Since quitting her full-time job in 2014, hand-lettering artist Lauren Hom has been commissioned to create work with major clients including Google, AT&T, and Time Magazine, but Hom’s success didn’t happen overnight.
“It does take a couple of years to get started,” Hom says. “This is arguably the most frustrating time, as it’s when you’re the most hungry and ambitious.” Deciding to freelance full time can be daunting, as it can take years of financial instability to build up a sustainable amount of work. The advantage, Hom says, is in the personal autonomy, getting to set your own goals and projects.
“Everything in life, especially with building a freelance career, happens with compound interest,” Hom says. “You get better and more knowledgeable and gain bigger clients and opportunities.” Almost half of working millennials in the United States are freelancers, and Hom urges new freelancers not to give up if work doesn’t accumulate immediately. “Keep showing up. Don’t quit before the compound interest starts to pay off. Being passionate is the most important thing, you’ll be willing to stick it through when it gets difficult.”
Hom is now a regular speaker at design conferences. She also runs online workshops and creative boot camps, offering advice to people looking to kickstart their own creative careers. “For anyone starting out, the way you talk about yourself and your business is the way you set the bar for other people,” she says. “Talk about it as a serious business. You have the ability to set that bar — set it really high.”
One of the biggest disadvantages of freelancing can be the solitude. “It can get really lonely,” Hom says. “I went freelance at 23 and none of my friends had started freelancing yet. I was on my own reading blogs and books.” Hom says that finding networks of support, from friends or other freelancers online, can help you get through the first years of freelancing. “Having support, whether its friends or family, who can lend an ear and support you is super helpful.”
Another change Hom experienced when shifting to freelance was having to manage her own schedule and multiple projects. “It can definitely be overwhelming, and I’m not the most organized by nature,” she says. “Don’t get overwhelmed by all there is to do. The work will get done as long as you put in the effort and work on your skills.”
When Hom first started freelancing, she figured out the basic managerial things for herself, and because her workload wasn’t overwhelming, she could manage. “I wasn’t well versed in it by any means,” she says, adding, “I did everything myself but didn’t have a super high volume of work.” It wasn’t until the work increased that she decided to work with an agent. “Now that I do a higher volume of projects, having an agent is super helpful. All the stuff you aren’t great at doing, outsource. Your brain and time should be focused on what you like doing.” Building a freelance career takes time, but Hom is an example of just how rewarding it can be. “Running your own business and being a freelancer comes with responsibilities, but I think it’s worth it for creative people,” she says. “That’s the thing I love most—I can dictate the work I take on and what I want to produce. I can try new things and experiment with new mediums. Having ownership feels really good.”