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Freelance Advice with Leigh Williamson

By Ryan Plummer

Going freelance can be a nerve-wracking decision. That's why we're asking a panel of incredibly talented freelancers for their tips on how—and when—to take the leap

Leigh Williamson found his passion for art early on, but found his calling for animation in college. Sensing a new market on the rise, he set to work learning computer animation and the basics of motion design. He spent nights watching tutorials, teaching himself the skills he needed to progress. When a new school opened with exactly his needs in mind, he jumped at the chance.

We were fortunate to talk with Leigh before our live panel this week. He's the real deal (Copyright Joey Korenman), so pay attention!

Interview with Leigh Williamson

Yo, Leigh! Thanks for joining us this week. Can you introduce yourself and some of your motion design and freelance history?

I’ve freelanced 15yrs, ever since moving from South Africa to London, UK in 2004. I took on a permanent role for a year and a half, then returned back to freelance in October 2019. Originally, my goals were to just make money.
Since returning to freelance, I’ve started to realize it was bigger than that.
I wanted to work from home. Originally, all my freelance roles were on site. Now as a husband and father of 3, I want to be home and commute less.
After learning with School Of Motion and becoming a contributor, I realized I wanted to be more connected to the motion community. Recording my own tutorials. Writing articles.
I only just recently realized what I want the most: Making my own work that people buy into. Not creating work that somebody else briefs me to do. I better start doing that.

Who would you really like to encourage to start freelancing?

Anybody can freelance.
The question is: Do you have the guts to start? I had convinced a friend to freelance years ago who was the last person you would ever expect to do it. He was introverted and he liked to play it safe. I convinced him to go freelance. He hated it. He was scared every time he started a new gig.
Eventually, he quit freelance and took on a full-time role. The full-time role was so soooooo bad that it tipped him over the edge, that he quit and returned to freelance. Now he loves it and has never looked back.
Joey Korenman and EJ Hassenfratz, seen here being totally normal

How can people prepare themselves to jump into freelancing? What should they be aware of before jumping in?

It’s like the old school method of teaching your child how to swim by throwing them into the deep end of a pool (Don’t do that, It’s just an analogy).
The need to pay bills can kickstart skills and confidence you never thought you had. A life without chances is a life not lived.
For me, don’t freelance if you don’t have faith. I know it’s been said not to go freelancing unless you have some extra cash saved up in your back-burner. But for me it was learning to trust God that an opportunity will come; when I felt unhappy in a full time role. Faith to jump ship without a safety net. Whatever that is for you, faith or finance, make sure that foundation is firm before you take that leap.

What are some of the best things that have happened to you since you became a freelancer?

  • I was able to buy two properties
  • I was able to take as much time off as I wanted when my children were born
  • My confidence increased
Owning my own property rather than paying off somebody else’s property is a huge plus. Being present in the most important times of your life is key. At the end of the day you earn to live. Not live to earn.
The dictionary says that “confidence” is the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something. For me, that’s working with new people, in new jobs weekly or monthly.
My confidence wasn’t reliant on just a single boss, but on multiple clients—the majority mostly cancelling out the rotten eggs now and again.

What were a few unexpected hardships that have come with going freelance?

  • The COVID-19 lockdown happened
  • The bank would not give me a loan for a house extension (one year of ok-ish earnings because I decided to take unpaid time off to learn courses)
  • When we lost our first child, health insurance didn’t pay out for the unpaid leave I took off to grieve. 
I’ve not had much work since the COVID-19 lockdown has happened. The UK government is also not very supportive of limited companies, hence the hashtag on social media, #ForgottenLtd The positive side is I’ve taken the time to learn plenty of courses I bought a while back. I’ve experienced varied emotions. Right now I’m at peace just taking it one day at a time. My wife and I are reading a book called “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer. I’ve been really re-evaluating the pace of my life since the lockdown.

If there was a golden freelance tip that you could pass along, what would it be?

  • Say "yes" to everything. Worry later. Most of the job posts online are heavily padded with skills or requirements they don’t even need or understand. Chances are you are the perfect person for the job. If you don’t apply, you will never know.
  • Don’t be afraid to assert yourself. You are not a slave. You may be one person, but you are still a business.

Freelance Panel

At the end of this week, on June 19 2020, we will be hosting a Freelance Panel with all of our incredible freelance guests: Jazeel Gayle, Hayley Akins, Leigh Williamson, and Jordan Bergren. If you'd like to submit questions for our panel, take this quick survey here!