How I went from shop assistant to freelance web designer in 3 months

If you're going to read my blog posts every week, I want you to know who they're from. I want you to know about my past, my journey as a designer and how I can help you.

Basically, I want us to become friends!

So if you have a spare 10 minutes and you're curious about who these emails are from, read on. I'm getting brutally honest about my journey today.

The start of it all

In 2010 I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. One day I wanted to be a teacher, the next day I wanted to be a writer. So, I didn't do anything. I waitressed in Pizza Hut for a while so I could at least bring in a bit of cash, and I worked in telesales for day. (One day of cold calling and I was outta there.)

In 2011, I worked as a shop assistant for Calvin Klein Jeans. It wasn't the most glamorous job but it paid the bills. My boss became seriously ill and had to leave for six months, so I took her place as manager and learned what it takes to manage a department, deal with angry customers, handle employees, work ridiculous hours and hustle towards sales goals (or suffer the wrath of Head Office if I didn't.)

I didn't know it at the time, but I was learning what it took to be my own boss.

During all of this, I had been blogging. It was my hobby and I LOVED it. You see, when I was younger I wanted to be a fiction writer and someone in the industry had told me to start a blog to get my work out there, so I did.

My fiction blog eventually turned into a personal style blog called Flower Child Vintage.

While I slaved away as a shop assistant, my little blog grew and people started asking who had designed my blog (me).

To cut a long story short, I realized I loved designing, so I saved every penny I could to buy a crappy laptop from the reductions aisle in PC World. I invested Photoshop and Illustrator. I took lots of online courses and classes. I interned for other designers, and I created dozens of practice websites and brand identities so I could gain experience.

My skillset grew and so did my blog audience, so I decided to see how much money I could really make from doing what I loved. I was sick of working at a shop. I was sick of standing all day. I was sick of working my ass off earning minimum wage while I made thousands in sales each day for The Man. It wasn't the kind of life I wanted and it didn't provide me with the freedom I craved. 

One day, I created a special blog design offer (which was £50 for a blog design, hah!), tweeted it out multiple times, and booked five clients.

In total, I only made £250, but it was something.

It made me realize I could turn this design thing into a real job. I could actually earn money doing something I loved.

Sure, I couldn't live on £250 a month. But if I had the brains to make £250, I figured I could make £500. And if I could make £500, I could figure out how to double it and keep building my income from there.

If you can figure out how to start something, there's no limit to where you can go. - TWEET THIS

Now that I knew I could potentially succeed at this be-my-own-boss thing, I set myself a three month deadline. I told myself: In three months, you're going to quit your job and start freelancing. 

Here's a breakdown of what I did over those three months to prepare for going freelance!

Month One: Saving Money

I knew I couldn't just quit my job and leap into freelancing because it was too unsafe and unpredictable; I'm the kind of girl that loves going on adventures and doing challenging things as long as it's not stupidly risky. I'm an adventurer, but I'm not daft. 

That's why I knew the first and most important step I had to take towards living my dream was saving as much money as I could. I had some savings already, but I wanted to be on the safe side and have even more. I made it my core mission to save everything I could. 

I cut down my monthly expenses. I stopped spending on things that weren't necessary (like shoes and Starbucks), and I sold things I didn't use anymore.

It seems a little sad, but it was worth it. I knew that keeping my spending to a minimum was only temporary, and it would help me feel financially secure when I quit my job to become a freelance designer. That feeling of security was worth it, believe me. 

Month Two: Planning

Don't go quitting your day job without a plan. That's what someone said to me back then, and it stuck in my mind like glue. 

I planned out what my design services were going to be, how much they would cost, and how many clients I needed to take on that year to earn enough money to live comfortably. Then I spent some time figuring out who my ideal client was, what her dreams and struggles were, and where I could find her. 

That was it. 

You don't need some 20-page plan filled with long words you don't understand and useless information like how many kids your dream client has. You just need a simple plan that feels fun and easy to follow!

Month Three: Connecting

I want to point out that I'd been doing other things each month too, like creating my own website, creating social media accounts, creating a business bank account and registering my business. But I'll go into all that in a different post. For now, let's continue focusing on the main things I did over the three months prior to me quitting my day job. 

In the first month, I planned out how much I needed to save and I cut down on my expenses. 

In the second month, I made a simple business plan. 

In the third month, I began connecting with as many other bloggers and designers as I could. I knew that the best way to get clients was through referrals from other designers, so I made it my mission to make designer friends. 

I did this by connecting with other designers on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram. If I saw a designer I thought I'd really get along with, I made an effort to tweet their blog posts, support their work, and get in touch. 

Just from making a conscious effort to do this for one month, I made dozens of great designer friends, and we're still friends to this day!

Hustling through year 1

I made £35 profit.

Yeah, I'm going to let that one sink in for a sec.

Don't get me wrong- I had enough clients and I made thousands of pounds. But silly, naive me spent all of my income on equipment and software I needed to run my business. So when I worked out my profit and loss at the end of the year, I had made £35 profit and tanked the rest on expenses.

The moral of the story? Track your finances every month and make sure you keep your expenses low in your first year of business. You can invest more in your business in the future, when things are more stable and your business is flourishing. 

Fortunately, I had savings I lived off of for my first year of business, but I wish I'd done things differently. 

Yes, you do need to make investments in your business. But make sure every investment is truly a priority before purchasing it. 

Related Post: 5 Ugly Truths About Being A Freelance Designer

Year 2 to 4 as a freelance designer

I'm happy to report that my profits have increased with every year that has passed. In fact, in 2015 I tripled what I'd earned the year before. Realizing I'd done that without even meaning to was one of the proudest moments I've ever had in my little business.

There were some bad times, like the time a client made me cry, the times three clients tried to get out of paying their final fee even though they loved the work I'd done for them, and the time I went traveling and came back to zero clients and no more money in my savings account. (You can read alllll about that here.)

But the good times outnumber the bad ones. 

I've had the honour of working with badass ladypreneurs like Halley Gray and Shenee Howard on their branding.

I've been able to help dozens of women start their business journey. A journey to more independence, freedom and personal growth.

I've gone from struggling to afford a McDonalds meal to being able to surprise my little sister with Beyoncé tickets just because I wanted to and I could afford to.

I now have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. (In fact, in November I'm leaving the dull English Winter and I'm spending three months abroad!)

This was a pretty long article, but here's what I hope you've taken from this:

If you haven't started your business yet, just start.

There will be bad times- times when you wish you had never quit your day job.

But there will also be times when you feel ridiculously blessed that you have your own business, forge your own path, and can spend your time however you want.

No matter how many bad times I have in my business, it will always be the best thing I've ever created. The rocky path from the start of my business to where I am now has taught me more than I could have ever bargained for, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

Where is my business at now?

I still design brands and websites for women who want to follow their dreams and make a living do what they love, but I also help other designers build profitable, sustainable businesses. It's something I started doing a year ago with The Shelancers Club, but I'm taking it even further now. 

In January 2016, I launched Social Splash, a 100-page ebook + audio series designed to help freelancers find clients on social media. 

In June 2016, I launched Organize & Automate, a course that helps brand & web designers streamline their design process. 

And I'm super excited because I've opened up my coaching sessions for designers again! Last year, I loved working one-on-one with other designers and helping them improve their businesses. Now, I get to do it every month!

Helping other designers has always been my passion and I can't wait to do more of it.

If you're a freelance designer (or you want to be), leave a comment and let's get to know each other!

After reading this, I'm hoping you'll feel comfortable sharing your story with me. Whether you're stuck in a dead-end day job, you're struggling to get your business off the ground or you've built a business you're incredibly proud of, I want to hear about it.

Whatever you want to say, I look forward to it.

Nesha xo

Nesha Woolery

I build beautiful brands & websites for passionate entrepreneurs!