Why and how I stopped doing Client Work
That was not easy to do, still not easy, but such a change for my creativity and mental health!
Disclaimer: this is a looooong post so take your time to read, bookmark it and come back to it each time you need to. Also I hope it is easy to understand. This is a long one, english is not my mother language so I did my best :)
This week, I would like to talk to you more in details about the changes I made in 2022, which led to relaunch that newsletter/publication. And today, I would like focus on the biggest change: stopping doing client work.
Some background first
I started graphic design in 2004 and pursued a career of freelance graphic designer mostly to be able to do the projects I wanted to do, be free to choose and to manage my career my own way.
Over the years, I did graphic design, but also Front end development, like HTML/CSS for WordPress and also Back end with some PHP, for WordPress too. Later on I started to move to branding projects, starting to do logos and working more and more with type, until I did it full time in 2015.
During these first 11 years, most projects were great. Great budgets, great clients, wanting to work with me for my expertise. During that time I did not have any portfolio, I was able to get non stop work just by networking and blogging.
From 2015, I went in a new direction, doing 100% lettering projects. Budgets were drastically down, small sizes projects for logos only most of the time. The first years that was fun as I could build a whole portfolio.
But after 2/3 years I got tired. Budgets did not go higher, I had to produce more each day to compensate and the type of clients I had was very different from my previous experience in graphic/web design.
I became depressive, not motivated to work on cheap projects, not motivated to wake up in the morning.
Year after year, I became depressive, not motivated to work on cheap projects, not motivated to wake up in the morning. I realized I may have not communicate well enough to attrack good clients. I tried to change that. I went in a better direction, I was really selective on my projects, but that was not enough. I also spent more time on Instagram and got more international et interesting projects. 2021 was a fantastic year thanks to my work on Instagram.
But I was still depressive.
Not happy with where I was going
I was tired of doing that kind of work. I was also tired to spend so much time on social medias to get work from them. I started to work freelance in 2004 to be able to choose my projects and do my own style. But half of the time, I could not be too selective on the projects I took because I had to make money and more and more projects ended being so far away from what I wanted to do that I did not want to include them in my folio!
I was also tired to spend so much time on social medias to get work from them.
I probably made many mistakes. That’s for sure. 2021 changed the situation a bit because I focused my work on Nature and Outdoor. But I was not happy. I felt like that was not why I decided to go freelance in the first place (And it took me almost 15 years to realize that?)
I read a lot of books on creativity. I made 3 times 100 days challenges on Instagran to improve my technique but also to be more creative. The feelings inside me were really strong. Each time I worked on the challenge I could feel adrenaline inside me. I needed for sure more creativity in my daily life. And it seemed that client work did not bring that (anymore).
I needed for sure more creativity in my daily life
Still in 2021, I looked for people who felt like me. Pandemic had a great impact on me, telling me I was not ready to start again/continue to work this way. That is when I started to listen to a great french podcast, Sens Créatif, where his host, Jérémie Clayes was sharing his doubts, questions about his career and life. And it felt so good to me. I became a patron of his podcast and got access to his Discord where I met incredible people. These illustrators were so open, so nice and vulnerable. I found my community. It really helped me to go further.
I started to think how I could change things. The idea of Creator Economy came to my mind. I could develop Passive Income. I already did a few fonts, but more for fun than business. I could get a bit more serious on this. At least start by communicating more about my fonts. I had many ideas and doing these things for myself were exciting. But I did not know how to organize myself, how to start that change, how to develop that creator economy and create my own community.
That decision that changed everything
In march 2022, my wife came to me with a question. She had an offer for a new job she would love to take but she would have to travel more and work more. Which means, I would have to spend more time for the family.
That was the light for me. The opportunity for change. I said yes instinctively. “Go for it, take that job, I will take care of everything at home!”. When I said that I thought mostly about “yes, I am going to concentrate on the family for some time, I will do a break about client work, let’s change my priorities”. I was happy I had the opportunity to stop client work or reduce it to take care of my family and maybe build my passive income.
Being a bit away from work gave me time to reflect on what I wanted to do. What I enjoyed doing. That period gave me some space to think about where I wanted to go. And that was my problem before. Client Work was occupying all my time and my thoughts.
My wife took the job and I had to do everything at home. What a change. But also what an opportunity! Being a bit away from work gave me time to reflect on what I wanted to do. What I enjoyed doing. That period gave me some space to think about where I want to go. And that was my problem before. Client Work was occupying all my time and my thoughts. I could not think about taking the time for building passive income.
So I said to myself “Ok you are going to work part-time from now on. What to do you want to focus on during your free time? And the idea of passive income was constantly there: I want to create more fonts and I want to print stuff. Yoohoo!”.
Ok, that great in a perfect world, but how am I going to make enough money to pay the bills?
Let’s be honest, these changes were made possible because of 2 things:
My wife took a good job and a good salary. Still not enough for 2 but it already helped a lot.
During the pandemic we reduced drastically our costs. Being a freelancer and my wife working in a startup, we did not know how would be the impact of Covid on our activities and we had a mortgage of our house.
Regarding the first point, every situation is different. You can be alone, in a couple, having 5 kids. We all have different lives. And being a couple, being a team and sharing our revenues together really helps.
But still, as I said above, even if my wife was an employee, working in a startup is most of the time not so glamour the tech medias want us to think of. And the pandemic created instability in our careers. So as I just said we reduced a lot our costs.
We re-negociated our mortgage saving something like 4/500€ a month, which is A LOT, and reduced the time of it by 2 years.
I reduced my time at the coworking. I left a monthly desk to take a 10 days nomad pass. I did reduce my costs of 250€ per month.
I stopped my Adobe subscription, paying only for Photoshop and Illustrator. It saved me 30/35€ a month. I does not seem a lot but it is around 400€ a year.
I stopped many services or subscriptions I had with Streaming services, Cloud services (I had one at Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, etc) or apps I did not really used (like yoga, running, etc).
There are many ways I reduced my costs. It would be too long to detail here. But the impact was huge. I did cut by 2/3 my professional costs. I remember in the early 2010s, I did change my computer every 3/4 years, iPhone every 2 years, I was a total geek who needed to be at the top of the game. Now I still use my Macbook Pro from 2013 and I am ok.
So at the end, how much I needed to pay my professional costs and give my part to the family?
After many calculations, I ended up with a number I don’t really want to give here. But that was my base, my foundation for a new life. If I wanted to live from my creations I had to make X€ a month.
Surprisingly, when you stop and do calculations, you realize you can live better with having less. I mean making a lot of money is great but so is the pressure you have to deal with.
This was back in september. I talked to my wife and we decided that I would give me until june 2023 to see if it is viable. I also had some savings left from my great 2021 year. But that X amount was not as high as I thought. Surprisingly, when you stop and do calculations, you realize you can live better with having less. I mean making a lot of money is great but so is the pressure you have to deal with.
Right now I understand I feel better, less stressed having to make less money, even if it means less consumerism.
So I did buy a good printer, started this publication again, rebuild my website (went from Squarespace to WordPress in part to reduce my costs here too…), started to print, etc. And something I did not experience for a long time happened. I was happy to wake up in the morning again. I felt fresh, motivated and happy. I was not depressive anymore. I also have ADHD (Attention disorder/procrastination), and its impact was seriously reduced by that change. It also gave me time for myself, for going out walking or running AND maybe most importantly taking care of my family.
And something I did not experience for a long time happened. I was happy to wake up in the morning again. I felt fresh, motivated and happy. I was not depressive anymore.
I launched my website back in november, I launched my shop in december, with 5 different prints, I did my first Christmas market, I launched a new font, Scusi and I started investing a lot of time in that newsletter because I don’t trust social medias anymore.
I did not plan for that newsletter to be part of my business. But I think it has to be part of my creator economy. I just launched a paid subscription and people already subscribed to support my work and my initiative to get my creativity and mental health back.
So for now, I am going to focus on:
Creating great content here for you, making you happy to read my publication and maybe develop a kind of community around it.
Continue to create fonts, lettering and prints. I did launch my first paid post last tuesday talking about the next steps, and next tuesday I will talk about my next projects in lettering and print making. Please consider becoming a paid supporter if you want to follow me along that journey :)
The Typochondriac Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
It is incredible how fast it goes when you are motivated, and also when you work for yourself and try to make a substainable way to live from your art.
We are now end of january and I did not see that last weeks/months passing so fast. It is incredible how fast it goes when you are motivated, and also when you work for yourself and try to make a substainable way to live from your art.
If you think about taking the same journey, part of full time, please really pay attention to your costs. It was a huge surprise to me when I realized how much I could save. And this money you save is less client work you will have to do every month. Also, do a budget to see how much you need each month to live. Many do it already but again I was surprised how many friends don’t really do it. They don’t really know how much money they need each month. They just work full time trying to make as much money as they can. Then, organize your work around your needs and save some time for you to work on personal projects or passive income.
I hope this post will be useful to some of you. Don’t hesitate to answer this email or leave a comment below if you have any questions. This is just my own experience, and it might not work for you. As I said before, we are all different with different family situations. But I see many friends struggling with difficult client work lately so I thought it could be useful to share my own experience. Hope it helps!
Take care and have a nice weekend :)