Career

Five Freelancers On How They Made The Transition From 9-to-5

Hula-hooping, making jewellery, social media, taking pictures and making art are usually considered hobbies. But can you turn your hobby into a real job? Will work be less effort if you’re doing something you are genuinely passionate about?

We spoke to five different freelancers who decided to take the leap into freelance work. We asked them about leaving the daily grind (and their financial stability) and how they make a living from doing what they love.

Here’s how they do it.

Know when it’s the right time

For most freelancers, daydreaming at work was more than just an occasional distraction at 3pm in the afternoon. Being distracted became a significant detriment to their 9-5 job. Arianna is now a freelance photographer after realising she couldn’t focus at work anymore because all she could think about was her photography.

“Whenever I was working my other job or doing something else, I was constantly thinking about what I’d like to be doing instead, like projects, networking or thinking of new ideas. It was then that I knew it was time to start putting photography first.”

Nora, a freelance silversmith, decided it was the right time because if not now, when? Nora discovered silversmithing in India and decided then to send resources and materials back to Australia to pursue her new career.

“As I was working the daily grind I noticed my ambitions were beginning to fade which was extremely daunting to me. I felt I had the essence of my youth in the palm of my hands and needed to act now. But it wasn’t an easy process.”

Be aware of the challenges

Having no alarm or choosing when you want to work may seem like the dream, but it’s important to remember that it’s not going to be stress-free. In fact, managing yourself as a freelancer tends to be the opposite.

Bex is a freelance artist and says that the hardest part is answering to yourself.

“It was hard realising it was all on me. You’ve got no boss or pay cheque at the end of the week to motivate you. That’s scary and empowering at the same time. You have multiple jobs — you’re an accountant, a marketing manager, a personal assistant and so much more. You’re not just an artist.”

And of course, trying to support yourself financially is not going to be simple.

Gemma is a circus performer and entertainer who had to move back in with her parents to save money on rent. She didn’t socialise for months as she built her business.

“I didn’t socialise or leave the country for nine months until my very first event. When I started, it was so hard to sacrifice my social life and festival lifestyle in order to make my dreams come true. I experienced a lot of FOMO and I drifted away from a lot of people.

“I was in debt from my endeavour for the first six months,” says Nora, who spent thousands of dollars on materials and tools. “You think you make a lot of money but then you rinse it when you buy more equipment.”

You need to be able to network

Our freelancers say that putting yourself out there is crucial when you are your own brand.

“That’s the hardest part,” says Lizy, a freelance social media marketing manager. “I had to put a lot of time into going to events where I could meet other people and that became very time consuming. I’d be going to multiple networking functions every week. It’s far more than a 9 to 5 role.”

Start with the people around you, as they will be your biggest supporters.

“I managed to build enough clients from networking with my beautiful friends and family which allowed me to branch out more,” says Nora.

“And you need to offer value to your clients and build genuine relationships with them. Not only with them, but with other creatives as well,” recommends Arianna, who has made a name for herself as a go-to photographer in Melbourne.

Never forget to value yourself

Being proud of yourself is incredibly important when you venture into building your own business.

“I feel really proud when I tell people what I do with my life, because I am genuinely doing something I love,” says Gemma. “I work at my business every waking hour of every day, but it’s not work when you truly believe in what you are doing.”

“You need to have faith in yourself,” says Lizy. “No one knows as much about you and your company as you, so own it! You need to back yourself 100% of the time. I would be lying if I said it was a breeze and I had everything figured out. The best things are worth fighting for, aren’t they?”

When you are your own business, you have to sell yourself.

“This is the most difficult and rewarding thing I have ever done and it feels like it’s taken my whole life to build up to this and say, ‘yes I am an artist’, and then to actually own that,” Bex tells us.

Remember to appreciate the process

Nothing good ever comes easy, our freelancers remind us.

“It’s scary but it’s also exciting,” says Arianna. “The best part of it for me is the continuous growth. I’m always learning new things and challenging myself.”

Remember to look forward to what will come in the future —“I’m so excited for what I’m going to do each day and all the things I want to explore and create,” says Bex. “I’m doing something I love everyday. I feel more fulfilled, I’m spending less money to fill a void and I feel abundant.”

“You have to let the roots of the plants grow,” Nora tells us. “In time, day by day, you water and nurture the plants until you can watch the flowers bloom.”


Sam is a freelance writer passionate about sub-cultures, oddballs of the world and music. She runs a Melbourne music website and writers banter for VICE, The LAD Bible, and other websites. You can find her on Twitter at @hamsoward.