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9-5 to Full-Time Freelancer

In November of 2020, I made a decision that, at the time, felt nearly impossible. I left the security of my full-time job to pursue a career as a freelance art director and graphic designer.

I’m proud and delighted to share that I could not be happier with this decision.

For many years, I considered leaving my 9-5 job to become a freelancer, but the risk always felt much greater than the, well, potential reward? What would follow? And how soon would it take me to fail? It’s safe to say that fear of the unknown kept me convinced to stay where I was. 

Cue: 2020. The pandemic hit, and I suddenly felt like this could be the perfect time to make my move. As it was for many, 2020 was a year of reflection for me, and thankfully, I was able to use what I gained from this time and translate it into growth. This reflection forced me to slow down and ask myself some honest questions. 

What do I truly want for my life?

Where do I want to see myself go over the next 10 years?

And as the fiercely independent person I am, I knew the clear answer for myself.

I want to be my own boss.

Entrepreneurship is something I have always considered as a possibility for my future. From founding my own magazine, to seriously considering opening a few brick and mortar businesses, I wasn’t a stranger to this type of business thinking. 

In addition to that, being my own boss has allowed me to bring my personal life and work life closer together. That is intuitive to me, because work and being creative is a passion of mine more than a dreaded job. Rather than compartmentalizing the “best time” for work and the “best time” for leisure, I’m able to integrate my schedule together as one seamless flow, viewing my life as a whole, complete picture. This means waking up early if I’m excited or staying up late to finish something if it’s all I can think about. It also means taking days off if I’m caught up on work and having more time (such as long lunch breaks) to do the things I love: reading, gardening, playing with my dogs, and cooking vegan meals.

Trusting The Timing

While I wanted to make the transition into freelance work for many years, I am grateful for the timing of my decision. My previous work experience allowed me 8 years to learn the ins and outs of a variety of business structures and gain invaluable, industry-specific knowledge.

In that time, I worked for a printing company, becoming proficient in setting up files for offset, digital, and wide format printing. I also worked at agencies, filling the roles of both production artist (retouching, anyone?) and art director (positions that were many years apart). In the middle somewhere, I worked on a marketing team of 100 people at the nation’s number one online music retailer, Sweetwater. During all of this I even managed to teach a handful of college courses on Adobe software, and founded my own local art and culture magazine.

These 8 years of working in several different roles and industries granted me the opportunity to learn skills I could’ve never learned, had I transitioned to freelance work any earlier. Most importantly, these roles taught me how to interact with different clients and personalities, the value of mentorship and the benefits of working with a strong team.

My background has given me the confidence and expertise to be undoubtedly qualified for the work I now take on for my clients and to also understand when I may not be the best person for a specific job. I understand what questions to ask and how to best manage my time to ensure I am able to provide high-quality deliverables for my clients.

Without my past, real-world experience, I would not be the confident and qualified freelancer I am today.

Facing The Unknown

One of my biggest fears about transitioning to freelance work, aside from job security and financial concerns, was that I’d lose resources and the ability to work with large clients and well-known brands. I am grateful to share that the opposite has happened. I have contracted remote work for agencies and through them I have had the chance to pitch to and work with well-known, reputable brands. An example of this would be the set of Giphy Stickers I recently illustrated and animated for IMAX.

On my short journey as a freelancer, I’ve already learned so much. In the past 5 months, I’ve learned how to use programs I’d never used before, including After Effects to create Giphy stickers and Sketch to prototype websites. I’ve also laid out print and digital ebooks for publications, which differ a great deal (on a technical level) from the brochure layouts I am intimately used to designing.

It’s truly a relief to know that being a freelancer means more opportunities and that my skillset will never grow stagnant. Because of the freedom that comes along with this shift in my career, I have also discovered more time in my schedule to work on my own passion projects, including illustrations.

A Valued Bonus

One of my favorite and most unexpected perks I’ve discovered from working as a freelancer is how many incredible, amazing women I’d get to work with, including business founders, marketing managers, authors, and several other inspiring roles. It’s been such a pleasant experience to assist them with their work and bringing their visions to life. As a woman working independently myself, it gives me hope to build success of my own while getting to work with other successful women along the way.

I’m so happy to know you’ve stopped by my site and have taken the time to read about this chapter of my life. I encourage you to take a peek at some of my recent and proudest projects.