Becoming a Full-Time Freelancer

There we were: I was working full-time at an agency, my wife was a full-time market researcher, and our son was in full-time daycare. We all were feeling burned out and spending what little free time we had catching up on the previous week’s chores.

So, upon the arrival of our daughter last September, we knew we wanted to make a change. My wife took a more family-friendly job at the University of Wisconsin, and I did what most graphic designers probably think about at least once in their careers: I entered the scary world of freelancing.

So far, the outcome of our decision has been exactly what we wanted: a more balanced life for both my wife and me, and, most important, for our kids. I have set hours when I work from my home office and spend the rest of my time hanging out with and raising Evan and Annie.

But this hasn’t exactly been an easy transition. Along with the usual difficulties I expected with freelancing (like wondering where my next job is coming from, what happened to the HR department and who to call when my Mac blows up), the most challenging part has been finding time to sleep, since a good portion of my work day is at night. I’ve spent quite a few mornings in a catatonic state making oatmeal and watching "The Wiggles." And I quickly learned that 3-year-olds don’t come with a snooze button.

On the other hand, I’m truly enjoying the flexibility in my schedule and the wide range of projects I’ve been able to work on. One of the best benefits I really didn’t anticipate is that I feel more creatively energized than ever. I’m not sure if the creativity comes from the breaks in my schedule or the influence of these little people, but I’m constantly forced to do something that people in my industry get paid to do every day: be creative. The time spent with my kids gives me a great release and a wonderful creative balance when it does come time to sit down and work—even at 1 a.m., with my shirt covered with spit-up stains.

The crying, the tantrums, the whining and the shouting … yep, some of my former coworkers really helped prepare me for this new role. However, I do miss all of the incredibly talented art directors, copywriters and production folk whom I’ve been lucky enough to work with and learn from over the past several years.

This isn’t always the most lucrative situation, but it has definitely been the most rewarding year of my career. I don’t know how much longer I can keep being a Mac daddy—maybe a month, maybe a couple of years. But I know that soon enough my kids will be in school and I’ll be back to a more normal routine, whether on my own or at an agency. Until then, I’ll be down here in my office designing, producing and piercing the soles of my feet on little green plastic army men—and loving every minute of it.