#3 Supporting myself without a 9-5 (part 1): Freelance graphic design

September 30, 2016

Too many options

It took about 6 months from when I first conceived the idea of leaving my job to actually pulling the trigger. I was never a big spender, but during that time I made an effort to be extra frugal. I made a “Pros vs Cons of leaving my job” list that I looked over and edited every day. I made a spreadsheet with detailed estimates of my liquid net worth and monthly budget. I even read just about every “what should I do before quitting my job” type of article on the Internet. The final thing to do was to set up a foundation for supplemental income.

Picking up graphic design

Roughly 3 years ago, I was browsing through some Facebook tagged photos of myself, and came across one in which my friend was running while carrying me on his back. We we’re in a race and one of the obstacles was to use this form of “teamwork” to make it across. It was an unusual photo so naturally I had to think, “What if I replaced my friend with some kind of large animal?” I downloaded Adobe Photoshop, found a picture of a giraffe online, and low and behold –

This was my first creation using Photoshop, and served as my introduction into the world of photo editing and graphic design. I was impressed by what I could do with Photoshop after only spending a couple of hours with it, so I wanted to continue learning. After a lengthy period of YouTube tutorials and bugging my friends for photos to edit, I was able to transform images while keeping them natural-looking.

The motivation to pick up Adobe Illustrator and create my own graphic images came when I decided to decorate the packaging for a healthy protein bar company that I came close to launching. Unfortunately my investor/partner backed out due to the weight of purchasing equipment and marketing, but that’s a good topic for a future blog post. Just like Photoshop, I enjoyed learning Illustrator and quickly adapted to the different features. I bought a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet so that I could draw more naturally, and with that, I was able to create the finer details in the packaging.



In the months leading up to my last day at my 9-5, I had developed my graphic design skills to point where I felt comfortable doing work for clients. I put up a profile on freelancer.com, upwork.com and won a few logo design contests on 99designs.com. I was offered a couple low-paying freelancing gigs right off bat and accepted each one just so I could gain experience and build up a reputation. Luckily, the projects were simple and I collected my first positive reviews.

About a week ago, I picked up my first above-average paying client on angel.co. A medical cannabis start-up in Colorado. I’ve done 2 projects for them and they’re telling me they have enough work for a full-time designer. Although I genuinely enjoy graphic design, I’m not ready to put all my eggs into one basket. I've been enjoying learning to code again and I don't want to have to limit my time with that.

I had to tell them that I’m only open to contract work on a job to job basis. Hopefully they keep giving me projects.

Looking back, it's pretty amusing that a goofy thought I had turned into a fun hobby, which turned into a source for additional income.

However, I know that freelancing isn't the most consistent way to get paid, especially for a newbie like me. For that reason, and due to outright curiosity, I also created another way to make potential income.