Sam Brown

Why I love being freelance

After recently turning down opportunities to work at two of the best and most respected web agencies in the UK I thought I would write a little about why I love being a freelancer and why I will not rue the day that I turned down these chances.

I’m in charge!

I am my own boss with no-one to answer to and no-one to micromanage me, I work at a pace I feel comfortable working at and do not get lost in the politics of a multi-tier approval process. That’s not to say that I am not tough on myself in setting realistic goals and deadlines.

Flexible hours

Whilst I work super hard a lot of the time, being a freelancer does offer you the opportunity to simply take an afternoon or day off where and when you see fit. Working set hours every day every week can easily burn you out, having some flexibility and ability to mix it up I feel is very important to keeping a cool head and not stressing yourself out.

Personal projects

I would never have been able to launch and manage Sidepath, Commented On and soon Remindness if I was working for an agency. Personal projects are a great distraction from client work and let you play about and be as creative as you like.


Make sure to reward yourself for the hard work that you do, certainly in Scotland the level of pay in the web industry I feel is severely lacking and is definitely something to consider if looking for full-time employment. This subject is worthy of an article in-itself as you do have to be super careful being self-employed, but treat yourself well, charge at the level you believe your work is worth. Avoid spec-work.

Recurring income

A sustainable income is important, not knowing where your next pay cheque is going to come from can be very frightening, especially if you are just starting out. I have several side projects that generate monthly revenue and these help alleviate the hard times. Clients don’t always pay on time and creating yourself a small revenue stream that is constant is a great idea, be it hosting your clients sites or selling advertising space on a blog it’s never a hard thing to set up.

Location Location

Working from home has its benefits and downfalls, no doubt about it. Being free of a stuffy office situation or having the ability to simply go sit in a coffee shop for the afternoon is always something worth doing. You don’t want to get stuck at a monotonous desk all day every day, mix it up, working in fresh surroundings from time to time really is beneficial.

Like-minded people

There are a surprising amount of people in our industry that freelance, and while it may not be for everyone there is certainly a wealth of great talent out there to be tapped into. Get out and about, go to conferences, socialise with other like-minded individuals, communicate with your peers and soak up the knowledge of the wiser and more experienced freelancers.

Client choice

I am in the lucky position that I can pick and choose which jobs I take on and which I pass on, this isn’t always going to be the case for everyone but if you can get yourself in this position where you can weed out the jobs/clients that you know may still be hassling you months after completion or at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night then you are in a far superior position.

These are some of the many reasons why I love being a freelancer, I absolutely respect that it may not be for everybody and I have many friends happily in full-time employment in our industry. Do what makes you happy and if that happens to be being your own boss, go for it.

I’ll leave you with the thoughts of two of my good friends who are now working freelance after leaving full-time jobs:

“It was this sense of control over my own workload that summed up my first week of business; this was why I decided to go freelance; this is why everyone decides to go freelance.” Elliot Jay Stocks

“Despite pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines, choosing which projects to accept and which to decline, and having a lot more responsibility, freelancing is an incredible fun way of living” Tim Van Damme

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Jorge Quinteros 15 September 2008, 13:42 #1

This year alone I’ve seen a slew of designers going independent with regards to work and that seems to gain more popularity for all the reason that you mentioned. A lot of positive can come from it but I guess the biggest fear to anyone would be in ensuring that you can generate a steady income. Of course all that is based on ones work, their popularity in the industry and their affiliations.

Elliot Jay Stocks 15 September 2008, 23:48 #2

I agree 100% with what you’ve said, Sam. And thanks for using my quote! :) I’ve got a post about freelance life in my drafts and this has me think of some new things to add to it. Again: thanks!

I think the other thing it’s worth telling potential freelancers is that you will almost certainly earn more money than you would in full-time employment. Manage your costs and time well, do great work, and get your name out there, and there’s no reason whatsover why you can’t be doubling your previous salary.

Phil Bowell 16 September 2008, 00:15 #3

It’s posts like this which make me want to “go it alone” even more. I’m sure I will do it eventually, but I’m less than a year into my first graphic design job so I think it will be a few years before I’m in a position to do it. It does sound like it’s exactly what I want to be doing though.

Rick Hurst 16 September 2008, 00:42 #4

This is refreshing to read, I need to be reminded how much I appreciate the flexibility sometimes – i’m now in my second year as a freelancer and there have been some ups and downs, but i’m still glad i’m doing it! I blogged about it a while back.

Harry Roberts 16 September 2008, 22:44 #5

Though you make some valid and interesting points, I don’t think it always applies like that to everyone. I personally prefer working at an agency than I did freelancing, I wrote a response post if you’re interested.


Brade 20 September 2008, 12:21 #6

Interesting topic, and one that I’ve thought about a lot. I finally decided to consider myself a “free agent” rather than a freelancer, to use a sports analogy. This means I do work for companies and evaluate every year or two. Then jump to someplace else if necessary. Some of us just are not into the idea of tracking down and sifting through clients for freelance work. I have done a bit of freelance, and I simply haven’t found a difference in the balance of fun and frustration—both are going to happen no matter if you are “your own boss” or not. I still may end up starting my own gig once I feel like pimping my name and going to conferences every month, but until then, I’m okay as a free agent.

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Sam Brown co-founded Iterate, and was previously VP of Design at Foursquare. Based in NYC.