Rob Knott
Guest Writer
Posted 2 years ago

Why you don’t need qualifications or experience to freelance

There’s no denying it, freelancing is awesome

You get to choose your own hours, set your own rates and freelance from the comfort of your sofa. Hell, you can even work in your underpants if you want to.

So it’s no surprise when you tell people what you do and they are like “Oh you’re so lucky to be able to work from home” or “Oh I wish I could freelance too, it sounds amazing”.

Of course when you suggest that they give it a try for themselves, their attitude changes to “Me? Ohhh, maybe, but then I’d need to go to University first” or “Well I’d need to get some work experience and you know how hard it is to get work experience when you don’t have any experience. It’s a catch 22”.

It’s this kind of thinking that holds so many people back from chasing their dreams and realising their true potential, and that my friends is just plain sad.

Before freelancing I worked in a supermarket stacking pedigree chum in an itchy polyester uniform, feeling sorry for myself. My self-doubt and inaction kept me in a job that I hated for over 10 years before I finally did something about it. Of course that’s a story for another time, but for now please take it from someone that’s been there when I say:

If you want to freelance all you need to get started is some talent, a portfolio and the ability to continuously push yourself. That’s it.

To illustrate my point, let’s take a look at my two graphic designer friends Johnny and Mike.

Both guys were great at their craft, always showing off their latest designs on social media and able to Photoshop your face onto a pornstar’s body in record time.

Mike was the academic type, choosing to dedicate two years to college and a further three to university studying digital design. He exited uni with a damaged liver, mountains of debt and endless rants about how out-dated and irrelevant the course was for what he wanted to do.

A few months later his degree landed him a job at a local web design studio, creating website banners and re-sizing stock vector images all day for £25k a year.

I spoke with Mike recently and he absolutely hates his job, but had to take it to get his foot on the career ladder. His goal is to become a Creative Director so he can have more control over his work. Unfortunately he needs at least two more years of experience before he can apply.

Meanwhile, Johnny went online and digested every single graphic design tutorial he could find. He worked overtime at a local supermarket to buy his first MacBook and signed up for a free online portfolio.

Over the next six months he created examples of work by redesigning existing brands and showcasing them online. He made it abundantly clear that they were just concepts, but still blogged about the design process like it was a real brief.

His continuous efforts, cheap and cheerful business cards and growing reputation in digital circles eventually bagged him a series of unpaid gigs for charities and non-profit organisations – resulting in some solid credits and valuable client facing experience.

Johnny now earns £250 a day as a freelancer, hopping from one contract to the next. It takes him just 10 days to make the same money as Mike and if he works solidly for the whole month he earns more than Mike would in his dream role as a Creative Director.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not slating people with degrees or trying to put people off gaining an education. If academia is your thing, then you go for it and you bloody well enjoy it.

What I am saying is that a lack of education and experience shouldn’t ever be seen as a barrier freelancing.

Of course, there are exceptions. If you want to be a rocket scientist or a doctor, then I wholeheartedly recommend you get professional training. In fact I’m pretty sure that freelance doctoring is basically a crime.

If however you want to be a writer, programmer or a web developer then there you most definitely have the alternative option to do it for yourself without the need for a three year course. Not to mention the fact it will be much cheaper and in Johnny’s case, can be achieved in as little as a year if you want it badly enough.

And remember most importantly of all, you don’t need anyone else’s permission to freelance.

Freelancing isn’t just about escaping the 9-5; it’s about embracing a lifestyle. Hell, it’s about opening yourself up to a philosophy of freedom.

Society tells you that you’re doing well in life if you get a good education and bag that safe and secure permanent job. All you gotta worry about after that is making a baby and getting married then it’s straight sailing to arthritis and impotence.

Well sod that, some of us choose a different path.

Whether you choose to follow in Mike’s or Johnny’s footsteps is entirely up to you. Neither approach is truly right or wrong. What matters is that you are fully aware that there really is a choice.

You just have to decide which choice is the right one for you.

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