When most people think of the reasons to Freelance, they think of better earning potential and more flexibility. However, according to established Freelancer’s in the creative and digital industry, Freelancing offers something more fundamental for career progression than a healthy day rate and the ability to work remotely.
“Everyone should try Freelancing once” says Ruairi Cronin a Senior Experience Designer. As someone who spent 17 years inside reasonably sized companies within the comfort of a salary, I’m more than a little curious to know why.
Accelerates your learning
According to Ruairi, freelancing is brilliant if you “want to accelerate your learning”. By his own estimation, he thinks he’s worked on 20 years worth of projects in 10 years. “When you’re freelancing, you don’t get caught up in the bureaucracy, politics and quiet period within companies. You are only ever brought in to solve a problem.” Every company, every brief, every new environment, every brand and every new sector is a chance to learn.
With that broad spectrum of learning comes a better understanding of what you enjoy, what you’re good at and what is commercially valuable. Because of this, freelancing can be a great tool to help you uncover more efficiently the direction you want to take professionally. If freelancing remains the direction you want to head in, without the distractions of company politics and bureaucracy, your work time can be concentrated on going deeper into a chosen field or vertical and building greater expertise and craft skills.
Ability to learn life and professional skills
Being self employed and a hired gun also forces you to grow up pretty quickly too. According to Steve Wilcox a Creative Technologist, there is no hiding from the accountability that goes with Freelancing. “It keeps you honest.” The reality is that without work, you do not earn money. To get work you need to build relationships and a referral network. Relationships are built off the back of being professional and doing a great job on every freelance gig you work on. It’s a virtuous circle with a Freelancer needing to take responsibility at every stage. By embracing this accountability, Freelancers can learn critical life and professional skills and build confidence in their ability to stand on their own two feet, both professionally and financially.
On top of this, according to Chris Dale an Experience Designer, “being consistently exposed to different perspectives and different ways of working has helped me become more agile and adaptive.” This makes sense on many levels. By the very nature of the profession, Freelancers are confronted with new people, new processes and new environments all the time. Over time, it is only natural that freelancers become quicker and more comfortable adapting to their new settings and by doing so becoming inherently more resilient to the twists and turns that projects throw at them.
You are your own boss
Talking to Ruairi, Chris and Steve, it’s a little like talking to people who can survive for weeks in the bush with just a knife and a piece of rope. They appear to have a quiet confidence that I think comes from knowing they have built a self sustaining independence through freelancing. From Chris’s perspective, “Do it because you want a life and business challenge.” Steve goes a little further “If you want more ownership, with Freelancing you’re responsible for everything that happens. You are your own boss, you take on the risk and give up annual leave. For that you get paid a premium.” For Ruairi he simply believes Freelancing can be a “liberating” experience and one that can help you grow.
Accelerated learning, adaptability, resilience and better life skills. Sounds pretty compelling to me and demonstrates that freelancing can much more than a lifestyle choice.