I’m an independent designer and developer based in Calgary Canada. I’ve been working as a designer for just over 6 years, with over 3 of those years independent. When I went out on my own, I saw freelancing as a stepping stone to something else - I thought that eventually I would have to scale as an agency or move in-house. But I found that freelancing ended up being more than just the ‘in-between’, but the preferred mode of work for myself. It allows me to work on projects I’m interested in, hone in on my skillset, and collaborate with other talented designers and creatives across disciplines. I love working for myself, but it wasn’t an easy journey to get here.
The first year of freelancing was the most challenging year of my life. The work was hard, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to succeed, and above all else, I didn’t feel like I had anyone to ask questions to, commiserate with, or celebrate alongside. My mission with Fast Forward Freelance is to give you a clear view of what that first year of freelancing was like, the biggest questions and challenges your likely to face, so you can feel more prepared, comfortable, and calm as you face the future of independent work.
Despite the learning curve and roller-coaster journey, freelancing is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s transformed my life, brought me confidence and empowerment I’ve never felt before, and given me financial freedom to earn a great income on my own. I love my work and I’m so proud of it. Since hitting my three-year freelance anniversary, I’ve reflected on how lucky I am to have found my little pocket of success, and have felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards my community and support system. I want to share all that I’ve learned with you, in hopes that it may help you find your own success.
This course is not prescriptive - I will not be telling you that you need to have a niche, a marketing strategy, or follow my 10 step plan in order to succeed. Independent work is fluid, and I think that there are multiple ways to find success, and you’re going to find the best path for yourself by combining your own experience, values, and motivations. A lot of this course will discuss my mindset around freelancing. This is personal, and your mindset may be different, but these frame works have been helpful for me to grow and thrive, and I hope they’re helpful for you too. The best advice I’ve ever received is to collect as much advice as possible, and apply what resonates with you. I’d encourage you to take that approach with my words as well.
I’ve created this course to share my experience as someone who very intentionally set out to freelance, and be in it for the long term. I think this course is best suited for creatives who want to work for themselves for an extended period.
My work is primarily web design and Webflow development. A lot of my experience will be directly tied to this kind of work, but I think some of the same principles can apply to adjacent domains. Web work is inherently different than other disciplines like illustration, particularly around pricing and intellectual property, so if that’s you, I’m not saying this won’t be helpful, but that you’ll likely need to seek out supplementary information in those areas. This isn’t a web design course and I won’t be teaching you any design principles - it’s basically a freelance business course.
Despite the name Fast Forward Freelance, this course will not ‘fast forward’ you through all the hard parts of working for yourself. I don’t think there is any way to bypass lessons you can only learn from doing a certain volume of work, succeeding, and occasionally making mistakes, but I do think it’s helpful to know what’s coming.
The name came to me because I’m the type of person who will fast forward a scary movie to see what happens, only to go back and watch it with more enjoyment because I know what’s coming. That’s the idea here. Give you a glimpse of all the hard, scary parts ahead, so that you can enjoy the ride and be more prepared when they come.
Let’s start with a little bit about my background, so you know where I’m coming from.
I am someone who always loved visual things - magazines, notebooks, art, design. My high school art teacher introduced the possibility of a career in graphic design, and as soon as I figured out that that was a job someone had, I wanted to become a designer.
I went to OCADU in Toronto, and graduated with a bachelor of design in 2017. I loved school, but didn’t love Toronto, so I moved back home to Calgary after graduation. My first job out of school was initially a two day a week position at a small studio. I was the first hire for a team of two women who had been running their own business for five years. My very first day with them, I sat in on a meeting with a potential new web development partner for a project, after another had backed out of a project. When we left the meeting, I told them I could probably build the project myself in Webflow, and they let me. My role quickly transformed to four days a week, and over the next three years, I contributed to dozens of projects as a web designer and Webflow developer.
Early 2020, I started thinking about my next steps as a designer. I felt like I finally had enough experience that I could jump into any project and make meaningful contributions, but I was also starting to feel burnt out on the volume of development work I was doing. Then, the pandemic hit and everything got shaken up. My work was cut back to two days a week, and out of necessity I started to look for freelance work.
I signed up for freelance platforms like upwork, but got nowhere. It felt so frustrating, because I knew I could do great work for clients, I just needed a chance! I started telling friends and family that I was freelancing, and eventually got my first few contracts from real-life contacts. The first from my then boss, then, from a coworker, and then, from my mother in law.
At this time I was still working at the studio, and it was starting to pick back up again. I was at a cross roads - I could dive full in with freelancing, or I could stay in studio. I really enjoyed my job and I had learned so much working there. The timing of this cross roads coincided with my three year review, I had asked for more money. In return had been told that I was already being paid more than other designers with a similar skill level. I knew the rate was standard in the market, but I strongly believed I wasn’t a market-standard designer. But even though that was true, I knew that what I was earning wasn’t going to give me the life I wanted. After talking it through with my partner and my family, I decided that I should give myself a chance to work on my own, even if just for a year, to see if I could really make a go at freelancing, to see if I enjoyed it, and to see if I could be financially successful working for myself.
This course will tell the stories, lessons, and advice I have for independent creatives. I’ve split it into 10 main chapters, excluding this introduction. Each chapter has a video, transcript, and sometimes some external resources to explore. I’ve also developed a notion dashboard to accompany the course that is intended as a ‘starter kit’ for your freelance practice. The notion dashboard has a task management database, studio pipeline, and handy admin resources like email templates. It’s based on the system that I use, but simplified to the essentials. I’ll go over it in more detail in the ‘management’ chapter.
You can explore each chapter at your own pace, and you’ll always have access to these materials. Every month, I’ll also do a livestream event on a particular topic, and host office hours for open questions and discussion. You’ll have access to those for 6 months after purchase, and the option to extend access for a subscription.
I’m so excited to share this with you. Freelancing changed my life, and I want to empower you to see how it can change yours.
Let’s fast forward, together.