I’ve mentioned this before but being a freelancer can be a lonely old business.

Don’t suddenly think I’m sat in my office pining for attention from other human beings… I’m not. In fact, I’m quite happy not seeing anyone else in my world from the moment I wave goodbye to the kids as I drop them off at the Childminder’s, until many hours later when I pick them up again (screaming and hungry).

It’s not the social element that I miss. If I want to chat inanely at someone, that’s what I use my clients for!!!

No… it’s a different kind of lonely that is probably restricted only to freelance designers.

The Kind of Lonely

I miss having someone to bounce ideas off. I miss having someone to look over my shoulder and say, “Why don’t you try that or this or the other?” I miss having people reminding me what all of the keyboard shortcuts are in Photoshop. But I mostly miss having someone to critique my work.

Having been a Creative Director in a previous life you may think that probably wasn’t the case. But when at ‘the agency’ I always liked the designers to discuss their work amongst the group, and so to help each other come up with better ideas, or to affirm to one another that they were going in the right direction – as there is nothing worse than spending a whole day getting nowhere on something.

For the lonely freelancer, without anyone else other than the client to seek for approval, we are prone to stumble around the Internet for initial inspiration and then to be entirely reliant upon our own wits, and strength of belief that on this occasion we’ve totally nailed it.

We could possibly put up our work on dribbble, behance or somewhere else for public approval – but I don’t know nor trust these people with an opinion. And they offer just that – an opinion. Not a steer or a solution.

Nope for the freelancer… It’s you against the world (or the brief!).

What does it mean to me?

And so it changes you as a designer. You begin to trust your instincts even more. You learn that taking a break and going for a walk can suddenly give you the inspiration you needed. You follow patterns for inspiration. You learn to review your own work better – objectively rather than subjectively. And you push yourself. You do things you didn’t even know you could do – because before you always had someone else who could do that better than you and so you got them to do it.

Over the last two weeks, I feel like I’ve actually produced some of the best work of my career. Obviously this comes with the standard designer caveat that within 2-3 months I’ll dislike everything I’ve ever created previously, but still right now it feels good.

And that’s all I can do: keep trusting my instincts, keep pushing myself.

Occasionally, I’ll ask my one year old whether he likes what I’ve done and his standard answer of “Gog” will say all that I need to know: “Daddy…you’ve nailed it, now can I have a yoghurt?”.

Oh…and thankfully I have some lovely clients who truly appreciate what I do (I’m not naming names… you all know who you are!)