Idiom: Wear many hats. If someone wears many hats, they have different roles or tasks to perform. As a freelancer, this is not an option. It’s a requirement. When you launch out alone you MUST assume many roles that were once distributed to other people in your work space. You’ve become the account manager, the head of finances, the art director, the creative director, the production designer, the graphic designer, and whatever else needs to be accounted for. That requires some learning on your part to ensure invoices are billed out, clients are tended to, emails are read and replied within a reasonable time span, all the things.
After almost a year working for myself full time, I’ve adopted all the roles and now I’ve acquired a paragraph worth of titles that won’t fit on a business card. So which one do I present to new clients? Well recently I’ve been assigned the role as a production designer and another as a creative director. Of course creative director sounds much more important, but I’m flexible. I try to mention in less than a breath or two that I can go from brainstorming to production all on my own. Working from client input, I have had to do all the roles in between the starting line and the finished product. But I don’t worry about wearing all my hats simultaneously, that would be exhausting. I’ve learned to switch gears mid stream and change hats to get multiple projects done. While waiting on feedback for a printed magazine, I change over to icon development, then to presentation boards. All with different audiences, goals, and outputs. Something of a Swiss army knife but in human form.
Does it get stressful? Yes. No point in sugar coating it, it isn’t easy sometimes to halt working in one mindset to work on something completely different. But once you do it long enough it gets a little easier, or less noticeable that you’re doing it. Like with any skill, expertise comes with consistent practice and patience. It took me just around a solid year of working to feel like I’m not tripping over my own feet.
This career path isn’t for those that can’t hold out, and I wouldn’t assume that everyone that tries succeeds even then. If you’re against the idea of adopting different skills and don a few new hats to get work done, then you might be out of luck in the freelancing field. If you work better doing only one thing and letting others wear their singular hats around you, then I hope you find that office or cooperative work space that suits your needs. As for me, I’ll keep adding to my hat rack.