5 things to keep in mind when transitioning from a freelance designer to a product designer
Amrith Srinivasan

To introduce myself, my Name is Amrith Srinivasan and I work at Groupby as their Product Designer. My day to day job consists of assisting engineers and product owners with research and designs to fulfill the roadmap. It has been a whirlwind of a journey, to say the least. Primarily because I learned all this by myself and took the hardest route - trial and error while working freelance gigs in my room. The real world is rather different unfortunately so in my opinion, there are five things to keep in mind when making the transition.

Comfort zones are dangerous

When we work by ourselves in a room, there is a certain level of comfort we get accustomed to and take it from me that can get very dangerous. If you get used to working in solitude you will find it very hard to work effectively with a team of different disciplines. I would suggest maybe working in social areas like coffee shops or malls. I also highly encourage going out and doing real user testing. When you put yourself out there like you that you learn to toughen your skin and get accustomed to what it will feel like working with others in a team.

Learn to work with a team

We all have friends and might be sociable but that does not translate 1:1 working on a professional team. Each team is comprised of individuals having special skill sets which now becomes the task we as designers must probe towards and utilize the talents of the engineers to realize the final product. There also cases of miscommunications and failures that might arise. Ultimately you must now realize the effect of the work you do doesn’t end with just you but spreads equally to your team members. So, take your colleague out for a coffee and get to know them better!

Business needs are the Holy Grail

When working on a freelance project or even a personal project you have the sense of driving the bus and decisions can be made in minutes. However, transitioning into a full-time role means you no longer are driving the bus. The business needs will drive the roadmap and in some unfortunate cases, a lot of your hard work might never get used due to a resource, architecture or budget constraint. Don’t let it falter you though, pick back up and continue working on the project at hand and enjoy the ride of a corporate boat.

Decisions MUST be backed by facts

One of the greatest luxuries of working alone is you do not have to justify your decisions to anybody. However, the reality in a company is that you are expected by not just your peers but upper management too that you do the due diligence before presenting any idea or argument. If you fail to do this on a regular basis, you risk having your thoughts rejected outright due to a lack of trust. The bigger the company, the more of this research is demanded which is why Google and the likes have dedicated UX teams. So, start writing out your thought process from now and try to keep a solid fact/data point to back every decision you make for the experience

Time-boxing your responsibilities

When working alone, you have the advantage of switching deadlines if they don’t suit you anymore. If you are working freelance gigs then you are already somewhat accustomed to deadlines but in most cases, they will not be as hard enforced as in a company. Some companies may not give you any deadlines and just expect you to get the work done in a timely manner to realize the companies road map. However, I highly suggest you always set yourself up a deadline and share it with the concerning party. This will allow you to manage your time more efficiently without breaking your word to others

Ultimately, these are two different sides of the coins and as someone who has seen both sides, I can confidently say it depends on the person's personality. I like working in a company a lot more than being alone as I get to enjoy and celebrate with my team for everything we put out. I also see 95% of the things I design come to life. Do the research and if you feel the company is for you then, by all means, dive right in! Cheers :)