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I Left Corporate America to be a Freelance Graphic Designer


Transitioning my Freelance Graphic Design Business to Full Time Self Employment

My Story (so far)

I remember her office was always very clean, but not the uninviting type of clean with a sharp lemon scent that singes your nose (I don’t recall any scent, actually). Our hour together was nearly up, so our discussion was reaching its conclusion. Maybe we had been discussing my current employment or my intentions to drop out of college, but whatever it was, it doesn’t matter. She told me something that planted a seed that has been ruminating in the back of my brain for the past 6 years.

“It sounds like you should work for yourself one day.”

I didn’t believe her. I chuckled and rebutted. 

I’m not capable of running my own business. She only said that to help me feel confident. She is my therapist, after all; it’s her job to help me find my confidence.

But it was the first time an adult whom I highly respected and trusted said anything like that with such sincerity. Someone who I trusted to tell me only the truth. 

So I left the counseling center with a twinge of confusion. As I grew older, this confusion gradually evolved into curiosity and with self-confidence, the curiosity ultimately turned into a dream.

Finding My Self Confidence

The seed that my therapist planted had four years to grow.

In those four years, I:

  • Dropped out of college
  • Quit my night job (and 10 minutes after quitting I totaled my car)
  • Started dating a tall, dark, and handsome man (eventually married this tall, dark. & handsome man)
  • Found more fulfilling & enjoyable employment
  • Bought a car with my own money
  • Moved out of my childhood home
  • Rescued my first dog & kitty
  • Went back to school one year after dropping out, eventually deciding on a Public Relations degree
    • I took several graphic design classes & fell in love with the craft
  • Landed a paid marketing internship (I was ECSTATIC)

There were a lot of downs at first. But once I focused on the things I could control – where I work, who I spend my time with, what my time is spent doing – I started feeling more confident as I reached the goals that I set for myself. The idea of working for myself one day didn’t seem quite as unreachable as it had once felt.

Starting My Own Freelance Graphic Design Business

I launched my freelance graphic design business in December of 2020, Haley Rae Design.

To prepare for the launch of my freelance graphic design business, I:

  • Created a simple website that included:
    • The graphic design services I was offering
    • My vision statement and goals for my business
    • Information about me, both personal and professional
    • Contact information
  • Created social media accounts
    • I chose to focus on Facebook and Instagram
  • I chose a launch date of December 1, 2020
    • Setting a launch date ensured that I got everything done that I wanted to get done

How I found my first freelance graphic design clients:

  • I posted on social media, letting my followers know that I was looking for graphic design work
  • My first clients were friends or friends of friends
  • Word of mouth – satisfied clients referred me to other business owners
  • Networking – getting to know the people in your community leads to connections with local business owners
  • I focused on small & local businesses
  • I never accepted free work!

How I Found the Right Kind of Freelance Clients

The “right” kind of clients are the ones with large or ongoing projects that pay WELL. There is no trick to finding these types of clients, you just have to keep trying. For several months, I was just waiting for the “right” clients to throw me a bone – and sure enough, they did. And luckily for me, I impressed them enough to be referred to several more “right” clients.

Here’s how I kept finding bigger & better freelance work:

  • I raised my prices to reflect what I believed my work was worth
    • And I kept raising them as I became more skilled & knowledgeable 
  • I posted on social media fairly consistently
  • I applied to freelance positions on Indeed constantly
  • I was very responsive to my clients & client leads
  • I didn’t accept clients that weren’t willing to pay my current rates

Enjoying the Journey

The most influential thing that led me to be able to transition my freelance business to full-time was prioritizing my mental health. I had to slow down & put less pressure on my business.

A post about the toxicity of hustle culture is coming soon.

How I Knew it was Time to Leave my Office Job to be a Full-Time Freelancer

There were so many factors that played into the certainty I felt when deciding to quit my office job. The bottom line is, that every freelancer’s journey to self-employment is different (so it’s important not to compare your journey to anyone else’s!). I rely on instinct; a feeling of certainty. I set financial goals, but I knew that no matter how much money I had saved, the decision to quit my job would be extremely daunting.

Admittedly, I was overworked and overstressed for a few weeks. What made my anxiety worse was knowing that I had a difficult decision ahead to make: Do I turn down freelance work or do I quit my office job? I knew that I was not the type of person who would ever feel fulfilled working a 9-5 office job. I wanted to run my own business.

The decision was made for me one night when I told my husband, “The only reason I didn’t quit today was because I was afraid of what other people would think about me taking the risk.”

Well, that put the nail in the coffin. My husband said something along the lines of, “Sounds like you need to quit.”

I was prepared to take the risk (nervous & afraid, but ready), and so began my official transition to full-time self-employment as a freelance graphic designer.

The Future of Haley Rae Creative

I am so excited to finally spend my time exactly as I’d like to spend it. I have had so many goals and dreams I aspired to pursue, and now I get to do so! I have always been a creative, and I know that this career change will allow me to truly become myself.

I’ll learn a lot about myself. 

I’ll learn a lot about running my own business.

I’m already learning more skills as a graphic designer.

I’m meeting some pretty awesome people, working with and for them.

If you’ve followed me from the beginning, thank you so much for your support and encouragement. If you’re new here- welcome! This is only the beginning.


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