I’ve always known what I wanted to do in life, even as a young 8 year old kid. I used to obsessively draw tanks, dinosaurs and spaceships and one day heard that rock-star designers could get paid £50 per hr for drawing! Not that the money was the deciding factor, as a kid, money is a little abstract, but just the thought that I could one day be paid for drawing spaceships certainly appealed. That was it, the fuse was lit.
As I progressed through my education, to further concrete things, it also became quickly apparent that Art&Design was the only thing I was half good at and enjoyed. A place to lose myself and make things!
Starting your own Graphic Design business however, is something I never thought I would be doing in my mid 30’s. I had the classic design education, ill-placed junior designer in a myriad of studios and then some more serious experience in more established agencies as things progressed. I learnt quick.
It wasn’t really until working client side for a blue chip for 6+ years that the gnawing push in the back of my mind was that I wanted more freedom, more creative work and the fact that I never really liked working for unseen bosses that I didn’t really respect, that I started thinking about going solo.
It’s an exciting thought, running your own thing, but at the same time crushing and scary, especially when you consider mortgages to be paid and the pressure of it all.
Making the leap really is all about timing and, how do they say, burning the candle at both ends! The timing comes when you’re doing the 9-5 full-time job, coming home and building up your portfolio, building a website, working on client work and finding new client work. When the amount of time you are working during the day is close to the effort you’re putting into your solo gig setup then its time for the rest of your exit strategy.
At this ‘turning point’ things can be somewhat stressful and tiring, not exactly how you want to start your exciting new solo career but unless you’ve got some serious cash saved for your new venture, then its a necessary evil.
On leaving your safe, semi-secure full-time design job, many colleagues will appear to be envious, echoing how “they always wanted to go solo too” but the lull and lure and comfortable cocoon of a well paid salaried job has too much of a gravitational pull to keep designers from parting ways.
Without a doubt, good work, hard work and a heavy dose of luck is needed to succeed in going solo but I feel if you work hard and are persistent then the work will flow. Be nice to people, especially your client. I would say the majority of my work comes through recommendations..so it shows its better to build bridges, not burn them, especially in the tight-knit community of design.
My personal career as a solo graphic designer running my own show is still in its infancy but I’m confident and excited about all the future awesome projects I’ll get to work on.
If you can make it work then a solo career can be very rewarding. In the 2 years since making the leap I have lived and worked in Colorado, USA for 18 months and worked whilst traveling through South America for 2 months and have clients across the USA, Australia, Ecuador, Africa, Spain and of course, the UK. The freedom to dictate your own hours is incredible…although often solo designers will work a little too hard which you’ve got to be wary of.
It’s a profession that you can do anywhere in the world, whilst on the move (WIFI connection permitting) and into retirement years. If you love design and want your own show then I say with some little steps and alot of prep you should absolutely go for it! You won’t regret it. Good luck.