Freelancing may sound like a dream come true to many overworked minds and bodies in the corporate world. But it’s not all wine and roses. You need to know at least the basic freelancing pros and cons before you launch headlong into a freelance career. If you fly blindly into freelancing, you could end up losing your shirt, and more importantly, losing that passion that you once had to be your own boss and live life to the fullest.
As a freelancer myself, I have to say that for me, the benefits of freelancing far outweigh any challenges that they might present to my unique situation. However, you have to look through the freelancing pros and cons yourself and consider how they impact you.
So here are the basic freelancing pros and cons that you should consider before making up your mind about getting into online freelancing.
The Benefits of Freelancing
(1) Working Your Own Schedule
This is a huge one for me personally. I’ve never been a morning person, so just not having to get up at 6 every day is a great relief. Honestly, it takes me a while to really wake up, so it’s a poor choice between getting up an hour earlier – 5AM! – to make it to an 8AM shift, or rushing through my morning routine, which usually means skipping breakfast and going out into the dust and smog with wet hair – YIKES.
As a freelancer, I can choose to work at whatever times are most comfortable for me. Of course, this can limit the kinds of clients I can take on, but hey, there’s plenty to go around for everybody! On the upside, this means that I am always – and I mean ALWAYS – at the top of my game because I choose to work when I am most productive.
Moreover, I don’t have to brave the cold to shower and dress for work as soon as I wake up. I actually like the cold, but not when I’m tired and grumpy and have to stand wet in front of a chilly breeze. I can work before I shower – at a time when it’s warmer – and no one’s the wiser … uh, at least not until you read this post!
There’s also no more forcing myself out of bed no matter how I feel. I can make reasonable adjustments for sick days – which really are sometimes just sick hours – and still make deadlines. I can take a pill and/or a nap as needed and be back full force to catch up on anything that was delayed. My secret here is actually scheduling work in advance so I rarely ever fall behind. As master of my own time, it’s as easy as that and I never have to push farther than I can go – either mentally or physically.
(2) Choose Your Clients
You can’t realistically expect to say no when you’re sitting in an office and your boss hands you work to do. If you want to be respected and attain security in that position, you have to be the Yes-Man. As a freelancer, you can pick and choose who you’d like to work with. And no one can take that decision against you.
Of course, it also depends on how desperately you need the cash. But the main idea here is you’ll never have to settle if you properly set up your freelancing career. Create a stunning and complete portfolio and set your rates at a reasonable level to be both attractive to clients and enough to make freelancing worthwhile for you with your desired lifestyle in mind.
The ability to choose your clients without repercussions – obviously other than not getting paid for projects you don’t take on – is very important to sustaining your passion for your work. Most freelancers do what they love, and get into freelancing because it’s the mode of work that allows them to freely pursue exactly that.
(3) Live Anywhere with Internet
We all dream of where we want to live. You may not have a particular location in mind, rather saying that it doesn’t matter as long as you are with the ones you love. It doesn’t matter – it’s still about where you want to be. Freelancing gives you the freedom to be location independent so you can be anywhere you want – even at different places as your situation demands! As long as you can connect to stable Internet, you’re golden.
I can relate to both of these situations. There are places that I’d like to live because they are more convenient, whether that be in terms of strong infrastructure or pleasant views or clean surroundings – there are so many factors. I also want to be close to my loved ones so that I can give them the support they need when they need it and still be able to work – which is a huge part of that support. Freelancing allows me to earn enough to raise a good family without having to spend so much time away from them. It’s flexibility without compromise.
(4) No Corporate Politics
Most freelancers have chosen to freelance because of the freedom it provides. This includes not having to cow-tow to any corporate lapdogs or play the game to climb the ladder. Freelancers rise in the ranks by virtue of their skills and professionalism alone.
You don’t have to deal with the politics, period. Even if are currently working or plan to work long-term for a client, you don’t have to get sucked into all that. You are a part of their operations, sure, but you can keep a nice professional distance. Also, if at any time the atmosphere changes and you are no longer enjoying your work, you can always get out virtually unscathed. There are no long term commitments to consider, or retirement benefits to worry about. All you have to weigh is how many new clients or projects to pick up to make up for what you are letting go of.
(5) Control Your Income and Workload
You can earn more or cut back at any time you want. You have complete power over your earning potential and the amount of work that you want to take on. All you need to do is figure out how much you want to make and when, and work out how to get there while only working the number of hours you want to.
It may not be simple to do the math and work your way to that ideal level, but the important fact is that it’s all up to you. No one can stop you from creating your perfect balance.
The Downside to Freelancing
(1) No health or retirement benefits
Regular employment is protected by the government in terms of things like tenure and health insurance and a pension. As a freelancer, you get no help from clients to pay for all that. These benefits, which many of us tend to take for granted, are a huge deal.
Tenure means security – if you dedicate yourself to a company for a certain period, they can’t just let you go even when things get rough. As a freelancer, you can be let go at any time, without even the standard 15 or 30-days warning. You can work today and twiddle your thumbs tomorrow, even if you did stellar work. And you don’t get any separation pay, either, so there’s nothing to tide you over until you land your next gig.
Health insurance is very expensive, especially if you want good coverage. Depending on the governing laws in your country, you can get either partial or full coverage from an employer, and don’t even have to hassle over making payments on time. As a freelancer, you get nothing of the sort. The same goes for retirement. When you work a set time period with any company, they are paying into a fund that you’ll get to access when you’ve earned enough silver hairs. Freelancing means giving up your pension, unless you set it up yourself. And investing to make that nest egg grow is not an easy thing to master.
(3) It’s all on your shoulders
Freelance means no one has your back – unless of course you work to develop a good network. At the office, your peers and manager will often help you because it’s always a group effort. Of course, this isn’t always true, since there’s also a lot of manipulation and backstabbing from all the crabs in the bucket.
When you work freelance, you are responsible for finding clients and making yourself marketable so you get hired. No one will just hand you project after project to keep you busy. But this goes along with the freedom to choose what you want to work on and who you want to work with. It’s only a disadvantage if you’re not ready to do the work to build a real business from your skills and talents.
(4) Balancing clients
When you freelance, you don’t have a manager or officemates you can approach to cover for you if you’re late on a project or have too much work to do. You have to be responsible for managing your clients and the workload that they give you. You can’t just sit down at your desk at the right time and do some work, then get up when you’ve put in your hours. You have to know how much you can handle, and finish it anyway – and do it well! – even when you’ve taken on too much.
(5) Competition with other freelancers
Freelancing is sometimes seen as a scramble to catch the best clients before they are scooped up by someone else. I think this is an exaggeration, but it is still quite competitive. This is mainly because online freelancers are competing globally.
You aren’t freelancing just in your local area. You are looking for clients in other countries – and so are the millions of other freelancers out there. Some will offer their services for lower rates than you are asking, which entices a lot of clients to choose them over you. Others have acquired skills that you don’t yet have, or are just better at presenting themselves.
Whatever the reason, you have to work harder as a freelancer to develop a good reputation, and work harder again to make sure clients can learn about you and see what you can do.
For me, freelancing really has no cons. All the benefits that I gave up when I left the corporate world can be compensated for. But all the pain and struggle I left behind was not so easily remedied.
I make enough money as a freelancer to set aside a good 10-20% for savings, and I have the time and resources to set up good coverage for myself and my family, including what I’ll live on later on so I’m not a burden to them.
I like my independence and don’t need to rely on others to make things happen. Everybody has to grow up at some point, right? Freelancing really pushes you to test your limitations and stand strong. It’s a great feeling when you can dig down deep then take a step back to admire what you’ve built.
If you agree with me, then you’re ready to step into the freelancing world, and even maybe make a career of it. Go over the freelancing pros and cons carefully and plan to adjust for the downside as you begin to enjoy the upside.
Julia Valdez is a professional teacher and decades-long lover of the art of words on paper, the stage and the big screen. She spends most of her time doing freelance content and project management, community volunteer work with the Philippine Advocates for Resilient Communities, adventuring with the Greenhouse Christian Fellowship, and sharing lots of laughs over little crazy things.