Making the leap

Five months is a minuscule amount of time, yet in my life so much has changed. I am now about to enter my sixth month as a freelance motion designer, and in this post I’m going to share my experience of leaving a secure salary to pursue the dream of being a freelancer.

Five months ago…

Life was simpler, but that was not necessarily a good thing. At this stage I had been living in Bristol with my partner, Gemma, for roughly a year and a half.

We are still young, both aged 24, 23 at the time. We were both somewhat dissatisfied with our jobs. We would both complain about things like hours and money and we found ourselves working most evenings and weekends.

I had been toying with the idea of freelance for a long time, deep down I knew it was what I wanted but I felt that I lacked the required experience to make it work. I was also somewhat unfulfilled as an employee, I always wanted more, whether it was more control over projects or simply more conversations with clients. I wanted to call the shots and control who I worked with and what I worked on, and as an employee I had my fair share of clients whose interests and beliefs clashed with my own.

After discussing for several months with Gemma and many others, in fact almost anyone who made the mistake of talking to me, I finally decided to write my letter of resignation to pursue the freelance dream.

Emotions at this stage were a rollercoaster ride. There were moments of pure joy and an overwhelming sense of relief that I was finally taking a step on the path that I longed for. These moments however, would be short lived and crippled by the sheer panic of ‘How am I going to pay the bills?’ which added to the ever growing disbelief in myself, sparking the question ‘Why should anyone work with me?’.

As I previously mentioned, both Gemma and I were unsatisfied in our jobs, so to turn up the heat a little, Gemma also decided to quit her job as a full-time teacher to pursue substitute teaching, trading less pay for a huge reduction in stress and pressure.

(As a side note, the life of a teacher is not pretty. For all those who think that teachers work short days and get more holiday than most, I urge you to do a little research, talk to a teacher and you’ll see that this is far from the truth. The real story is along the lines of 7am — 10pm weekdays, weekends are dedicated to marking and planning and once on “holiday”, marking and planning needs to be completed before the next term starts. Teaching is a full-time job in it’s most literal meaning, you have no time for anything else).

Within the space of a few months we had traded a comfortable, combined annual salary of £45,000 for the unknown. The pressure was on.

I soon came to an almost zen like mental state, where I decided to let go of all these feelings, fears and emotions, which were changing like a flick of a light switch, and focus on the fact that I had a month to prepare.

During my last month of employment, I refined my contract, estimate and invoicing system and began emailing local studios and old contacts to offer my services as a freelancer.

I luckily managed to secure a small contract right away and spent the rest of my time building up my local network. This took the form of arranging coffee meetings with design and animation studios, attending business events, talks and presentations.

During the month of October I made £600, when compared to my monthly outgoing cost of around £1,200 this was hardly an impressive or sustainable amount. However, I was not worried. I had spent several months saving so that I had enough to survive for three months without earning a penny. During October I had made fundamental ground work to spread the word that “Matt Wilson is officially a freelance motion designer”.

It was not long after that I received a couple of long term and several short term contracts and now I’m busier than ever. My biggest worry about going freelance was being hired. Since I quit my job in October I have been fully booked, and at the time of writing this I am booked for the following 3 months. My concerns seem to have been the result of over thinking and taking no action, to quote Jamie Foxx, “What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.”

For me the transition between employment to freelance was pretty smooth, I managed to build a network fairly quickly, finding work wasn’t too much of an issue and overall I’ve earned roughly £2000 a month which is close to £400 more than my previous salary. I didn’t quit my job to earn more money as the wage I earned previously was plenty, but earning more money is a positive side effect of the freelance life and these figures seem to be raising each month.

To me the most important thing in life is happiness and fulfillment, I now feel excited to get up and go to work each morning and I’m more motivated and passionate than ever. I feel like I am succeeding as a freelancer and I hope to one day move on to bigger and greater things.

P.s. The transition to substitute teaching gave a similar experience for Gemma who has managed to secure regular work and is a lot happier now that the pressure is off and she is more in control of her hours.

Is something you fear holding you back from achieving a greater sense of happiness?

This article is part of a series of life as a freelancer. In this series I’ll be sharing lessons I that I have learnt and tips and tricks that you could use if you’re planning to make the leap to freelance. If you enjoyed reading this article, be sure to follow so you don’t miss out.