Becoming a Freelance Designer. Experience, Mentality and Creativity.

There’s always a challenge worth fighting

Matt Cooper
Jul 24, 2017 · 6 min read

Starting out as a creative is always a tricky challenge no matter where you’re at in life. Starting out as a full-time freelance creative (having worked Monday-Friday through your career with a guaranteed wage each month) is another challenge on its own. Made even more so by the fact I’ve experienced mental health issues as well as family issues….it’s definitely an eye opener and overall has made me a better and happier person. I’m still relatively new to freelancing so here’s my experience and views people! :)


I started my main creative career as a brand/identity designer and print-work artist for a corporate company based in South Yorkshire specialising in solar panels and boilers. I agree, not the glamorous product, but hey, its a challenge I took on board and succeeded with! Working 9–5 as an in-house creative felt great and I had a steady wage coming in each month for my family as well as learning new skills in management, art directing and illustration and making new, close friends. However, I felt I hit a block in my creative career and something was holding me back, so I decided to progress in a different way.

My next role was again a 9–5 role, but in a design agency based in South Yorkshire. It was my first real opportunity in a real design agency that’s primary focus’ was Web Design & Brand Design. It was just what I wanted! I learnt a lot of very important skills, including a heck of a lot of experience and skills in Web Design (something I didn’t have much of before). I made some good friends and we all collaborated together well. I enjoyed working within the agency. There were sometimes niggles here and there along the way, but nothing is perfect and everybody is human lol

I always talked openly about someday working for myself and that’s exactly what I decided to do next.


I say taking the leap because for me, it felt like I was taking a huge leap. I hadn’t had much freelance experience outside of full-time employment, and my website was currently being re-imagined. I was 26 at the time, a dad and a divorcee and I thought now was the best time, more than ever to make a better life for myself and my family….by doing the thing I’m good at and trying to reach the top of my game!

I left my job at the design agency and jumped head first into full time freelancing/self employment. This was the best way I thought to approach this instead of procrastinating day by day waiting for replies and wondering what to do. I took my own direction and damn! it felt good!

I had been dealing with mental health issues at the time, so it wasn’t easy for me, but still, I dove head on in and gave it my all. I took advice from my close friend and fellow freelancer Adam Marsden, and got myself all set up legally, financially and readily. I emailed companies left, right and centre. I posted work shots on Dribbble, starting writing stories, became more social and networked as much as I could on a day-to-day basis. I felt way more proactive on my own with no distractions.

I have been a full-time freelance creative for 4 months now and I’m finding differences each month, each week, each day. Occasionally there’s no such pattern with freelancing, but you are your own management and answer-to, so you dictate what and how you’re going to work each day. There will be quiet days, maybe quiet weeks…but I always keep myself busy getting my work and persona about amongst other things.

I have been talking with fellow freelancers and creatives globally about their experiences, thoughts and overall views about freelance and creative life in general. Many of those views will be reflected at the end of this story! ;)

A great place to network and get to know fellow creatives is The Designership, a Slack channel for creatives and collectives alike created by Michael Wong and Arthur Williams. It is managed by Nick Blanche and Richard McMasters


The effect this has had on my life has been a massive improvement, I’m now a lot happier in myself. I feel a sense of freedom in many respects, freedom to work on all sorts of creative projects and get out there more as a self employed creative. I feel a breath of fresh air after a rough personal couple of years.

I’m a happier person to be around also (apparently haha).

I have 2 little girls whom are my world and I can now pick them up straight from school at 3pm on a Friday, something that I cherish and have not been able to do for a few years now. I have a lot more time for my daughters, family and friends. Being your own boss is a wonderful feeling!

I am also able to contribute more to fellow designers and creatives alike, whether its writing, being creative or just having a coffee/natter. I have more time for personal projects too in between freelance work. The creativity is flowing now more than ever!

All I can really say is if you’re unsure or have been toying with the idea of “taking the leap” into full time freelancing….go for it! You won’t regret it, and if you are/have been dealing with mental health issues, it’s tricky, it really is, but there’s plenty of help out there and plenty of twists and turns to make the best of you.

If anyone would like a natter/coffee sometime to talk about your experiences, whether freelance, full-time, creative, mental health issues….anything: Hit me up at: mattcooper2690@gmail.com

I love hearing from fellow humans! As promised, here is some feedback from fellow creatives around the world.


“I have always freelanced on the side, but I was at an agency for 6 years, started as junior and made it to creative director and had 6 designers under me which was fun and rewarding. But I then started to get more interesting enquires from freelance, so 4 years ago I decided to take the plunge :) Put it this way, I would never go back to a 9–5 :) Love the freedom and also have a 2 and a half year old daughter I see 3 times a week so its perfect for that :)”

∆ Studio–JQ ∆

“Well, since 2009. It (Dutch Icon) was part-time for me back then. In 2010 somewhere it became a full-time job. The best job ever! :)”

Hemmo de Jonge, Dutchicon

“I can only advise you to network and network hard. Make friends all over. Make sure people remember you. Branch out a lot to different people in different fields. Be kind. Be a good designer.”

Adrian Egger

“I had worked for only a half year under contract till I decided my luck was elsewhere. First year was very exciting if you ask me, all was new and learned a lot.”

Paul von Excite

“Working hard daily is the only way”

Ramotion

“I feel FREE……….and baller…..always baller”

Adam Marsden



Thanks for reading my story, you can always follow me on Twitter. You can also check out my work on Dribbble or find out a bit about me: My Website


Freelance Design, UI/UX & Identity Design

I’m Matt Cooper, an experienced website and Ui designer who also specialises in Branding/Identity creation. I write about my experiences as a Freelance Creative.

Matt Cooper

Written by

Father, Freelance Website, Ui/UX & Identity Designer and Writer

Freelance Design, UI/UX & Identity Design

I’m Matt Cooper, an experienced website and Ui designer who also specialises in Branding/Identity creation. I write about my experiences as a Freelance Creative.

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