After working for all of my career as a full-time employee, I took the plunge, quit my job, and became a freelance web developer some years ago. Sure, I had to tighten my belt and there were some uncertain times. But in the end, it is one of the best things I’ve done in my life! Here are the pros and cons that I’ve discovered after doing it for a while.
Pros of Being a Freelancer
Here are the things that I enjoy most about being a freelancer.
1. You Are Nobody’s Slave
Let’s face it, if you work as a full-time employee, your employer has tremendous power over you. If you lose your job, in one fell swoop you lose all of your income, all of your benefits, perhaps some of your friends (co-workers) and probaly some self-esteem as you are unceremoniously escorted out in front of your co-workers. This power can be abused. I’ve seen employers make ridiculous demands of employees, and have them comply! After working as a freelancer for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that this power is unnatural and unhealthy. As a freelancer, I have many clients. If I lose one, it’s not the end of the world. They treat me with respect because they know that I am also free to leave at any time. This is how it is supposed to be.
2. You Don’t Have to Work With A-Holes
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have mostly very pleasant and excellent co-workers. But I know that is not the case with everyone. The problem is usually just one or two bad employees or clients that ruin everyone’s day. Well, as a freelancer, I don’t have to work with those people. I choose who I want to collaborate with. I choose which clients I want to work with.
3. You Control the Throttle
If I want to make more money, I work more. If I want more free time, I don’t work as much. Simple as that. I control how many clients I take on. This is a huge huge benefit that can’t be overstated. There have been times when I was working as a full-time employee where I would have GLADLY given up pay for more time off. But, the schedules were always so insane that it never felt right to ask for more than a fraction of my allotted vacation time. Many companies subtly discourage their workers from taking it. And, when they do, employees usually end up working for part of their “vacation” (i.e., checking email, taking phone calls, and so forth).
4. You Can Have Realistic Schedules
I don’t have a sales department making unrealistic schedule promises to my clients. I meet with them myself and I tell them how long I think it will take to get done in the real world. My compensation is not based on just closing customers, but about the whole project, from closing the deal, to delivering the final product. Therefore, I give realistic schedules and usually beat them. My clients appreciate that. When working as a full-time employee, I always felt rushed and never had the time to do a really excellent job. Now, I can take the time to deliver a really great product, on or ahead of schedule, which brings me great job satisfaction. My clients are thrilled as well.
5. You Choose Your Projects
Ever been forced to work on a project that you hate? As a freelancer, you have the freedom to weigh monetary gain against your desire (or lack thereof) of working on the project. You can also choose projects based on your values. I wouldn’t work for a tobacco company, for example. On the other hand, I give special consideration to nonprofits, churches, etc., that I believe in. Even though I am just one person with very limited impact in the grand scheme of things, this makes me feel tremendously empowered.
6. You Usually Make Your Own Hours
After working on my own for a while, I’m convinced that humans were not intended to work for eight (or nine, or ten or..) hours in a row. Or at least, humans can’t be consistently productive doing so. Left to my own devices as a freelancer, I found that I would work in smaller chunks during the day, doing errands and taking frequent breaks. Then at night, I would be very productive until bedtime. Maybe you’re an early riser. The great thing is that when you’re freelance, you can work the hours that suit your mind and body.
Of course, being a freelancer is not all roses. It’s risky and can be scary.
1. Income is Uncertain
When there’s no work to do, you don’t get paid, simple as that. Often it seems like it’s either feast or famine – periods of little work followed by periods of an insane amount of work. Not sure why that is. It must be a law of nature.
2. No Benefits / No Paid Time Off
When you’re a freelancer, if you aren’t working, you don’t get paid. Simple as that. If you want to go on a vacation, you’ll have to save up for it yourself.
3. Poor Separation of Work and Personal Life/Space
Many people like to have a well-defined separation of work and life. I personally don’t mind doing work in my bedroom, or working odd hours to accommodate my clients. But, some people hate that.
4. No Co-Workers to Help You
You’re on your own. If need to learn how to do something, you’ll have to figure it out yourself. No boss or co-workers to get help from. Granted, there are lots of resources online that can be helpful.
5. You’re Sales/Marketing/Accounting/HR
In addition to your regular job you’re also responsible for customer acquisition and drumming up new business. You’re also responsible for billing, tracking time, accounting, and all of the other things you need to do to run a business. You may or may not like these activities.
6. You Need to be Focused and Self-Motivated
If you are not self-motivated, then freelancing is probably not for you.
Is Freelancing Right For You?
Many freelancers fail but more and more are succeeding with modern technology enabling us to work anywhere. Factor these pros and cons in when making your decision. Freelancing is not for everyone but personally I don’t think I can ever go back to being a full-time employee working for someone else!
What do you think the biggest benefits and downsides of being a freelancer are? Please comment below. – Brian