OK… I haven’t bought a zoo. I haven’t even seen the film about buying a zoo. But I did go freelance…

I’ve worked client side. I’ve worked agency side. I’ve worked in large corporations and small independent agencies. But nothing truly prepared me for going freelance!

For over 10 years, I’d been working as Creative Director at award winning agency, Nerv. Working with clients such as Argos, The Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014, Ted Baker, Paddy Power, Jaguar and so on. You get the picture… working with big name clients on big name projects.

And then, out of nowhere seemingly, I gave it all up to go freelance. To get back to some roots that I never really had as a freelancer.

The first question many people ask me is why?

I’m not 100% sure I actually know. But somewhere inside me there was a yearning to do something else. I wanted to get my hands properly dirty again. Being a Creative Director on massive projects for large clients on the face of it is really cool. But what it doesn’t always give you is creative freedom. Large clients have lots of established rules set in place and lots and lots of marketing people giving you an opinion – watering down a concept from something that you once loved to something that you now just want to get finished.

I also loved running the creative team. Looking over their shoulders, steering them in the directions I wanted them go and seeing some grow from interns, just starting out in the industry, to full blown creative geniuses. But its very difficult not to want to be doing what they’re doing. You can’t switch off being creative. It’s lovely to have an idea and then give it to someone else to create – but, deep down inside, you want to be creating it yourself.

So….I got myself an office built. Forked out for the latest kit. Subscribed to Adobe CC and became a freelancer. Which is a bit like buying a zoo!

And, after two months, what have I learnt?

I am really loving design again.

I’m happier and so much less stressed than I’ve been for years. And I’m learning lots too – even though I have no one to learn from. I’m just eager to try and learn new things, new techniques. I have the time to experiment more with client work.

Freelancing is scary.

I’m now my own boss and its down to me to get the work in. But, as is the way in the creative industry, when the work comes in, it all comes at once! So I’m learning (slowly) not to panic, to enjoy the quiet times, but also to focus on finding ways to get more work in when its needed.

It feels so good invoicing.

I have always invoiced clients. This is not something new to me. But it is now me invoicing them, not the agency I work for. So I know that the cost I have given them is all from my own hard work. And I know how much I’ve saved them – rather than if they’d have done the job with an agency. I feel good about that.

You love your clients.

Let’s be honest. When you work for an agency there are some clients you simply dread having to speak to. You struggle to get on with them. And you don’t enjoy their work. But you do it cos its your job. Well…when you’re a freelancer, you don’t work with those clients anymore. Its really that simple.

It’s a little bit lonely.

I Skype people, I talk to clients, I see the kids when they come home from nursery but there is something to be said for working with other people. People to compare designs with. To talk to. To get ideas from. I miss that.

I’m taken less seriously.

This last one is the weirdest one of all. As a designer, and even as a Creative Director, there’s always that element of banter that you “just make things pretty” and its not a real job. But, when it came down to it, there was a respect for the job I had and for the clients I worked with. As a freelancer, there is zero respect! You’re a part-timer, you watch ‘Homes Under The Hammer’*, it’s not a real job etc etc etc. It is truly the strangest thing.

* As yet, I have not watched a single episode of Homes Under The Hammer (or any daytime TV for that matter).