazy recruiters. In the UK (anyway) they don’t really like us freelancers much - we don’t make them much money, we take work away from them (as in freelancing instead of the creation of full time roles that they can place us in). I am so sick of being contacted about full time roles (when they know I’m not interested and they are really just looking for names), that I’ve put on my linkedin 'no recruiters, no offers of full time employment, ’ I was like :facepalm: when someone tried to add me on there and emailed me about a full time role yesterday. Gaaah!

I completely disagree with the topic itself. I’ll be going to Ukraine after graduation, to freelance. I study and work in Ireland. The currency in Ukraine is 10 times weaker than the Euro. Thus, I can make enough money in Ireland to stay in Ukraine for 3 months without worrying about bills, etc. That will be a great oportunity to produce some high quality work, which I would never be able to do in Ireland.

Go and freelance, at least for a month, anywhere. Even if it involves carrying a gun for protection and/or bribery. It’s worth it.

Wow, that is some pretty extreme measures. I think I will pass.

I have to agree with most of the comments here. You are going to have to give it more than a month. Work hard to get a client base and if you want it you will get it.

Not a scenario that I expected, which makes it even more interesting! But it must have been flattering in the beginning?

he fact that in developed your own product is 150% awesome. Negotiating investors, development people, and distributors cannot be easy. Serious respect

If you did that, you do have what it takes

I would probably streamline my life as much as possible to so you can focus on being your new project and not let $$ rule. Don’t buy too much, try not to rack up a huge debt, figure out how you are going to get $ to stay afloat, and try to save while still having a decent lifestyle.

Then I’d start contacting potential contacts, friends, colleagues, etc and letting people know what you’re doing and that you’re looking for work - at the same time start putting together your offerings, what services you’re going to sell and how to show it. You have to be ready for that first interested party, how you’re going to convince them you can do the work and are worth the money. Be ready with your prices and to be able to make realistic quotes. Make sure you have the tools you need

I think it can be like job hunting, where you can get discouraged if you think too much about the companies that aren’t interested. Let you skin thicken up and be ready for people to say no, and take it with grace and confidence. They may mean no now, and maybe later. You are going to learn a lot and continue to learn for a long time. This is all probably just another spin on what others said, but wanted to share another pov…

Good luck