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Feb 22, 2021

Podcast 02: Why You Should Give Up Freelancing

Podcast 01 on what you can learn from the design startup show

Episode Transcript:

Hey guys, you’re on the design startup show. The DSS this is what I would like to call it in future. 

I mean, because it’s short and it’s fast to see right? And it’s easy to recognize. And today I have this question a lot this question where people ask me why I should give up solo freelancing, or why I kind of transit from freelancing to becoming an entrepreneur, what’s wrong with freelancing, right? 

That, well, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I, I always believe after I’ve translated, I’ve always believed that one should give up freelancing eventually, it’s great to start.

But there are many circumstances, many situations that affected my life. And that led me to find a better way to run my business rather than stay on as a freelancer. So being a freelancer I held on for 10 years and, and live was definitely better than being an employee. Because being a freelancer, your schedule is still flexible. 

So you can take on and choose your clients. You can still select them, you can have your own processes, you can work in the morning, and not at night or in not in the morning, and yet work at night. So it’s still up to you. Right? Because if you are an employee, then you have to follow the rules of a big company, isn’t it? 

That’s it as Freelancer I mean, I could choose when to work and not work, but I still have to work no matter what. Meaning if let’s say today, I don’t, maybe I feel sick, I don’t, I just can’t move on, I’m injured, I can’t move. I just can’t work. Right. And and if I don’t do that, I don’t have income. Even if I’ve income, probably from insurance from, you know, from anything that or any access, I’m unable to be my brain. So what’s the point, right, I ended up just ending up giving myself a full time job, right, just led by many bosses, who are my clients. So that to me, is not good for me, right? 

Most of the time, I’ll be doing what I can to help my clients and figure out design solutions for them. But I’m not really doing that for myself. I’m just bringing in an income. And then I had to start all over again, with a new client. Right. So that was how I worked when I was a freelancer. So in those days, I had no issues with my income. In those days, I was single in those days, I had no kids, and no mortgages, no employees, I could charge my clients up to 10,000 each project per month, and all for me to take home, I could even take up to three months of travel holiday without even you know working because my previous projects already paying for that. 

So all I have to do is tell my clients the Hey, I’ll be away this month, and then they won’t give me anything to do for that month or for that three months. So that also worked as a freelancer and that was fine. But that was because I was lucky that my clients kept coming back to me, you know, without me having to keep selling them or upselling them. 

You know, I would dive I would have to do any sales related activities in those days. So thank goodness, I mean, thank goodness, I didn’t have to do that those days. But it was not good because I shouldn’t be relying on referrals to write those days. My clients are my advocates, they helped me sell my service. They refer new clients to me. And they will also busy themselves. 

So they, they didn’t have any time to look for anyone else who can charge lesser or anyone else who they thought would be better hands. I was the only designer at that point in time. So definitely very grateful and I serve all of them to the best of my abilities. I felt very indispensable then. 

Then one day, something happened to my dad. So a 10 Cm malignant tumor was formed my dad’s liver. Okay, so in order for him to carry on living longer than a few months, he has added that the time he had to remove it, but his liver had to go with it, which means he needed a new set of functioning liver to replace, to replace old one which is the cancerous or tumor one. So he had to undergo a liver transplant to have a good chance of survival. 

So naturally, I volunteer to be the donor. And luckily, my lever was a good match. It was a huge operation. And anyone went through this will have to take you know at least a few months of rest to reach Cover properly, I was lucky not to have suffered from any infection. But for many months, I wasn’t in the right physical and mental frame to take on client work like before. So as I’ve mentioned previously, no client work, no income. 

I mean, if I had previous income, I could probably buffer myself, but but income will dry out right, eventually. So there won’t be any current income because I have no work. My bank accounts shrunk overnight, you know, but I had to live with it. I’m not in the best condition, right to work. So once my surgery wound started healing, I bounced back quite quickly. And thank goodness, I have friends who sends clients my way. And then my income returned back to normal. So that’s, that was fine after that, right. And then I thought, Okay, back to my comfort zone. 

But two years after this operation, my dad had a relapse. And then cancer cells was suddenly found every part of his body, including his lungs and his back. And, and obviously, you know, the story, right. So he started to lose control of his body. So because I had to help him, I had to be his caregiver, it slowed down my freelance work, and similar to previous years, when when I was recovering from the transplant, you know, I start to see the same problem in my business, I just couldn’t be at two places at one time. 

And there’s so much I can do within the time I have. So I had to reject most client work at that time, as well. Because I couldn’t come in right and honor my word. So I couldn’t hire as well, because my bank account is just going down, I have no capital, I couldn’t even manage anyone with such little time that I have, because most of our time is to care for my dad.

And worse still, because I did not build a network at that time. And I did not have the entrepreneurial mindset of during a network of helping people. It was just more bring in income by being a freelancer. So with no network, I had no real, no one to rely on to partner past my past my work over temporarily. And then take it back again, you know, that kind of thing. But no, no such thing because I didn’t have a proper group of friends who can do similar work as myself. 

And as time passed, my dad passed away. And that was when I decided to do something better with my business, right? And I started to ramp up my fees. Right? I thought ramping up my fees will help with my income. I thought if I charge one client for one project, let’s say $10,000, I only needed to work on just a few, maybe five other clients to be comfortable for the year. And in that case, I don’t have to find more clients already, right. 

So I did that for a few years, things went as planned. And yes, I was earning enough for myself or for for for each year. But in 2013, my first baby was born, I had a house, a new new place, which means mortgage debt is is in I had to care for my baby. Suddenly, my business had to go down again, because I couldn’t take care of my baby. I couldn’t take care of my customers at the same time, right. There’s no proper care for both both sides. It just couldn’t went well. And then I was half a million dollars in debt overnight, because I didn’t have enough clients to cover my debts, my bills, and you know, I had a huge mortgage loan with a new place with a new home. So that was the darkest moment in my life. 

So it was it was hard because you know, even if I have you know many customers coming to me, I have no ability to take care of all of them. So the more doesn’t mean better for freelancers eventually right. But if you don’t have more, you can kind of increase your income which also reduces your freedom. But if you have more clients, you also reduce your freedom because you have too much work to do, even if you’re increasing your income. 

So there’s no way where you can be more than satisfied. Being a freelancer. In that sense. I’ve tried in many ways. So Well, the blessing disguise was that I was so free, with nothing to do, even if my debt was increasing, right, I had so much debt piling and piling and piling, but I had, I also had more time to self reflect and learn more about myself, the mobile, my mistakes and what I really wanted in my life. So that was the good part of that, right. 

So, I love my work, but I didn’t want to work when I don’t want to, such as taking care of my baby, I want to be a good parent, I want to be a good daughter, right? I want to be a good designer to serve my clients. So I want to be, you know, good in every way. But I was struggling to be at two places at one time. So that was when I knew it was time for a change, a big change indeed. So my goal then was to build a business that can run on its own, I vowed to myself that I need to remove myself, from the day to day from the design work from the customer service, from the project management. 

And that was the only way that I can create a business that supports my lifestyle. So what this means is my business should be able to be built on to run on its own. So that I can also make that good enough income from the profits. I can also do creative work whenever I want for myself, to be an awesome mom, for my kids to travel around the world to do anything as and when I choose to, I need to have that option. So call it entrepreneurship. 

Ideally, I can remove myself from it as and when I like. So if I, you know, in any event, I can’t work at all, or if my family members need me to be dead due to health reasons, my kid is unwell. You know, all I want is that freedom to choose where to put my attention to while my income still comes in at the same time. So even if there’s no work, there’s still income.

So my business has to be there. And the purpose is to free me up to do the things I enjoy doing rather than, you know, be a business that holds me back or ties me down from the lifestyle I want to have. So being a freelancer, as a starting point has been great. And it should be great if you are at that stage. And freelancing can help bring in enough income. 

But I would say after doing more than 10 years for me, it’s not the best way to allow me to get to where I want to go in life. So if we are going through this similar situation, I find that there is a better way to doing more of what you live without having to live dollar to dollar and trading time for money. 

Many things in a freelancing business do not have to be done by you. So what you can do is to list down everything that you have been you’re doing, and then see who you can hire, you know, you can hire the right people, you can get the right automation, you can right get the right tech tools and apps to do all these things on your list. 

So this should be done, you know, right at the beginning to free up your time. And I did this way too late. I am doing this like 10 years later than I should. Right from the start, you could have listed this down. If you feel that you’re not ready to hire No worries, you can just keep going to the point where you know you are ready right where we are Yes, you have enough work to fill up the time. So although your business will not turn from a freelance model to a self running machine overnight, I feel that doing this is the first step. 

And for me what took up most of my days time was the client’s design work. So my first step when I first wanted to transit was to find designers who are willing to spend the time to help me with that work. Okay, once I’ve done that I have spare time. And with that spare time, I do marketing and sales to bring in more income by promoting my business more than I ever had before. So all these are the other times when I mean these are free times, right? 

I mean, it’s not really exactly free to, to just sit around. But I can choose. So I can I can segment my day with some time to do nothing. I can set my my time to play my kids. And I segments some other time to do marketing and sales. So there will be other free times where I can do my own projects. And that can satisfy my creative juices. My creative designer in me, right, which is what you may have as a graphic designer, as a web designer, some somebody who is creative. 

You want to still do that. So there’s no need for you to pass off creative work if you don’t wish to. All right, you just have to look for bits of the whole process to hands off, so Let’s say if you really love certain parts of the creative work, you can still keep it. But you are giving more time for yourself by letting off certain work like technical, technical graphic work, or things that there are many others who can also do that don’t need you to be there to handle and then slowly just, you know, list them down and pass them off bit by bit. So, take your time with that. 

It took me five years. So it may take you one year it may take you a few months. It’s just based on your own circumstances and and how quick you want to let them go. And just go with it when you’re ready. So yeah, so these are my thoughts and you know, on on why you should give up solo freelancing. So if you are Yeah, if you are flesh and blood just like me, there will be times when you’re sick. 

There’ll be times when you can’t just deal with work. A few that solo freelancing is not sustainable in the long run. And it’s good to have a team it’s good to leverage out say, people or automation or tools to partner up and work with you instead. So yeah, good to get ready with that. 

Right, thank you. And that’s all for today. 

Bye. So I hope this is helpful and I will talk to you soon. Bye.