Farewell to freelancing: Final lessons learned

~ 14 February 2007 ~

For those who missed the original announcement, I’ve concluded a successful 18-month run at freelancing by taking a position with the LDS Church as Principal Interaction Designer.

With both remorse and relief, and I bid farewell to life as a freelancer. It was a blast while it lasted, and who knows if it’ll be the last time I ever freelance. For archival purposes, noted here are a few final lessons learned over the course of 540 days of self-employment. (See also “10 things in 180 days” and “10 more things in 360 days”.)

You’re a business. Act like one. If you’re not prepared to establish, grow, and manage a business from day one, you shouldn’t go into business for yourself. It’s as simple as that. We creatives tend to leave the entrepreneurship part out of running a freelancing biz. Long and the short of it is, you’ll inevitably hit a point where you can’t do it all. You’ll need help. You’ll need to remove yourself, a lot or a little, from pixels, print, and code. You’ll have to relinquish some control or you’ll never grow beyond a one-man shop. When you arrive at this point, pick up a copy of The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. Or better yet, ping Greg Storey and have him enlighten you with his small biz success stories.

Don’t wait for great ideas to auto-execute. The web economy moves so incredibly fast today. Great ideas won’t turn into profitable action by themselves. If you think you’ve stumbled on that killer idea — one that nobody else is doing, one that others are doing poorly, one that sounds ridiculously simple but deceptively compelling, etc. — the time to act on it was yesterday.

Issa Breibish, Veer’s resident Usability Design & Research expert, once shared the following with me by email:

The idea for the original Flont engine came up over sushi and fish teriyaki and within two weeks we had a working prototype.

That’s swift action.

Secure office space within 6-12 months. One of the most challenging aspects of freelancing is you can’t turn off work. It’s always there; omnipresent in the forefront of your mind, any hour of the day, just about anywhere you are. You need to separate work and play, business and pleasure. Regrettably I never did. I worked entirely at home, and I now look back and wish I would have provided a physical and mental partition between work and family simply by finding office space outside of the home.

You’re not a bank. Remind clients of that. Consider UX Mag’s “Pay Fast. Get Paid Faster” required reading. An excerpt:

I once had lunch with a gentlemen who, at the time, was the CEO of one of the largest freight companies in the world. […] Here is how he told me he set the foundation for his amazing growth. He took a look at his list of money he was waiting to receive from his clients and how long it was taking to get paid. He set out, himself, to visit each and every customer and tell them “We are not a bank. If you want to continue to be our customer then you need to stop treating us like one. You certainly do not want to start paying us like one.” And he was willing to lose a client if they didn’t value the relationship enough to pay promptly.

Smooth out revenue flow with residual income. As a freelancer, I launched Authentic Jobs to assist companies and applicants with targeted job seeking, with the added benefit of creating a more consistent income for myself. Hourly and lump sum billing, as many of you know, isn’t always consistent month to month. Supplementing that income with recurring revenue — hosting, product sales, advertising, a web app, etc. — isn’t only wise but often essential, too.

There’s more to life than business. Howard Cosell, one of the most recognized American sports journalists of our time who covered Monday Night Football, the World Series, the Olympics and other prominent events, was once asked this question: “How would you like to be remembered?” Think he mentioned anything about sports broadcasting, a memorable game, or other seemingly trivial events? Nope. Without missing a beat, he offered the following reply: “Oh, that’s an easy one. A good husband, a good father, a good grandfather. That’s all that matters.”

All of you have the potential to do enact equally important, if not much greater, work outside the walls of work than you’ll ever do within them. Don’t forget that.

And so I bid adieu to freelancing. Best wishes to those of you still fighting the good fight.



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1   Tim ~ 14 February 2007

Amen to that!

I myself am now experiencing the joys of working for the man. Luckily, I have a lot of responsibility. Gotta love stress :-)

2   Mark ~ 14 February 2007

Cameron, congrats again! “10 things in 180 days” is as relevant and valuable to freelancers today as it was for me when I made the leap one year ago. Thanks for the constant inspiration and thoughtful writing!

3   Adrian ~ 14 February 2007

As always, great advice. Thanks for the insight, Cameron, and keep us posted on how the new job turns out.

4   George ~ 14 February 2007

Not sure whether congratulations or commiserations are in order! Good luck with the new job.

I’m 11 months into freelancing and haven’t looked back. The next choice is to continue flying solo or to get some help and become a proper business.

All valid points you make in the post though.

5   Brian Artka ~ 14 February 2007

Excellent advice in the 180 and 360 day articles Cameron. Good luck with the new job, one question though… are you still scheduled to speak at your future events, or is the new job going to conflict with that? Are ya still bowling Sunday night at SXSW? =)

6   Anand ~ 14 February 2007

Congrats Cameron! And thanks for the wisdom.

7   Brian Warren ~ 14 February 2007

Cameron, congrats! The world of freelancing will miss you. Your “10 things learned” posts should be required reading for those making the jump, as I did last year. Best wishes to you working for someone else for awhile.

8   Steve ~ 14 February 2007

Thanks for the tips Cameron… Congrats and bon voyage! As a biz owner, I’m always a tiny little bit happy when someone goes back to the man and gets a job, sorry - have to be honest about that!
I agree 100000% about the office thing - I’ve got an office in the house that 3 of us sit in and it’s getting a bit much sharing it with the house. The good thing is that it’s only an office, no kids toys, no wife’s nonsense, so when I’m here, I’m working and when I’m out of the house in the play room with the kids, I’m playing. But, nevertheless, we’re in search of real office space. Our landlord is a jerk :).
Best of luck with the new gig - you’ll fit in so well with all the other talent there.

9   Cameron Moll ~ 14 February 2007

are you still scheduled to speak at your future events, or is the new job going to conflict with that? Are ya still bowling Sunday night at SXSW?

Yes, I still intend to speak at events currently scheduled.

No, sadly I won’t be able to make it out for bowling now with the date change…

10   John Dilworth ~ 14 February 2007

I love the Howard Cosell quote — How would you like to be remembered?, that statement definitely puts things into perspective.

We’re glad to have you on the team.

11   Deuce ~ 14 February 2007

I don’t know why, but I feel sick to my stomach. I admire your style, taste and especially your keen ability in design.
I promise I don’t know why I feel sick.
Maybe I’m just a softy.
Or maybe I feel like if you are not doing it
anymore, I can’t.
Well enough sobering…
Good Luck with everything.

12   Jonas Flint ~ 14 February 2007


Congratulations with new work. I am both a Freelancer and a member of the LDS Church, and can think of no better employer that can replace one self. It’s like working and serving at the same time.

I hope this doesn’t spell the end for authentic boredom - and good luck!

13   Steve Williams ~ 14 February 2007

Best of luck in the new position!

Surely you’ll find time to finish that book, now you don’t have to worry where the next paycheck is coming from? :-)

14   Cameron Moll ~ 14 February 2007

Absolutely. I have so much free time with 4 little ones at home… :)

15   Jeremy Curry ~ 14 February 2007

God Bless you in your new role - your post is quite inspiring, for those of us who have ever thought about freelancing.

Wish you the best.

16   melissa ~ 14 February 2007

Your articles ring so true!

I wish I read your 180/360 day articles earlier for they illustrate valuable lessons and journies of the freelancer. It made me go back and do a day count my days of freelancing, now totaling 2599.

I still work at home and have found it quite diffucult to distinquish boundries of home life and work - but being at home with my teenage sons has been priceless.

I am not sure if I’ll be able to give up the freedom that freelancing has afforded me but I often think how nice it would be to work for one organization and have direct deposit, vacation days, 401k/profit sharing, weekends off and the ability to focus on one site and not have to juggle on so many.

Best of luck, enjoy your new position :)

17   Dennis ~ 14 February 2007

Gongrats on the new position. I am sure you will be a blessing to them!

18   Ara Pehlivanian ~ 14 February 2007

Congrats on the change. I couldn’t handle 100% freelance, I went to work for “the man” for the stability. Can’t say I mind it either :-)

19   Michael Dick ~ 14 February 2007

The E-Myth, I first read it 2+ years ago. I asked a small marketing business owner for a short meeting to ask help questions; walking out he tossed me the book and said “It’s the best book you’ll ever read.”

And ineed, that book is amazing, amazing!

20   MA ~ 14 February 2007

While you’re recommending books to read in your post, here’s one I’d recommend you read (considering the employer you’ve chosen): “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. Seriously. Read it. Open your mind.


21   Cameron Moll ~ 14 February 2007

MA - Do you honestly believe this article is the place for such a remark? I’d delete your comment, but instead I’ll leave it as a reminder to others to email me directly, rather than post an anonymous comment, should you feel the need to go off-topic and confront me on religion.

22   MA ~ 14 February 2007


I take the opportunity to ‘spread the word’ when it arises. I was surprised / disappointed to see evidence of your supernatural belief … it always surprises me when an intelligent person demonstrates this. I half-expected you to delete my first comment, but at least one person would’ve read it and just maybe acted on it.

There’s a growing number of people who see religion as a real threat to modern society, and want to bring rational, scientific education and debate to the problem whenever possible.

Try the book. What have you got to lose?

Michael Alton.

23   Blake Haswell ~ 14 February 2007

MA – spirituality is a personal thing. While I am personally not at all religious, I don’t think it is appropriate for you to go telling people that they’re wrong or stupid because of what they believe.

How do you like it when people come to your door trying to tell you about God and how you’re going to hell? Well you’re coming to Cameron’s house and telling him his beliefs are wrong. Not cool.

If he wants your opinion on religion, he’ll probably ask for it.

24   jdjohnson ~ 14 February 2007

Great article, and great truths. So many of those things hit so close to home with what I am going through trying to continue my freelance start up career. Thanks for the pointers, and your belief in God ;)

25   MA ~ 15 February 2007

(comment deleted)

ed: You continued to go way off topic, MA. You’re welcome to reply here if relevant to the discussion, which is freelancing advice.

26   Nathan Pitman ~ 15 February 2007

Very wise words both for those looking to make the leap into self employment and those who are already there.

Best of luck with your new role Cameron.

27   Paolo Sordi ~ 15 February 2007

Congratulations, Cameron, and good luck!

28   Glen Richardson ~ 15 February 2007

Very interesting read indeed. Good luck with your new job!

29   MA ~ 15 February 2007


I’m sorry that you felt so threatened by my last comment to delete it (whilst leaving a similar off-topic comment that argued against mine in place).

However, thanks for leaving the first and second in situ, and good luck with your new job.

All the best.

30   Andrew ~ 15 February 2007

Cameron -

Great idea with the residual income to smooth out the low times. I’d like to get something up and running in addition to my 9-5er just to put more money aside for a rainy day.

Or to get a MacPro. One of the two…


31   Hamish M ~ 15 February 2007

Thanks for the great tips Cameron, I wish you the best in your new job!

On a personal note, I’m a member of the LDS church myself, and I’m really amazed at the skill and talent of it’s creative team.

32   Jeff Danos ~ 15 February 2007

Congrats on your new job, and best of luck. Thanks so much for posting this article. Your comments are most welcome to someone like myself who just shifted from a 6-year regular job to freelance work and self-employment. Hope I can remember your advice when I’m feeling frenzied.

Thanks again.

33   Aaron Burrows ~ 15 February 2007

Congrats on the new job! I’ve only been reading your blog for a short time now and I like what I’ve read. I’m in the opposite boat, still working for the “man” and longing to be free. I hope it goes well and I hope that you still have time to blog fairly often.

Off Topic (Though somewhat relavent given the career choice) —> I am a Christian. I am not a Mormon, but I’m certainly not going to compare beliefs here. This is not the place to post disagreements about religion and spirituality. Through my faith I have come to understand that you don’t make any headway beating people over the head. And if you disagree with a person’s spiritual beliefs, you won’t get anywhere without having a relationship (read friendship, or at least familiarity) with that person in order to even be able to share with them. Besides, if we only made friends with people just like us, we’d all be pretty lonely people. I’m sure Cameron has religous discussions with his friends, just not here.

Anyway, congrats, and have fun with the new job.

34   Keanen ~ 15 February 2007

Cameron - I am glad you made the decision. Even though the business world will miss your services I’m sure, you can make a great contribution to the excellent and important work that goes on there.

I look forward to seeing the results of your work. If you can, let us know what sites you have influenced or worked on as they come out. I realize the general public won’t see all of the internal sites the church uses. But if there is anything public, it would be nice to have a post or something about it (or on NorthTemple.com) if you can.

I admire your work and your wisdom.

(Side note: I still wish they would use the design on your portfolio for the main www.lds.org site but I am sure there are reasons that I don’t know about.)

35   N. E. Miller ~ 15 February 2007

Best of luck in your new position, Cameron. I’m looking forward to your increased impact in the LDS web community, and wish you the best. There are a lot of fledgling designers like myself, however, who will still be looking forward to updates and posts on your site — don’t forget about us!

And I admire you keeping MA’s first two posts online; it only serves to demonstrate the narrow-minded nature of his views and his tact.

36   ML ~ 15 February 2007

Great article!

Thanks for sharing Cameron. With insight like this, you should become a motivational speaker (designer specific that is). Good luck with the new gig. I’m sure you’ll be back in the “full-time freelance world” one day. ;)

37   Terry ~ 15 February 2007

You’re my favorite Cameron! I’ll be sure to stop by and see what authentically boring wisdom you’ll continue to impart for those of us non-freelancers out here. I can relate with your decision and have experienced first hand what you went through as well, especially with babies at home. It was incredibly interesting to see your impression on the whole freelance experience through the months.

38   R.Bhavesh ~ 16 February 2007

I don’t know why, but my position is same as - Deuce- :). Feels like.. i am loosing something :)

Anyways, best of luck to your new career cameron. I wish there would be more and more quality posts coming?

39   Blaise Kal ~ 16 February 2007

I’m just starting as a freelancer. Although the article gives many good tips, It also confirms my worries that it isn’t easy to become successful and make a decent living as a freelancer.

40   Ed Sharrer ~ 16 February 2007

Well written. I’ve freelanced full-time for one-year stretches on two separate occasions in my career. I can heartily agree with your advice — I found the same things to be true for me. All the best to you in your new pursuit.

41   Timothy Gray ~ 16 February 2007

It’s strange how people seem to be taking this news to mean you’ve somehow “lost the fight” and gone back to the corporate world out of necessity. We all know your amazing talent and that you and Suzanne made this choice willingly during a time of successful freelancing. You obviously saw an opportunity that was better and took it. Hopefully we’ll still have the same access your wisdom and insight through this site. I wish you the best on this next stage of your career.

42   Quest ~ 16 February 2007

Hey Cameron,

Congratulations on your new adventure. Currently, I am still freelancing and I will definitely take your advice seriously. I really need to do some realigning for my company, but who knows I might be making the 1099 to W-2 plunge myself if things continue to go well on my current contract with IHG.com. Thanks for all of your wonderful insights and I hope to hear more from you in the future. God bless you and your family.

43   ML ~ 16 February 2007

Someone mentioned that the article confirmed some worries that it isn’t easy making a decent living as a freelancer. Although I agree with this, I think there is a difference between “freelancing” and running a business. I always thought of “freelancing” as the early stages to getting your (design) business off the ground. So I do agree, making a decent living freelancing for a long period of time can be difficult (with no residual income and living project to project). Once you establish a client base and begin earning residual income from ongoing services (maintenance, consulting etc.), I think you lose the title of “freelancer” and you’re now a business (an agency, firm or whatever you wish to call it).

I have a full-time job (UI Designer, Los Angeles) but I also freelance part-time. I’ve been doing it for 5 years and it’s been great. Personally, I would never quit my full-time job to “freelance” full-time. BUT…I would quit my job to run a full-time design business or web consulting business (in my case). That’s been the goal I’ve been slowly striving towards.

Where is the long-term payoff when it comes to freelancing? There is none. As designers, we should continue to freelance because it’s our passion, a hobby or side income - but work at establishing a design business that can work for you in the long run.

~ my 2 cent

44   Justin Toupin ~ 16 February 2007

Great post Cameron - especially enjoyed the reminder about moving fast to execute good ideas. It’s way too easy to let ideas come and go.

On another note: I’ve used out-of-home office space for 6 years now, and still have trouble pulling away from work, even after I’m home. Maybe that’s just part of the deal?

45   manny hernandez ~ 17 February 2007

Thanks for sharing these words! Best of luck in the new gig.

I hope you continue to be able to share your interaction design experiences here.

46   Ryan Unger ~ 17 February 2007

Great post. My favorite part was “Secure office space within 6-12 months”. Invaluable advice.

47   Clifton Labrum ~ 17 February 2007

We all look forward to what you’ll produce at the Church.

Cameron will never finish that book as long as he keeps getting bajillions of comments on his blog. Managing them must be a part-time job in and of itself. :)

Enjoy the stability of working for the Man.

48   Aaron Martone ~ 17 February 2007

Best of luck at your new diggs Cameron. If you see Jesus there, ask him if he can work his thang and get Starbucks to lower the price of a cappuccino. It’s slowly burning a hole in my wallet.

Whatever you do, just make sure you don’t skimp on the wisdomly authenticated boredom.

Did I just say ‘wisdomly’?

49   Greg Paulhus ~ 19 February 2007

A comment on getting office space. I’ve been self-employed (but I consider myself a business with one employee, me) for five years now. I got office space right away, but then moved my office back home. I have four kids, ages 5, 7, 7, 9, and I moved my office home to have more time with my wife and kids. You do need to establish boundaries, definitely separate work and family. I’ve found it’s fairly easy, but have heard from others that they find it hard to not go back and sneak in more work at night.

Also, I added up the 40 minutes per day driving to and from my office outside the home, and it translates into about one work month (20 days) in a year. That’s a lot of time saved.

All that being said, a home office works if you’re planning on staying small. If I choose to grow my business I’ll have to look at office space, maybe. I might be able to contract other freelancers to help with the workload, and keep the home office.

50   Sean McGee ~ 20 February 2007


Congratulations on the new job. Thanks for all the great wisdom you have imparted to us.

On a side note, I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I hate it when people bring up my religion when it has nothing to do with the subject. I’m sure it’s the same with you guys.

Like my grandpa used to say, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.”

51   elysa ~ 20 February 2007

Good luck to you Cameron on your next chapter of life. I am on month 7 of joining the 9 to 5 (actually 6) world. I still do some freelancing but I have more flexibility when choosing clients now that I know I have a guaranteed pay check every week. It’s kind of ironic that having a full time job has given me more freedom with my freelancing.

*side note: another perk of a j.o.b - today we are slow and I am catching up on my reading

Look forward to your future insights.

52   Michael Dick ~ 21 February 2007


Something like that has ALWAYS been on the tip of my tongue but I just have never been able to ‘understand’ my thoughts or that thought. It’s like I knew that, but I just couldn’t bring in my thoughts to recognize it, if that makes sense.

Good comment ML, thanks.

53   Mark Priestap ~ 22 February 2007


Great article. Some of us freelancers could not think of a good reason to go back to full-time work. Where there some specific things that you were looking for that made you decide to go back? Just curious.

54   Cameron Moll ~ 22 February 2007

I’ll have to save that for another article, Mark (if I deem relevant to a public audience).

55   Christopher Scott ~ 22 February 2007

Great article Cameron, and congrats on the new gig. As always great advice and tips. Welcome back to the daily grind!

56   rod ~ 23 February 2007

i’ve been reading you your site for years now, and right now i’m working freelance. Kinda starting on this and your writing has really helped me focus on the important stuff.

You, sir, are a true inspiration.

57   Choke ~ 24 February 2007

I could not agree with ML more who states the distinction between freelancing versus running a full-time web design agency.

I had been running the "One-Man-Shop" for the past year after leaving a FT gig but realise that it is time to grow, take on partners, and more clients.

I find that potential clients treat you differently when you have a company. You’re no longer just "a guy who does web design", but rather "a guy who owns a web design agency".

Thanks as always Cameron for sharing and good luck at your new gig!

58   Dave Simon ~ 26 February 2007

Cameron -

You are right on about your advice, they are lessons I learned as well.

But, like you, I’m heading back into the non-freelance world for a while.

Good luck, I hope you have a bit more time with the family and plenty of time to write on Authentic Boredom!

59   Michael Dick ~ 27 February 2007

Cameron, I think it would be an interesting read to find out reasons why you chose to work for the man rather than work for yourself. Maybe one day others will have to make a choice, freelance or not to freelance, and maybe your wisdom can help steer us into a choice that better suits our own lifestyle.

But, like you said: If you deem it relevant.

60   Cameron Moll ~ 28 February 2007

Perhaps at some point, Michael, but it’s all about finding the time right now! (aside from relevance)

61   some guy ~ 13 March 2007

i remember when that Kottke guy cut the corporate umbilical cord, and everyone (everyone that cared, at least) cheered him on. now a full-time job is the cool thing for bloggers to do. gee, i wonder how the kids keep up with you famous, in-demand, A-list bloggers…

62   Respiro ~ 06 May 2007

Not more, not less: TRUE, Mr. Moll! I know what means to work as freelancer… it’s a 24x7 madness. Right now I build my company and it is a challenging process…

Best wishes for your new start! If I may ask, it has to do with your faith?


63   Keith ~ 04 June 2007

Take greater care in the future about what you say (and do) and to whom you say (or do) it. Conflict of interest (for many larger employers) exists when services (including freelance/employment advice), for hire or at no charge, are rendered to a client OR POTENTIAL FUTURE CLIENT of the employer. This is especially true if any equipment (or paper or electricity) owned by the employer is used.

That last clause is the real kicker because legally, any client is A POTENTIAL FUTURE CLIENT of your current employer. You are working in Utah, not California or Croatia.


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