My First Year of Self-Employment: How did it happen?

How did it happen? Now I didn’t go straight into full-time self-employment… in fact, I am still not 100% self-employed. As I have said in my previous post, I am a baby-steps person and with two kids I needed income stability, and jumping straight from being a student to finding enough clients to support myself straight away was too scary for this risk-averse Taurean! 

So I was lucky enough to secure a part-time job for a local European roofing tools company, Fribesco Ltd as their in-house Graphic Designer before I graduated. They hadn’t had an in-house designer before so I started by doing three days a week and as I caught up on the bigger one-off jobs to start with and then set up templates and processes for the regular jobs. I have transitioned to now only needing to do one day a week there. This has worked out organically and with perfect timing in conjunction with my own self-employed work picking up to where I now need the other four days a week to keep up with demand.

Something I am incredibly grateful for are my fabulous clients. I have been so lucky to get all of my work by word of mouth and I wonder if this has been a factor in how awesome my clients are. I have a couple of larger clients who send me regular work, generally advertising, layout and illustrations. I get to go into their beautiful workplaces and work alongside them for part of the time and via email at home the rest of the time. I also have smaller one-off clients pretty regularly that are usually logo designs, illustration commissions, small advertisements and are a great addition to my workload bringing variety and extra income.

One thing that has contributed to me becoming financially independent and for which I am so grateful, is my clients being super prompt payers. For anyone who has been self-employed, this can make or break a business and I am lucky to have amazing clients.

I am also working to expand on the passive income side of my business. Don’t let the ‘passive’ description fool you though; to create passive income you need to spend a lot of time and energy to get it up and running and making money. My main source of passive income at the moment is Spoonflower, where I upload repeating designs to be printed on fabric and wallpaper. There is quite a bit of work involved in creating the designs and uploading/proofing them but once they are set for sale on the site I just collect a 10% commission every time someone buys one of my designs, with Spoonflower doing all the work! The best thing about creating repeating designs is I actually love doing it, it doesn’t feel like work and I get the complete creative freedom to design whatever inspires me, it is a lovely balance to doing client work.

One other source of passive income that I have just started and am still developing is selling art prints of my designs. This is still very much in the setting upstage. I have put a lot of time into it and am still working out what works and what doesn’t, finding suppliers/packaging/delivery options/selling options/retailers. But I love the product and it is a great way to use artwork I have already created for another purpose in another format to appeal to a greater range of people. These are currently available on my website and I am working on getting these into retailers, which is exciting.

I am also looking into other sources of passive income and hopefully, bigger and more exciting things are on the horizon!

Working in different locations, for different clients, on multiple different projects all simultaneously does seem crazy and taking multi-tasking to a whole other crazy level! However, I am a pretty organised person who fanatically puts everything into my diary that I take everywhere. This allows me to carefully schedule my time and not over-commit myself so I can always hit deadlines and clearly communicate with my clients what is and isn’t achievable. I am also the kind of person that thrives on pressure and challenges; I easily get bored and would find it hard to be working with the same people on the same projects in the same environment week after week. I love the variety of my job. 

Also, by scheduling my work from multiple groups means I have a lot of flexibility for working around my children and my self-care appointments (more about self-care in my next post) which is the payoff of being self-employed. I can organise my availability around things I want to do and my clients are used to working with me in blocks of time around each other and are thankful for the time I can give them, instead of being resentful of the time I can’t give them. It’s funny when people ask me… “If you could change your job, what you would like to do?” I can honestly say that this is what I have already done that; I studied so I could do what I wanted to do, and now I am doing it… even if I won Lotto, I would still continue doing what I do… maybe with less client work and more illustrations, with all the flash design toys and a nicer car… I would still be doing this, which to be honest is pretty damn cool 😊

Thanks for reading and look out for the next post in this series … My First Year of Self-Employment: Health & Self Care

Penny xxx

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