I have been freelancing as a graphic designer for the past 6 years and boy, has it been a journey. Like I mentioned in my Foreword, while there have been challenges and periods of stress, I didn’t regret my decision to take the plunge — not one bit. So here, let me highlight the joys of freelancing based on my own experience. Hopefully it will give you the motivation to dive into freelancing and experience those joys yourself.
My 8 Joys of Freelancing
FREEDOM AND FLEXIBILITY
First, and perhaps the best part of freelancing in my opinion, can be found in the aforementioned word itself — ‘free’. The freedom of deciding how to manage my own time and workload is absolutely liberating. Previously I was working a 9 to 5 office job, where I not only had to go to work on time, but faced displeasure from my higher ups if I were to leave right on the dot at five.
Now though, I can start working early in the morning when I’m at my most productive and take short breaks throughout the day. I can also take the day off if I’m not feeling well physically or mentally, and conversely work more if I’m feeling up to it. I can choose to either take more or less projects depending on my schedule. For instance, I was busy from September to October last year as I just bought my own apartment, so I decided to focus more on liaising with contractors to make sure the renovations went smoothly.
In Singapore where I live the traffic during peak hours is always quite bad, so I’m really grateful that I don’t have to squeeze with everyone else into trains and buses anymore. Similarly I’m able to travel and work as long as there’s some form of internet connection available. In fact, I just flew to Japan last November and spent three weeks there — something that probably won’t be possible if I’m someone working a regular job since I will have to apply for leave — with approval being determined by my boss.
In addition, since I usually work from home I have the freedom to wear (or not wear) whatever I want. I don’t have to be in office wear, which for someone like me who sweats a lot in the local climate is a godsend. Being comfortable in my tank top and shorts while I’m work is definitely a joy of freelancing for me.
Finally, as someone with elderly parents I could be a caregiver to them whenever necessary. For example, last year my mother needed to go for surgery to replace her knee caps, and by managing my work schedule I was able to bring her to and fro the hospital with no issue.
In short, I have the freedom and flexibility to tailor my work schedule to my lifestyle, not the other way around.
I’M MY OWN BOSS
As a freelancer I’m pretty much my own boss. Of course I have to answer to clients, but I don’t have the extra headache of dealing with higher ups. Many times I have heard from my friends about how much stress they are under due to an overly demanding boss.
At the same time, being responsible for my own actions while freelancing has taught me the importance of self discipline and time management. I find myself working harder and more efficiently in order to make the most of my resources. If I fail, then it’s on me and only me — this mindset is what motivates me to constantly seek to improve upon the success I have now.
GREAT FOR AN INTROVERT LIKE ME
As someone who identifies more of an introvert, freelancing at home has been ideal as I don’t really have to interact much with others outside of client meetings. While engaging with clients could be tiring at times, that gets balanced by the fact that I can go for some alone time right after to recharge and destress — this is definitely one of the joys of freelancing for me.
Office politics are naturally non-existent, which is one less form of stress for me. I don’t have worry about what others think of me and just spend time being myself — while working and making money in the process. And going back to the first point of freedom, if I feel the need to socialize I can always reach out to my friends and family, or participate in social events.
SAVES TIME AND MONEY
I think everyone will agree that not having to commute really saves a lot of time and money. Imagine having to travel 2 hours to and fro the workplace — that’s 10 hours a week if you are working 5 days. I also don’t have to participate in meetings and company events, which can take up many hours or even days — time that could probably be better spent elsewhere.
Similarly, I’m able to save quite a lot of money by not having to pay for travel expenses. I can choose cheaper meal options, and though I’m not much of a cook, the occasional meal prepping has also allowed me to save on eating out.
In fact, the only monthly expenses I’m paying to sustain my freelance business are 6 USD for hosting my portfolio site and 1 USD to keep my domain name — that’s it. I did invest more than a thousand dollars on a good laptop for my work that can handle multiple tasks on different software at once. However, it’s a one-time purchase which will probably last me for a few years.
MY WORK IS MY OWN
A good thing about being a freelance graphic designer is that I get to design what I want (most of the time) and my work is my own. Of course I have to make sure I meet my client’s expectations, but in the first place they chose my services based on my portfolio, which means the way I design already spoke to them in some way.
Since I retain the copyright to most of my work, I’m able to upload them to platforms such as VectorStock and Redbubble to make some passive income on the side. It also means that none of what I spent time and effort to create goes to waste, since I can either sell or find other uses for them.
EVERYDAY IS DIFFERENT
It’s common for someone working a 9 to 5 job to have the same routine day in and day out — eat, sleep, work, repeat. In my case, I might decide to go for a hike in the morning if the weather’s good, return home to do some work, before heading out again to meet friends for dinner. And if I’m feeling like a homebody the next day, I could choose to just stay home and focus on my projects.
I also get to work on a wide variety of projects as a freelance graphic designer. One day I could be designing a logo and brand kit for a corporate client, the next I could be creating cute cartoony graphics for a Twitch streamer. As someone who isn’t a fan of monotony, the diverse nature of my work makes every day a fun and interesting experience for me.
I’M HEALTHIER AND HAPPIER
One of the joys of freelancing is that since my schedule is flexible, I can take a couple of hours a day to go for a run or hit the gym. As such, I’m able to release my stress in healthy ways, which in turn has improved both my physical and mental wellbeing.
I used to try to exercise as much as I could when I was working a 9 to 5 job, but it was honestly really tough. Imagine having to put in overtime before suffering an hour’s commute packed into public transport with everyone else. By the time I got home I just wanted to jump straight into bed and sleep — and exercise was the furthest thing from my mind. While I could wake up earlier and get my exercise in the morning, I risk being too tired at work and those extra hours of sleep were too just precious to me. Now I can fit in my workouts whenever I want, resulting in a healthier and happier me.
I GET TO MAKE MONEY FROM MY PASSION
Not everyone can say that they are passionate about their work — a lot of people are simply working to make money to survive. I consider myself lucky that I was able to discover my passion in graphic design in my twenties, and muster the courage to take the plunge into freelancing. The road hasn’t been easy, but now that I have a client base I’m consistently making money doing what I love.
In fact, as mentioned earlier the money I made during these past few years as a freelance graphic designer has allowed me to purchase an apartment of my own — no small feat considering the housing prices here in Singapore nowadays.
It’s not guaranteed, but I believe that the harder and smarter I work, the more money I stand to earn. Furthermore, I get to set the prices for my services, so essentially how much I make depends entirely on me. In other words, the sky’s the limit when it comes to my earnings.
Hopefully the joys of freelancing I have experienced as a graphic designer help to motivate you to take the plunge yourself. It might not be for everyone, but give freelancing a try and you will likely agree that what I have described here is true.