Being A Freelancer Is Hard Sh*t

May 6, 2016 · 6 min read

Quitting your 9 to 5 job, being your own boss and rolling out of the bed to work in your PJ’s is the dream for many people, but it doesn’t come easy. A lot of sites out there talk about how to become a Freelancer, so I figured I’d share what my Life as a Freelancer looks like.

Around 6 years ago, I changed my career direction of working in a hair salon and I self-taught myself to design website and mobile apps in the comfort of my parents’ basement. Moving on with what I knew, I immediately got into freelancing with nothing to lose. Even if I didn’t get any jobs, I didn’t have to worry about paying for rent or going hungry since I was bumming off my parents.

Fast forward 6 years: I went from a leading Media Agency as a Int. Product Designer to a Startup as their Lead UI/UX Designer and returned to being a freelancer again. Looking back, I wouldn’t have given up any of my previous jobs. It taught me things I wouldn’t have learnt or know if it wasn’t for working with people and dealing with ridiculous client requests and timelines. It taught me to grow as a person and designer.

Pro’s : Finding time to work on your hobbies

The Pros

Being My Own Boss
What makes freelancing so attractive to me is that it allows me to be able to make my own schedule and juggle multiple projects. I get to choose what clients I want to work with and which projects I want to turn down.

It allows me to make plans with friends whenever I want and not have to worry about a boss saying “I need you to stay late to finish this today”.
I am able to plan for my trip to Japan in September without worrying about releases and pushing my work to a co-worker to handle while I’m gone.
I find it pretty funny that comparing the time I was working full-time and now, I am even more social and going out constantly to meet up with friends to do things.

Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None
Being someone who have so many passions, I have more time to dabble in working on my side projects like my apps, beauty and fashion blog, food blog (#fatassery), picking up baking, and exploring the city to take street photography for my instagram #forthelikes. I’ve even started writing posts on Medium, like the one you’re reading right now.

Con’s : Money is within reach, when the client decides to pay

The Cons

Slave To The Money
Working on multiple projects is fun, until the client doesn’t respond to you for a few days or their accounting department doesn’t process your payment and you end up receiving it weeks later and your bills are long overdue.

Attention Span Of A Puppy
Distractions are EVERYWHERE. I am lucky enough to live downtown in a condo where I get a lot of vitamin D sitting by the window, but that also means that I get distracted by people-watching. Which, believe me, is very entertaining. I’m also very lazy and can’t be bothered to make the trip to a coffee shop to work, and because I am in walking distance to my kitchen (6 steps to be exact), I am snacking a lot and that makes me lazy to head out for real food, therefore I am getting fat.

Learning To Adult
The difference between 18 year old freelance me and freelance me now is that I now know that I have to set money aside for taxes and keep track of my expenses and invoicing properly. Who knew collecting HST (If you’re from Canada like I am) is so important?

Advice For People Looking To Get Into Freelance

I’m sure there are way better articles and posts out there but here are my personal thoughts and advice for people getting into freelance based off my own experience.

  • Have some amount of savings
    I didn’t get into freelance with 3 months of savings like a lot of sites suggested, but if you’re lucky like me and can bum off your S/O and help out by buying groceries,cooking and cleaning, do your part so you aren’t stressed out about rent the first couple months and you don’t feel like you’re not contributing in any way. Cooking and cleaning also requires for you to move around, which is a form of exercise, at least to me anyway.
  • Have hobbies and do things so you’re not draining yourself
    I love designing, I love it so much that I have many side app and ideas but I don’t think I can do it without burning myself out and slowly coming to a love-hate relationship with it. Find 2–3 different things that you enjoy doing and be sure to fit that into your schedule so you aren’t slowly becoming too attached to your chair.
  • Network and have some clients for a long-term working relationship
    I’m lucky enough that I have contacts that keep coming back to me for work after all these years and maybe that’s why going freelance is possible for me. Network, find clients you want to work with in the long run and do such a kick-ass job that they will always find you or refer you to others.
  • Be nice, professional and a friend
    I know some people would disagree with this part about being a friend to clients but … Clients are people too, and I think building a personal connection with the people we work with is important. You’re establishing trust on both sides and it allows you to learn more about how to work with them in the long-run.
    In our line of business, our reputation is important, no one wants to work with a douchebag designer or someone who’s unreliable with timelines. Be professional with your work and always ensure you’re delivering designs you’re proud of. If you aren’t, burn (or delete) it and work on it until you are.
  • Protect yourself
    Embarrassingly enough, I don’t have a contract in place to protect myself, so I can’t suggest for people to try that but I’d say you should look into that (In fact, I’m actually going to look into that myself after this post). I’ve always required a 50% deposit before starting on any work, so that kind of acts as a security blanket and I haven’t had any clients run off yet.
  • Set money aside for taxes
    The biggest thing that killed me was paying for taxes. Don’t be a Helen, set money aside for taxes as you are paid so you don’t have to scramble for it at the last minute.
  • Join Design communities and networks
    Something 18 year old me didn’t have back then was a design community or network to reach out to for design-related questions and help. Join slack channels for design, UI/UX, whatever your jam is. I’ve had so many wonderful contacts help me along the way and even passed along freelance work I couldn’t take.

This ends my long-winded post on freelancing. I wrote this for fun and just wanted to share my own experience and thoughts. Hope this helped in some way!

*Much thanks to Jessica Melnik for helping me to proof-read!

Thank you for reading, you’re awesome.
You can find me on
twitter and dribbble. Say hi, I’m friendly!

*All illustrations are from shutterstock.

Mobile Lifestyle

When thinking of Mobile Service Design, we not only design intuitive (web) apps for Smartphones, Tablets or Wearables, but for an entire lifestyle. In our publication, we curate the best articles covering the Mobile Lifestyle — written by people that live it.


Written by


Founder & Head of Design @ Boken Studio | Currently working on creating awesome stuff for clients + building a platform & product tools for designers & devs

Mobile Lifestyle

When thinking of Mobile Service Design, we not only design intuitive (web) apps for Smartphones, Tablets or Wearables, but for an entire lifestyle. In our publication, we curate the best articles covering the Mobile Lifestyle — written by people that live it.

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