Switching from freelance to full-time wasn’t easy, but it was definitely the right thing for getting out of feeling “stuck”.
As I’m close to reaching the one year mark in my current position, I thought it would be cool to share what the most important lessons and differences between freelancing and working as UX/UI designer in a product team.
A bit of backstory
(Skip to the list if you don’t like stories—but also know it’s sad to not like stories).
I started out my career as a generalist web designer—the classic combination of Photoshop, Fireworks, [insert visual design tool here] and HTML/CSS skills. I did it for a few years with decent results.
Around October last year, I felt the need to change all that, and simply do more.
My freelance work was stalling a bit. I was losing motivation and, to be honest, the love I had for my work was kind of fading away too.
I needed to do something more meaningful, and I wasn’t happy with the quality of work I was producing.
I knew that it was just a phase, but I also knew I needed to do something about it quickly. I felt the need for a change, so I set some goals for myself: get more uncomfortable, and get better at my craft.
Regaining confidence in my work was a priority, so I decided to invest some of my work savings, apply for a UX/UI course, and polish my portfolio. A fresh start, if you like.
I decided to apply to Designlab’s UX Academy, so I took some time off from my freelance gigs to avoid “design noise” and dedicated 100% of my free time to it while working a part-time job. With the help of a great community, and two amazing mentors, I finished the course in a little under six months.
Having a community of like-minded people around me made all the difference. There were people on the course with less experience than me, and others with more. Some even came from completely different work backgrounds.
The community experience helped me to validate my hunch: that this freelance thing wasn’t for me. I needed to work in a team—no more solo.
By the end of UX Academy, I’d added many new UX techniques to my toolbelt—especially UX research—and I’d refined and improved many of the skills I already had. Within a few weeks, I had interviews lined up and some interesting offers were coming my way.
The hard work paid off: before long, I accepted a UX/UI design job at money.co.uk. Fast forward a year, and I can confidently say I’ve grown more as a designer in the past 12 months than ever before.
So here’s how making the jump from freelance generalist, to freelance specialist, to full-time specialist helped me.