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percipio.london: Self employed VS employee

Helen gives an insight into her transition from being a self-employed designer, to being part of the Percipio team.

A brief history of Helen

Before working at Percipio I was self-employed as a freelance Graphic Designer for about a year. I’d been applying for jobs since university, and finally caught a break when a mutual friend introduced me to someone in need of some design assistance. I was able to work from home and I am lucky enough to have a dedicated office space which isn’t my bedroom. I am used to not meeting my clients in person, so when I joined Percipio (who are fully remote and always have been), there wasn’t a huge adjustment for me.

Why freelance wasn’t working for me

During job interviews, I would proudly tell people that my freelance work was going well enough for me to leave my part time job as a sales assistant. One of the common responses to this was well if it’s going so well, why are you looking for a job?”. Fair point.

For me, working as a new freelance designer wasn’t giving me enough opportunity for growth. I was spending way more time looking for work than I was actually doing any. I started my Etsy shop as a passion project, which allowed creative freedom and for me to design physical products rather just digital artwork.

However, I found I was doing the same things every day, and not making any progress as a business owner. Despite my efforts, the work is hard to find and finding repeat work even more so… at the end of the day, I’m only one person. This is not to say that working full time as a freelance designer is an impossible task, it just wasn’t working for me.

What I like about working for someone else

Working for a company has enabled me to regularly create design work both utilising my skills and learning new ones. I’ve been able to pick my colleagues brains’ for tips and tricks and best of all, I get to create for a range of different mediums; social platforms, newsletters, print handouts, booklets, podcast promotions etc.

I have liaised with clients and built trust that I can produce work to the standard they are expecting – we love to see a green tick on the coda doc! I have also been able to see what it’s like collaborating on projects with other designers. I’ve always loved being able to put forward ideas towards group projects and had really missed that whilst working for myself, by myself.

Another aspect that has really benefitted me is regular working hours. Whilst I was working freelance, I found it so hard to start my day knowing I either had no client work to do or feeling I had no reason to start any personal projects (for example with content for social media: creating work is one thing, getting people to find it is another). Working for someone else means I have a routine, a 9 – 5, and there are other people relying on me. The latter being a huge boost for my mental health. Surprisingly, I feel more social now in a fully remote job than I ever was working freelance, despite the freedom of being your own boss.

Working with others promotes personal growth

When you’re working with others, it can really help with self-assessment. What are you currently bringing to the table, and what do you want to bring? I have a drive to be helpful, and sometimes that means learning new skills and taking on added responsibility. I work best within static design, rather than motion graphics, and I really want to be an expert in this area.

I have also discovered that I want to work on my skills within infographics and at Percipio, we are lucky enough to get additional support with these kinds of interests. Known as CPD (Continued Professional Development), the team have been able to partake in dedicated research time, day courses and extended qualifications.

Interviews with the team

We have a few different working situations here. Some of us working solely for Percipio, some of us take on additional personal work and some of us have side hustle projects. Whilst I have experimented with a few different employment scenarios, I have no comparison of what it’s like to work in an office, so I’ll leave that to the others.

What do you prefer about working from home, rather than working in an office?

The commute to and from the office generally added an extra 2 hours to my day (an hour each way) and 90% of the time the public transport was so busy! By the time you’d actually got into work, you’d already inherited quite a lot of stress, which can derail your day if you’re not in the right frame of mind. So, for me, having the extra time to ease myself into the day, without having to rush around and then battle with the commute itself, means when I do sit at my desk I’m calm, relaxed and ready to work which increases my productivity”.

Craig - Junior Developer

What aspects of working full time at Percipio, has positively impacted your personal freelance work?

Joining Percipio has helped me broaden my skillset. I’ve been able to work on a range of different outputs and with clients I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’ve also been able to learn from rest of the design team, and I find it interesting to see how differently we all work. Although I have had to cut down my personal client list, I’m still able to continue working with a handful of them. CPD at Percipio has allowed me to gain new design skills such as animation”.

Rox - Graphic Designer

What has been successful about operating as a fully remote company, even before it was cool”?

A lot of our work requires deep focus in a distraction free environment; we also know only too well that we’re sometimes not at our most creative between the hours of 9 – 5. The home office is by far a more accommodating environment to solve complex problems than a busy office. Couple that with the fact that would be restricting our pool of employees to a catchment area of a physical office for our work, we made ourselves a strong case that ultimately led to the decision to setup shop 100% remotely. Looking back ~15 years, I’m certain it was the correct decision for Percipio. That’s not to say it wasn’t met with surprise when we explain to our clients that we didn’t have a physical bricks and mortar office back then – if one good thing came out of the pandemic, it was the social acceptability of the #WHF movement. Over the years we’ve gotten a lot more efficient and comfortable with remote working and using tools that allow seamless collaboration internally and with our clients. We’re at a point now where our flexible working environment means the team can take themselves off for the day to see an art installation, or to the British Library to check out typefaces or wherever a member of staff feels they need to go to solve a problem. Additionally, a flexible working environment allows our team to go to appointments, do the school runs, or take an extended lunch to go to their local gym and still maintain full time’ working hours. The bottom line in adopting remote working means we have more time to actually focus on getting the job done at a time and place that works for the individuals in our team. Work” has become something that fits into our lives, not something that controls it. That feels pretty special”.

Jamie - Founder & Director

New to working remotely? Check out Phils blog on getting the most out of working from home.