sloppy perfectionist: what I learned in a year of freelancing

365 days
This past Saturday was my company’s one-year anniversary. Before I went freelance, I had no idea what I was getting myself into; what it really meant to be my own boss.
Here are some things I learned about running a small business, clients, and myself in this past year.

general realizations
First and foremost, typography rules. (If you don’t know what typography is, you haven’t been reading this blog closely. Get informed and join the type nerd club!)
People look at you funny when you take photos of signs on buildings and then exclaim something like “Oooh, look at that A!”
Lots of people are struggling with the same issues, even if they don’t show it.
I love workshops.
My mom’s generation has no idea what I do all day. They think I have time for coffee in the middle of the day, every day. (I don’t really, even if I sometimes do).
It’s great that you can choose your own clients; at the same time, it can be tiring not knowing who you’ll be working with next – or when that’ll happen.

procrastinator? me? nah…
If there’s a couch in the room, I’m going to sit on it. Not at the desk, nope.
I like buying books. Reading them is another story.
If there’s no deadline, I procrastinate. Sometimes even if there is one.
Having a cat in the home a.k.a. office is purr-ty demotivating. But good for the nerves, so what the hell.
I really like playing games: Minesweeper, Minecraft, Lego Playstation games, nonograms, you name it. If it keeps me from being productive, I’m all for it. Bonus if I can sit on a couch while playing (see above).

lots of information, lots of skills
Before I go into a new field, I like to get informed. I have to watch myself to make sure I don’t just read about it instead of actually trying it out.
Lots of people who work in publishing companies or agencies – whom I work with as a freelancer – either know how to write or they know how to layout the words on the page. However, not a lot of people know how to do both.
I can do just about anything I put my mind to. I just have a hard time figuring out whether I want to put my mind to it or not. (See above, procrastination and all that.)
I can teach people how to use a language, but that still doesn’t make me ‘a teacher’. (Much respect to all the teachers out there!)
My blog-writing skills aren’t too shabby. That’s something I never thought I’d be good at – or want to do. (Disagree with me if you will, but I’ve left out the comment-button on this blog, so… ha!)
Even though it feels like I can’t, I usually can.

It’s taken me a while to realize I’m actually allowed to earn money with creative work. (I’m still working on that one. The starving-artist cliché is a hard one to get around.)
Clients have gone from enemies (“oh no, not her again”) to friends (“I get to work with her!”) – sometimes even personal friends or mentors.
I can either be a perfectionist in my work, or a sloppy artist. The challenge is to be a sloppy perfectionist, for example when hand-lettering.

I wasn’t ready to go freelance when I did, and it still sometimes feels like I’m not ready to do what I’m doing. But the beauty of working freelance is that no one is around to call my bluff. If I manage to get over myself, I get the work done. And that process – getting over the voices of doubt, the negative commentators in your brain who say things like “You’re not good enough to do this!” or “Are you crazy taking this job? You’ve never done this before!” and similar things – makes you better. You’re better than you were the day before. But, I’d also wager, it makes you a better designer / editor / whatever than others who work in agencies or companies.
So, even though freelance life has its challenges and pitfalls, it also has upsides that definitely outweigh those. Pushing yourself to your limits and constantly working on your creative ego is worth more than I can put in words – at least it is to me. Because that’s the direction I personally want to go in, and the direction I feel all of us should go for a more conscious way of life. And that’s where you’ll find me in the future: in between self-doubt, self-loathing, ego-mania, super contentment, and sometimes even – hopefully – creative flow.