7 Things I’ve Learned as a Full-Time Freelance Designer

Lately I celebrated 3 years of Studio GRL, which made me reflect how much growth this wild ride has initiated. I’m not pointing at my Adobe skills here, but on how the self-employed lifestyle has worked on my being. I’ve never freelanced in my life before and once I took the leap, I realised how different it really is to working for a boss. The entrepreneurial lifestyle often appears very glamorous: working for amazing clients from fancy coffee places and embarking on global adventures. Yet, beneath the surface lies a complex world that mostly remains unseen from the outside.

Leaving the corporate world to pursue my career as a creative freelancer, brought up various challenges: the uncertainty of when the next job would come along, overwork leading to burnout, loneliness and feeling overwhelmed by the never-ending to-do list.

In this post, I’ll share 7 lessons from my journey as a Brand and Web Designer, along with tools, methods, and tips. You may have already stumbled upon or are on the verge of uncovering some harsh truths as you venture on this path.

1. Having a Wide Range of Skills.

Pouring my creativity into my work lets me pursue passion and freedom, but running a business involves a variety of additional tasks beyond the creative process. Besides the artist, I am also the account manager, business developer, sales – and finance manager, copywriter, social media content creator. When working for a company I’m responsible for one task. As a freelancer a lot of time (unless I hire an assistant) is consumed by additional tasks. Those can be answering emails, sending proposals, client calls, managing bookings, marketing my services, organising client files, doing taxes, creating content for social media, maintaining my website and portfolio.

In my experience, these tasks usually take up about half of my time before I can dive into the creative process of my projects. By refining my systematic process and figuring out how to work more efficiently over the past few years, I’ve been able to minimise the time spent on these tasks by working smarter, not harder.

The requirement for such a large skillset is often overlooked and can be quite overwhelming when starting out.But there are plenty of resources out there to help you work smarter and more efficiently. I’ve learned the most from other talking to other freelancers that have more experience than me. It can also be local or online courses, freelancing communities, business mentors, YouTube and so on. As always, becoming a master of something requires patience. Also, try to delegate tasks that can be handled by others and outsource responsibilities to streamline your workload – 10 hours of your time is 1 hour of some experts time.


Learn how to prioritize tasks
Get organized with apps
Set up your (clean & organised) workspace
Hire an expert
– Invest in fast working devices (You’ll thank yourself later)
Google Calendar
Google Meet for setting up meetings
Toggl (Free Time Tracking Software)
Notion (Client Management, Project & Finance Tracking)
Monday.com (Project Management Tool)

2. Self-Motivation and Discipline

It’s the dream of many to have the freedom to work where and when we please. But also, without traditional workplace structure, inner drive is crucial for meeting deadlines and financial obligations without a regular salary.

For the past 2 years, I’ve lived as a digital nomad, working from diverse locations worldwide. Regulary changing environments kept me motivated, inspired and connected to amazing people. But like in everything, it’s all about balance. Despite the adventure, I sometimes missed having an uninterrupted and spacious studio space “to get in the zone”.

Successful freelancers have to be disciplined – you have to spend time (months, sometimes years) building up a nest egg so that you don’t run out of money if you don’t get another job straight away. And it takes time to stay top of mind in your industry. All that hard work pays off when you can finally enjoy your downtime and not worry about where your next commission is coming from, because you know it will. It think to succeed in life, whether it’s cultivating physical strength, mastering a skill, or establishing a sustainable business, it’s important to know that freelancing is a marathon, not a sprint.


Switch up your usual work-environment from time to time
Practice mindfulness (meditation, yoga, journaling)
– Invest in positive self-talk
– Write down WHY you choose to become a freelancer
– Hang out with people that are better at motivating themselves
– Write down where you want to be next year
– Keep on pushing outside of your comfort zone
– Remember to take breaks to rest & restore
Pomodoro technique
Focus (iOS App)

3. It Can Be Lonely.

Working without the daily interactions that come with a traditional office setting, I often find myself working alone for an extended period of time, which makes scheduling social-time a necessity for me to maintain sanity. Even amidst the hustle of a coffee shop or co-working space, loneliness can set in without like-minded companions who understand and empathize with my experiences.

As a Scorpio Sun and Cancer Moon, time alone is something I really enjoy and offers a source of nourishment for me. “Getting in the zone”, merging with my creations and losing the sense of time around me, is a fertile ground for my art and my soul. On the other hand, it’s very easy for me to isolate myself and get lost in my work. Over the last years I’ve got to know myself better and I know when it’s time to make an appointment with a friend.

We all have different social needs and either have introverted or more extroverted personalities – it’s important to know yourself here and create the social life that fulfills your needs. Building a supportive community of close friends, family and likeminded fellow freelancers is invaluable in feeling socially statisfied and providing encouragement & support during challenging times.


Find places and spaces: check out local co-working spaces
Be kind to yourself
Collaborate: Starting with your clients – the aren’t the enemy and can also be part of meaningful connections
Join groups to connect with other passionate creatives (Moana Temple Freelance Facebook Group)
– Add a timeblocks of social activity in your calendar too!
Support others: Find opportunities where you can also help people in need of connection and support
Start a podcast (great way to network & make new friends)

4. You’ll Be Responsible.

Freelancing gives me a lot of independence and freedom, plus if something goes wrong, it’s my fault and it’s up to me to fix it. It can be a deadline I’ve missed, a client who doesn’t like my design, an email I haven’t seen, a file I’ve forgotten to send, etc. I am not only responsible for delivering quality work to my clients, but also for marketing my services, doing taxes, negotiating contracts, managing finances and meeting deadlines. Without the security of a steady paycheck or employee benefits like health insurance, I must independently manage tasks such as taxes, insurance, and retirement planning.

I’d like to infuse some yogic wisdom into this discussion. In yoga, “responsibility” is understood as “response-ability” – the capacity to naturally and spontaneously respond from a core of inner stillness, in such a way as to take a situation to a higher level. How we respond depends on my inner state; fatigue, anger, or distraction hinder effective responses. Most big mistakes happen because my state is somehow impaired. So a practice of self-awareness, a self-check-in, can make a big difference.

It can be quite overwhelming at first when we take on this role as a constant problem solver when a problems arise. The most important principle to remember here is not to take things personally and to understand that it is normal for things to go wrong and that misunderstandings happen. We are all human and trying our best.


Don’t take it personally
Communicate Your Availability
Design your daily routine with mental well-being in mind, fostering resilience and sustained productivity
Stay formal & kind (If that’s not possible, cool down first)
Learn to Say No
– Learn to accept mistakes
– Establish healthy boundaries

5. Building a Support System

Something I’ve definitely learned to embrace more in my life is that I can’t do it all by myself. Running a business is a big job and releasing the idea of hyper-independence is a crucial first step for growing (your business). Holding myself back from asking for advice can easily lead me to a downward spiral – if I refuse to ask for support, I may withdraw further and avoid any contact while I try to figure it all out on my own.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the advice and guidance I’ve received from my dear community to navigate certain challenges. I am beyond grateful for the constant emotional support I receive, especially when I go through a period of self-doubt or burnout.

No one will ever judge you for seeking support from others or asking for their advice and guidance. We are thriving the most when there is a supportive community of friends, family, mentors and freelancers that inspire us to be a better person.


– Share about the project you are currently working on with a friend/family
Don’t be shy to ask for help & advice
Moana Temple (Freelance Facebook Group)

6. Energy & Attention Optimization

Valuing my time over money is a big reason why I decided to go freelance. With multiple projects, clients to juggle and all the things that need attention, it’s crucial to manage my time efficiently to stay productive and inspired. Feeling like there’s never enough time to do what I want is a red flag that something is wrong. Taking responsibility here means setting clear priorities and boundaries, breaking tasks down into manageable chunks and allocating time wisely to balance my work and personal life. The aim is always to work joyfully rather than harder and in alignment with energy levels.

When I worked for other companies, I struggled with the monotonous routine, longing to align with my hormonal cycle. This desire was a significant factor in my decision to become self-employed. Since becoming cycle aware, I have made it a priority to let my energy levels guide my work schedule. I prioritize big tasks during times of peak energy and adjust accordingly to my body’s wisdom.

As cyclical beings, it is essential to understand our inner seasons and ask ourselves: How can I optimise my time in balance with my energy levels? To thrive as a freelancer, it is also important to know the value of your work and that time is precious. Valuing your time over money is probably why you’ve chosen to become a freelancer. I think there is no perfect answer to this as everyone has their own way of getting things done and making this life possible. Finding your unique path to concentration is key. Below are some of my tools and tips.


– Create your own pre-written email responses
– Offer package services
– Make a list of your energy drainers + energy givers
– Learn about investing for financial independence
– What distracts you and your focus when you need to be fully present? Make a plan to minimize distractions so you can be at your best when you need to be.
Schedule breaks in between projects to avoid burnout (If that is financially not possible, I would consider raising your prices if you want to thrive in a sustainable business)
Screen Zen App (App to control your screentime)
Toggle – Time Tracking Software to save your working hours on a project
28 (Cycle Tracking App)

7. The Work is Never Finished.

Unlike a traditional 9-5 job with set hours I can find myself in a never-ending cycle of projects, to-do checkboxes, deadlines and client demands. When one project is finished, there’s just another one looming on the horizon. So whether it’s answering emails, revising drafts or looking for new clients – there’s always something that needs to be done.

I want to quickly mention a related topic here, which is the time/money connection. It can be very stressful to feel like you never have enough time to do what you want. There is an interesting study that gives more insight into the anxiety of trading time for money. You can find it here.

To avoid burnout amidst the endless stream of tasks, it’s important to set clear work/life boundaries. It’s curcial to have a set time when you fully focus on your work and to have a downtime to completely disconnect yourself from work. If there are certain tasks that make you feel very overwhelmed, write them down and think who can help you with it. Perhaps you can ask your partner to help you with these more challinging task.


– Design a To-Do List that works for you (pen and paper, Notion, Google Sheets,etc.)
– Set official working times when you are available for your clients (Put them on your website)
Schedule certain business tasks. For example, set aside 15 minutes each evening to deal with emails so you can get on with your work the next morning with confidence and no questions hanging over your head before you go to sleep.
– Go back to pen and paper
Turn off your notifications
Exercise (Walking, gym, pilates)
– Keep on raising your prices as you grow

My Conclusion.

In conclusion, freelancing offers a unique blend of freedom, creativity and responsibility. I feel that practicing mindfulness has helped me tremendously in facing the challenging aspects of freelancing. I feel much more confident in what I do, but I honestly still find myself not really knowing what I am doing. I guess this feeling will never fully fade away in this human experience of constant learning, maybe it’s not supposed to.

I hope that these lessons will inspire and inform other talented creatives who are looking to turn passion into a successful and sustainable career.

I’d like to end this article with a quote from Rick Rubin, author of The Creative Act: A Way of Being, that really sums up what freelancing means to me:

“Good habits make good art. The way we do something is the way we do everything. Treat every choice you make, every action you take, every word you speak with skillful care. The aim is to live your life in the service of art”

If you enjoyed this blog post, please take a moment to share it with your network to help inspire and inform other freelancers on their journey.

Thank you for being here x

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