In today’s technological age, freelancing or working from home is becoming a more realistic option for many jobseekers. With the rise of casual and temporary contracts in brick-and-mortar businesses, going freelance is slowly beginning to make more sense. The logic behind its rise in popularity (53 million people in the United States alone work freelance) is based on the idea that permanent, traditional jobs are perceived as much less stable than before. This is due in large to the economic crises that have occurred regularly since the 80s. Thus, people are more likely to look toward less traditional types of employment than they were say, thirty years ago.
Still, no matter what type of employment you enter, there are always positive and negative aspects. Let’s examine the pros and cons of freelance work, starting with the pros:
Pros of Freelance Work
There are many things about freelancing or working from home that will benefit your life. As someone who used to work traditional jobs, both part-time and full-time, I can sincerely say that freelancing is a lot of fun. It also provides real opportunities for making big money. It’s all about how much effort you put in. Here are some pros of freelance work that I can verify from being a freelance writer:
This one is great. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been the type to wake up naturally at six am and read the paper. I’m the type who is wide awake at three am, and struggles to get out of bed at noon. As a bonafide night owl (I’ve tried doing the normal sleep thing, it just doesn’t work for me), I have found freelancing to be my best friend in terms of flexibility. When I have a client, the only restriction in terms of how to use my time is the given deadline. However, the deadline is just for a specific day, not usually a specific time. This means that I can sit up all night on a Monday for an article due on the Tuesday. There are usually a few days before any given deadline, too, so you can decide when you actually want to do the work. In terms of flexibility, freelancing wins by a mile over traditional bricks-and-mortar scheduling.
Equal to flexibility is independence. When you freelance, you just whatever you want, when you want. If you don’t like the requirements a client has, simply don’t take them on. If you have booked a client and then find out down the road that they are excessively needy or annoying, simply say goodbye. Sure, if you really need the money, you have to keep them for a while, but you just start looking for new ones so they can be replaced. The independence of freelancing certainly beats when your superior lands a stack of papers on your desk and insists they have to be dealt with by the end of the day. Work-related stress with regards to freelancing is virtually non-existent, because you simply take on as much work as you need in proportion to the money you require. In a traditional office setting, or even in something like a retail job, there will always be some sort of manager getting annoyed at you for not finishing a certain amount of work in a certain amount of time. When you freelance, you don’t need to worry about the manager who has a vendetta against you, the co-worker who always makes sarcastic comments, or the regular customer who is overly fussy. You just look at your deadlines, and complete what you need to, when you need to. It really is a very low stress work environment, and independence is one of the key reasons I chose to become a freelancer.
Cons of Freelance Work
Freelancing isn’t all lying in bed and drinking coffee, folks. If you genuinely want to go down this route, you might want to consider the following cons of freelance work before you do. These are from my experience, and I have been freelancing for many years:
Lack of Stability
Depending on your area of expertise, freelancing is a lot less stable than a traditional job. This even applies to the idea of casual or temporary contracts. With freelancing, if you really want to make a proper income from it, you have to constantly prepare ahead. You might have twenty clients right now, but in order to maintain a consistence amount of income you need to recognise that in a month or two you might be down to ten. Thus, if you’re serious about it, you will often have to take on more clients than you actually need just to ensure that you can pay the bills for the year ahead.
The Difficulty of Finding Long-term Clients
If you’re the type of freelancer who looks for clients on sites like Upwork (this is the kind I am), you will soon find that finding a good client who provides consistent work is a rare gem. Most of the clients you get will either provide you with lots of work that doesn’t pay well, or provide you with occasional work that does. You’ll also find that the clients you like best are the ones you constantly have to contact to try to get more work from, while the ones that have the most unrealistic expectations (and usually worst pay) are sending you stacks of work. Depending on your circumstances, you might have to take on the annoying clients because the good ones simply don’t send you enough work.
Lack of Recognition
From personal experience, the worst thing about freelancing is lack of recognition. Now, this may not apply to your field of expertise, but it certainly applies to many. For example, as a freelance writer, I am often told that my articles will be ghostwritten. This means that even though I write them, they are passed off as someone else’s writing. I try my best not to take on clients that expect this, but sometimes when their rate is good you throw your ethics out the window. I often laugh to myself about the fact that if all my articles had my name on them I’d probably be a famous blogger by now. Still, as with all things, you need to decide how important recognition is before you choose to become a freelancer. I decided long ago that I don’t really care about recognition, so ghostwriting only makes me cringe a little bit. Still, when I book a client who says they will print my name, I am much happier about writing for them.
All in all, if you are not the sole breadwinner in your household, freelancing is a great option; particularly if you have a specific skill set that can be used online. Photography, art, writing, software development: all of these skills are frequent hires on authority freelancing sites. As you can see, freelancing is all about what you make it. If you literally need bread on the table right now, it is better to look for a traditional job first, while setting the freelancing wheels in motion. It takes a while to obtain regular clients when you freelance, so it isn’t something you do when your mortgage depends on it.
If you want to become a freelancer full-time and quit your regular job, you should keep working while building your freelancing portfolio. Then, when you have enough to keep the bills paid while you transition, you can hand in your notice and wave goodbye to your nine to five lifestyle!
by Gillian Rixey
(Gillian is a PhD qualified freelance writer and scholar born in Ireland but currently residing in the United States.)