If you have a “work to live, don’t live to work” mentality, going freelance promises the elusive work-life balance that many covet, but few actually achieve. That’s exactly why Duncan Coleman quit his full-time job in 2017 and turned to freelancing.
“I wanted to focus on other things in my life, basically,” he says. “Work on other creative projects, and have more time for myself and my relationships.” Duncan is a growth consultant who specialises in working with b2b, pre-seed to Series A startups.
“I had originally decided to just quit my job and I didn't have a clear plan of how I was going to make money, but I was planning to go travelling for a year and take a year out. I kind of thought, ‘well, I'll just figure out what to do’, but my boss at the time said ‘oh, you know, I think you might be a good candidate for freelance work or consulting.’ That was the thing that really tipped the balance and made me think I can do it.”
But despite having support from his manager and wider professional network, the plunge into freelancing wasn’t as plain sailing as he expected. Like any self-employed professional, Duncan soon realised just how much work goes into finding work.
“The main challenge for me was finding work, that was the most stressful part of being a freelancer and it was really difficult for me,” he says. “Originally, I had quite a good network from my full-time positions and I got my first few jobs through that network. But there was only so much that network seemed to be able to deliver. So I had to do quite a lot of hustling, and that was really hard.”
On top of having to find work, another huge challenge is setting boundaries with clients, and not overworking for the sake of people-pleasing. “At the start, there were lots of those kinds of challenges. When you're a freelancer, sometimes it's easy to feel like you are disposable — that's a very strong word, but you’re in a more precarious situation. If a company has to cut back they're going to cut back on their freelancers. So as a result, I think the tendency could be to try and over-deliver and work extra unbilled hours to make sure the client feels you're doing a really good job, which I think is an easy habit to get into. That's the psychological dynamic I was experiencing when I first started.”
Duncan came across Passionfruit at the end of 2021, which really changed the game for him.
“This is where Passionfruit has been really amazing for me. They've been able to find a lot of jobs for me and it's taken off a lot of the pressure for that reason.”
“I had actually experimented with another platform that was of a similar nature and I didn't have a great experience. I didn't get work and also I found the platform to be quite clunky. So what resonated with me about Passionfruit was that I just loved the branding and thought it was kind of playful while being to the point.”
He explains that Passionfruit offers him clients and projects tailor-made to him, which avoids any awkward client relationships. “They know me and they know what I offer, so I always feel like when they match me to projects, the matching is really spot on,” he explains. “That's another thing that is really noticeable...They know intimately what the business wants, and they know intimately what I can do, so having that all clarified before you start a project is amazing.”
Another plus? With every Passionfruit project, he adds something new to his skillset. “In every project, I've worked on I'm coming into it with expertise that I can offer immediately. But on the other hand, when you’re adapting that expertise to a new business there are always new things you learn. There's always more to learn.”
He adds that not only does he know the market better but he knows where he fits in better, too “[Passionfruit] helped me refine what role I should play and how I can position myself to startups. They have all this expertise of knowing the market and knowing what startups are after, so that was really useful.”
When he thinks back at his time as a freelancer before Passionfruit, he recalls the anxiety of not being able to find work. Today, Duncan says he’s confident that he can easily find work. Not only that but he’s reached a point where he’s having to turn down projects because he’s fully booked. But he still makes time for his life outside of work, of course.