• Community, Advice

How the recession built a freelance revolution (and my career)

In 2007 I graduated with my BFA ready to take on the world with my avant-garde mixed media paintings, no one could stop me – except oh yeah, all of sudden I had a lot of debt and needed to pay bills. With my experience in design, I decided to suck it up and apply to jobs. That was the responsible thing to do right?

I remember I filled a single lined notebook noting jobs I had applied four or five pages deep before I realized I had to rethink my approach. This is where I have the recession to thank for flinging me into the flexible world of freelance.

My story is common: With job opportunities at their worst and companies needing creative work without having the ability to hire full time, I found my place in providing graphic and web design services by the hour.

Today, thankfully, the job market is doing better, but many creative professionals are choosing to keep their flexibility. With the opportunity for creating and learning from online courses, content marketing, and finding gigs remotely without relying on craigslist – the environment is prime for the entrepreneur’s spirit.

I am fortunate that I found a flexible way to continue pursuing my passion of creating art and paying bills. That is why I created a universe for other creative professionals to find the resources, advice and confidence to forge their own path called Creative Living Works.

The most important component to embracing the freelancer’s lifestyle is to not be afraid to learn something new. I’ve gone from traditionally being trained as an artist and graphic designer, to developing complex user based websites because I wasn’t afraid to push my boundaries.

No, I don’t have my degree in computer science, but I didn’t let it stop me from learning online and practicing on my own until I was able to do it for myself and for clients. Self-doubting is the enemy of your potential to grow. How will you know that you cannot do something until you try?

So here we are in the age of the entrepreneur, creatives forging their own way and challenging the 9-5 norm. Freelancing isn’t for everyone of course, fill out this checklist to figure out if you should be your own boss. For those who meet the criteria to manage multiple avenues, there are so many ways to bring in flexible income while pursuing your dreams.

Even if your passion isn’t the money-maker, there are some great options to support yourself in the meantime. Start off by offering a deal to friends and family to gain experience and ask in return that they spread the word about your new gig.

Another key reason freelancing is possible for more people today is healthcare availability like Obamacare and the Freelancers Union benefit options. I was fortunate enough to be living in Massachusetts where Commonwealth Care was available for me to be protected without company health benefits. (Thanks Mitt Romney even though you didn’t want it to be brought up on your presidential campaign!) It has been long enough and considering his speaking out against Trump; he might not mind the shout out now…

Working on your own or collaborating with a team, the freedom of working flexible is rewarding. It takes some practice of course. We all know that failing is a part of growing -easier said than done, but getting back on the saddle and building a base of reliable clients is the key to a successful freelance career.

Not sure where to start? Join as a free member on and also check out the great resources on Freelancers Union like the contract template and benefits options to protect your future!

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Danielle Festa Danielle Festa is a freelance web and print designer, contemporary artist and founder of Creative Living Works, a website designed to bring together creative professionals across over 20 industries.

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