The Life of a Freelancer Shouldn’t be a Lonely One

Seven years ago, I took a risk. I quit my job as a Creative Director and ventured out on my own. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever decided to do, but ended up being one of the decisions I am grateful for taking.

While I could talk about how much I love freelancing – it is amazing! – I want to instead talk about how my vision for my business and my value proposition has changed from day one to today. I couldn’t have anticipated how much it would change on that first day, but experience has been a kind teacher.

In the beginning…

I had a plan to grow slowly. When ready, I would hire a developer, a project manager, and that would position me to grow the business into an agency. I think it’s probably pretty common for people leaving an agency to have this “I’ll show them all how an agency should be run” attitude. Like most people in their late twenties, I believed that I “knew how the world works” and that I had a solid plan. I later realized that trying to be what I was leaving was a bit short-sighted.

I slowly realized that I enjoyed being in full control of my time and I made the choice to stay small and not hire. However, this decision made me question whether my business proposal was strong enough or whether I needed to offer a more complete solution.

Please consider:

What made Michael Jackson so successful? Was it his epic dance moves? His voice? Or was it his ability to give the audience something they’ve never heard before while pushing the industry forward – all while staying true to his brand promise?

As time went by, my business matured. I became more and more aware of what my value is and what clients really wanted. It’s easy to think that you have to offer the full package in order to get clients. It turns out, for most cases, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

What a good client really wants is expertise and NO ONE is an expert at EVERYTHING.

Surrounding yourself with experts

The moral of the story is that you can never truly be alone. You have to make the choice to surround yourself with talented people whom you respect and utilize them when you need help. This gives you the ability to offer that expertise your client wants while maintaining that independence that defines your business. Here are a few of my team of experts:

If you’re a recurring visitor of this blog, you might notice there’s been some updates going on. There are new fonts, new colors, and a new header. While I have more than 20 years of experience as a designer, I’ve never been an expert at creating visual identities. It turns out it’s even harder to create one for yourself than for clients! So I’ve worked with Anja Emzen, a very talented designer, to get this just right. She did some great work and helped me find the right design concept and translated it into a basic style guide. Now even my invoices look great!

Although I love writing and think it’s refreshing as a designer to have a second output, this blog would never have been so successful without the help of Joshua Yuhas. He edits all of my articles before they appear online and has been a rockstar at finding my perfect tone/voicing. He may have also corrected some of my grammar and spelling mistakes…

¯_(ツ)_/¯

Due to never really mastering HTML, CSS or any other programming language, I have a team of talented developers that I turn to whenever I need their help. In fact, all the updates to my page are done by Simon Ljungberg!

Now the purpose of the post wasn’t (just) to highlight these people that help me build my business. It’s an acknowledgement that although my company only employs one person, it’s a company of hundreds. Without these people who I turn to every day for advice, inspiration, watercooler chat, I wouldn’t have a successful company.

The Result?

In the end, one of the only things that stayed consistent with early vision of my one-man company was my value proposition/brand promise – to provide my clients with the best possible solution while pushing boundaries of what it means to design a digital experience. While I may not have the dance moves of Michael Jackson or the voice, I DO share his commitment to staying true to the brand. It took a while to find my footing with my company, but I “beat it” and so can you. Go be awesome!

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Books

User Experiences that Matter (2016)
Mastering Freelance (2017)

If You're Getting Started in UX

What's a 'User Experience' Anyways?
How Do You Learn UX?
Working as a UX Designer

Next Steps in UX

Working as a UX Lead
Defining a UX Strategy
Writing as Part of the UX Process

Thought-pieces

AI Ethics - A New Skill for UX-Designers
Designer Ethics & The Moral Implications of our Apps
The Future of the UX-Designer
Voice Input’s Effect on Social Norms

The Work We Do

Chasing Growth
New Tools Don’t Always Equal Productivity
Why Designers Need to Write
The Tools I Use to Run My Business

Featured Writing & Interviews Elsewhere

Q&A With Anton Sten, Author of User Experiences that Matter - Adobe
What the F*#!ck is a UX Designer anyway - Working not Working
It’s Time for a Code of Ethics for Designers - Medium Modus
The Art of Going Freelance - .Net Magazine
It Takes Time - Being Freelance episode 100

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