The working world is a cryptical space for recent graduates. Beyond the tunnel vision required for final year success lies a world of possibilities so infinite it can be hard to know where to begin.
Luckily, It’s Nice That is here to help. From soul destroying internships and possibly illegal working conditions to the finding the kind of work which makes you happy to get out of bed in the morning, we’ve been through it all and more.
With a little help from our friends, we’ve decided to take a closer look at one of the big questions for newcomers in the creative industry: how do I know if I want to get a job or be freelance?
In an age where Instagram rules supreme, and anyone, anywhere armed with a smartphone and a vision can build a reputation and a personal brand, it is easier than ever to gain visibility and land new work from the most heavyweight of clients. Sounds simple, right? Well, not quite. Youthful enthusiasm is no match for experience, especially where clients are concerned.
We turned to the experts — 3D studio More and More, product designer Yinka Ilori, graphic designer Mirko Borsche, author and brand consultant Otegha Uwagba, _Apartamento_’s Nacho Alegre, Same Paper’s Jiawei Liu — and asked them to weigh in on the question.
Tom Darracott and Carl Burgess, founders of More and More
“In terms of the perspective of a graduate it’s much easier these days to get exposure and put your work out there to reach a wide audience, but it’s difficult to translate that into half-decent, paid work. Working at a studio for a while gives you such valuable experience in how to actually ‘do the work’. Using your time efficiently, working to deadlines (i.e. working fast), dealing with clients etc… It’s those practicalities that are as important in this job as the creative side. What we provide is a service at the end of the day.
“As to how you would know if you want to get a job or be freelance, that’s up to the individual. Personally, I would advise everyone to work at a couple of places to pick up those precious skills that will stand you in good stead both practically and creatively.”
Bertie Brandes and Charlotte Roberts, founders of Mushpit
“There’s a lot to be said for ‘real’ jobs: the company Uber account, the ‘meeting’ expenses you can claim when actually you’re just meeting your friend for brunch and a debrief. Gradually though the monotony of seeing the same people day in day out expecting something productive out of you every.single.day (I mean really) can be soul destroying. Sometimes you often end up staring into your dark, black laptop screen like the SpongeBob meme as the meaningless of life deepens within your psyche during the 4pm slump. Lol.
“In all seriousness though, it is useful to have had an actual job at some point before you go freelance. You often feel like you’re winging it when you’re a true sole trader and often admin things like how to make an impressive deck, excel your expenses or silly marketing words that actually help loads (assets, Dropbox, usage, key influencer target market, bleurh!) are often learnt on the job from your wiser and more financially secure elders.
“Also get a good accountant — really cannot stress this enough. It is money so well spent and you can claim back accountancy fees anyway on your yearly expenses so win-win. Another point to stress is that freelance can be completely anxiety inducing and often you’ll be so busy you want to throw up or equally look at your google calendar of free time for the whole month and feel similarly nauseous. Basically you feel a bit constantly sick?”
"Freelance can be completely anxiety inducing and often you’ll be so busy you want to throw up or equally look at your google calendar of free time for the whole month and feel similarly nauseous."Charlotte Roberts — Mushpit
Designer Yinka Ilori
“My advice to any soon-to-be-graduate would be to go into the industry with an open mind and try to get a internship first before deciding to go freelance, because it could the best thing you’ve ever done or the worst thing you’ve ever done. Doing an internship first gives you the opportunity to work on live projects and allows you to understand yourself as an artist or designer. Having my first internship at Lee Broom straight after my BA Furniture & Product degree enabled to understand the type of designer I wanted to be and what narratives I wanted to tell in my work.”
Nacho Alegre, Creative director and founder of Apartamento Magazine and Servicio Continuo
“I’ve been self-employed since I was a student, and I never conceived working within a company or for another person. As a photographer, really, I didn’t see other option when I started, but many times I wish I did have a job.
“It’s a mistake think that as a freelancer you enjoy more freedom than as an employee. If you are freelance you will need to be able to tolerate uncertainty. To plan your finances. To learn about medical insurances and taxes. To learn to ask for money and chase payments. You will be asked to work for free. You will not leave your home for days working in your underwear and eating frozen pizza. You will probably have less holidays than your peers with a job. You will be forced to have holidays when no one else is on holiday. You will cancel holidays. Instead of one boss, you will have a thousand clients who will be your bosses. You will learn to be a boss. Often you will think that your work is bad and your life meaningless because your work will be your life. Sometimes, a few times, you will do a great job and everything will make sense. If this sounds exciting, you are made to be a freelancer.”
"Often you will think that your work is bad and your life meaningless, because your work will be your life. Sometimes, few times, you will do a great job and everything will make sense. If this sounds exciting, you are made to be a freelancer."Nacho Alegre
Apartamento: Still lifes, concept by Ana Dominguez and Omar Sosa, photography by Nacho Alegre
Mirko Borsche, founder of Bureau Borsche
“As a newbie in the industry, I would recommend working for a few studios first, before I’d go freelancing. One thing you won’t learn during your studies, is how to run your office, so that’s a practical and easy way to find out all the different philosophies without taking the risk on your own company.”
Bureau Borsche: Tunica Magazine
Bureau Borsche: Tunica Magazine
Otegha Uwagba, author and brand consultant
“I think right now there’s a tendency to glamourise freelancing and self-employment, and even though it’s a way of working I really enjoy I think it’s important for recent graduates to realise that’s not the _only _way to work. I spent my first five years after uni working a 9 — 5 in advertising, and whilst I eventually decided that wasn’t for me, I absolutely wouldn’t change that experience for anything. I learned so much from those years – how to work well with and get the best out of other people, how to manage clients, best practice for the industry and the type of work I was doing… I think taking a job working for someone else can be really important for your professional development, and just generally a great education about the working world. That’s by no means a mandate that you absolutely have to get a 9 — 5 as soon as you graduate – but don’t completely rule it out either, and don’t put pressure on yourself to be able to make a living as a freelancer at a stage in your career where you likely have very little experience.”
Jiawei Liu, founder Same Paper
“Both getting a job and being freelance need high levels of self-control, and graduates should be aware that neither one is going to be easy. In very competitive areas, such as Shanghai, everyone works really hard to obtain what they dream about, and a lot of people have a routine job and freelance projects at the same time. I think the graduates should ask themselves what’s the future they would like to have, know what they don’t have, then make a personal plan.”
Supported by Lecture in Progress
If you’re after more advice and insight into creative work and careers, check out Lecture in Progress, It’s Nice That’s sister company. Student membership is free and includes exclusive promotions from partner companies. To sign up, visit lectureinprogress.com