Changing careers as a freelancer: the flexibility to be anything you want
Running a freelance business is the perfect opportunity to learn and expand on your skillsets as you navigate new projects and work with different clients. But what happens when you start learning a new skill that redirects your whole freelance career?
We explore the concept of switching up your freelance skills and discovering a completely different career as a result of that, as well as share some experiences from our community about having a change of career.
Qualifications and careers
Many of us are taught at school that the courses and subjects we choose to do then will help define our careers later on. However, as most of us know, this simply isn’t the case particularly when the world of work opens up so many more opportunities.
We previously spoke to a number of women in tech roles who were completely defying this concept by following their hearts into tech roles instead of their school courses. Web Developer Hannah King shared her school experience in a previous interview with us;
At school, we didn’t have IT or computer studies so my career started at aeronautical engineering school - as the first woman apprentice for the Westlands intake.
In a similar experience, Freelance Front-end engineer, Stuart Garner couldn’t imagine having a career in development as he wasn’t confident with maths;
I never imagined myself as a software engineer of any kind when I was at school, Programming was for “maths geniuses” and I was far from that. So my education took a different path and I focused on Environmental Sciences graduating with a BSc in Geography with a view to possibly going into teaching.
In a twist of freelance fate, Stuart realised working in office admin didn’t quite suit his skills so decided to focus on the skills he enjoyed;
I had always been good at art and design. It was my strongest subject at school and I had only stopped perusing it as a career because I was repeatedly told that there wasn’t any future in it. I also found that I had an affinity for computers. I had developed a reputation for being able to “fix things” when other staff members got in a muddle with the company systems. These two things inspired me to reignite my passion for art and become a graphic designer.
Developing new skills whilst freelancing
Running a freelance business forces you to learn new skills as well as focus on your main discipline, as you find yourself developing project management skills, time management and not to mention invoice admin!
With all of these new skills, plus the exposure to collaborating with new teams and working within new sectors, there’s no surprise freelancers find themselves developing new disciplines. Some roles naturally lend themselves to each other, as freelance Copywriter Annabelle Margolis shares;
My original career was in marketing and I worked my way up to Marketing Manager over the course of 6 years, jumping between various fashion brands. All of my roles were very numbers and strategy-focused, yet I had still lightly touched on copy when planning my campaigns. After starting a new role, I very quickly recognised that I had fallen out of love with marketing and came to the realisation that writing had been my passion throughout my whole life and something that comes very naturally to me. So I went freelance as a copywriter just over 3 years ago now and haven't looked back!
Being able to explore a passion whilst working within another discipline can help affirm a career change like this. Copywriting and marketing often crossover much like design and coding which is where freelance Developer Stuart found his real passion;
For a couple of years I immersed myself in a work of 3D Graphics and Flash timelines, all while still working my 9 to 5:30pm. I managed to secure one as an interactive content creator for a local college. It wasn’t until I was in my third role that I felt my transition to a true developer began. In this position, all the key concepts of programming, deployment, product life cycle and Agile etc. were introduced. I learned so much from other senior developers and it was an invaluable experience. Since then, I’ve moved between various sectors, focused on purely React Front-end development and in the past 3-4 years working as a consultant/freelancer.
Embracing other hobbies whilst freelancing
Many other freelancers we’ve spoken to also flex their creative muscles in other areas where their main freelance discipline wouldn’t necessarily align too. We previously interviewed Creative Director, Alex Cooper, about nurturing his hobby which could become a freelance career pivot too;
I write, act and direct comedy, so it means when I’m then in the branded world, I don’t feel as precious about my ideas.
Preparing himself for client feedback in his freelance role has helped the feedback Alex gets on his comedy writing too, seamlessly merging his two worlds whilst also embracing a hobby that could become a freelance career down the line!
Likewise, freelance Copywriter, Nikki Trailor, found herself flexing her hobby skills during the pandemic when her career in travel took a hit;
I worked in travel for 8 years and from the outside, I had a dream job - frequently travelling to Latin America and testing out plush hotels and incredible tours. I was then furloughed in the pandemic and stumbled upon a webinar on copywriting. It had always been a dream of mine to write a novel. I loved it but was scared about the prospect of making money from writing - I just didn't believe it was possible. I had done a lot of copywriting throughout my career in travel but it never occurred to me that I could do it as a freelancer until I sat down for an hour and watched that webinar. I then hopped on LinkedIn to post an emotional post about my journey in travel, asking if anyone knew of businesses that need a copywriter. Within 2 days I had my first couple of clients and it was enough to make me believe I could make it work.
The best thing about hobbies is you already love doing them, so turning them into your job and source of income is often the ultimate dream job! With many of us experiencing a change in circumstances over the last few years, being able to turn the situation around takes courage and resilience.
With the flexibility freelancing brings and the opportunity to gain more experience doing the thing you love, running your freelance business won’t feel like working! Have you got a great career change story? Are you a freelancer who started their career in a completely different job? Join YunoJuno today. We’d love for you to share it with us and our freelance community on Slack.