Hi Damian. This is a good question.
I went into freelancing straight out of university after having done a few small freelance jobs while still a student. It’s all I’ve ever done.
However, if I was starting over today, I’m not sure I’d do it the same.
I was fortunate to live in a small town with a low cost of living, so I could afford to build up my business slowly. It probably took a year before I had a consistent stream of full-time work. I wouldn’t have been able to afford that if I lived in a city.
I also feel that you have to learn a lot of lessons about running a business, communication, and design process to be a successful freelancer. And that can be slow learning when you don’t have a more experienced mentor to show you the ropes. Contrast this to being an employee for a few years, where you can immerse yourself in a successful business and learn much more quickly from them.
One good option to consider is to find employment at a design agency or similar company with the intention of staying for a few years. Be a sponge during that time and learn anything and everything about how to operate a design business. Meanwhile, do a bit of freelance work in evenings and weekends (if allowed by your employer). This will teach you even more and start building a small roster of freelance clients.
Then at some point in the future, when you feel you’ve learned what you can from your employer and grown as a designer, choose the right time to make the leap into fulltime freelance. You will have built a firm foundation to do it successfully rather than jumping into it a bit naive.
Even though it feels like a sideways step, taking those few years of employment may actually accelerate your freelance success.