For Flexibility in Future, Pick Up Packable Skills Now
When folks ask how I am able to find consistent freelance design work these days, and earn a living doing it, I tell them it is a combination of lots of effort, years of experience and ultimately, an earned reputation as a solid working partner.
But before I could establish any of that, I needed to pick up the hard skills (and soft skills!) of my trade, and put in lots of hours doing the work.
If there is a chance you might want to be your own boss in future–even if that future seems distant–I urge you to consider your skill set now.
Not all job skills are easily transferable to a self-employed lifestyle, but many are. You just need to make sure that you are developing packable skills as early as possible to set yourself up with options.
I focused on building a graphic design toolkit of skills first, because I could apply what I learned both at my 9-to-5 print design job, and for freelance work. I had also met people that had become self-employed graphic designers, so I saw the lifestyle as a real possibility and something to think about in future.
As I earned more and more work as a designer, I learned the ins and outs of the craft, experienced the highs and lows, and established best practices. It took me years to find refine the pace I am comfortable leading now.
Design is a common service-based freelance trade, as is software development, accounting, writing, personal fitness training, tutoring, photography, and many others. If you are crafty, you might consider a goods-based freelance trade like baking, jewelry making, woodworking, calligraphy, blogging. Scan the Internet for ideas; there are endless opportunities.
The idea is to pick an area you enjoy, so that you like the process of learning as much as the possibility of future self-employment.
Whatever area you choose, start picking up related skills as soon as possible. You can learn with little overhead via free YouTube tutorials and by interviewing friends and contacts. Soak up information from everyone you can. Read a lot! Once you are comfortable enough, you can try picking up one-off gigs or venture into selling a few pieces on an Etsy shop – anything that your other obligations allow you time to do. Continue to add skills. Write down what works! And as you add skills to your toolbox, you can intentionally and comfortably pick up more work, or grow a shop organically.
This way, if you do decide one day that you want to work for yourself, you'll have the skill set to do so. You will have learned the ups and downs. You will have an idea of what your craft takes day-to-day. You will have established your own best practices. You will be earning, and financially ready. And making the move will feel natural.
Are you self-employed? What advice to you have for those who may want to be their own boss some day? I would love to hear!