The pros and cons of freelancing

Ever dreamed of quitting the 9-5 and working for yourself? You get to be your own boss with no one telling you what to do. You can wake up late, grab your laptop and sip cocktails while working by the pool in the sunshine. When you get too hot, you can cool off with a quick dip in the pool. Then perhaps have a nap because you’re tired.

Well, I hate to burst the romantic notion of freelancing but it’s not all fun and games. Not everyone is suited to the life of a freelancer the same way not everyone is suited to the 9-5.

The pros of freelancing

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Freedom and flexibility to work to your own schedule.

This can suit a lot of people for whom the conventional 9-5 doesn’t work very well. It is great for a lot of people trying to juggle work around their children, people who are night owls and prefer to work later in the day, and people who just feel too constrained by a normal working day. It is a very appealing prospect to a lot of people.

No one to tell you off if you’re late for work.

That was always me, I was never very good at being punctual to work. One job I had involved an hour’s drive so delays were always a possibility and even worse if I was running late. However, I always made up my time and I actually worked longer hours than I needed to but that wasn’t good enough. Being late is irritating for everyone unless you’re your own boss.

Better work/life balance.

When you work for someone else then you are tied to the hours they set, the breaks they set, and the holiday allowances they set. If you work for yourself, all of that is determined by you. I know of plenty of freelancers who only work 3 or 4 days a week and the rest of their time is their own. You don’t always have to work hard to be successful, sometimes you just need to work smarter.

No commute.

Assuming you are able to work from home then the only commute you’ll need to make is to wherever you’ve made your office space.

Your office is where you choose it to be.

Even if your job entails travelling, you’ll still need some kind of office to deal with all the paperwork. You can choose where that is and how you set it up – you’re the one in control of everything.

Potential for unlimited income.

A salaried person is paid a definitive amount each payday. When you freelance, the sky really is the limit with how much you can earn. You are the one calling the shots on what you get paid.

You can choose who you work with.

At first, you might not be able to afford to be choosy with your clients but once you have established yourself, you can choose not to work with difficult clients.

You can choose what work you do.

You will need to do some of the boring stuff like admin, but now you get to choose to focus on producing the kind of work that you really enjoy.

You only have yourself to answer to.

It is a dream for many – to not have a boss riding their backs. When you work for yourself, there’s only you to keep pushing yourself and only you to answer to.

The cons of freelancing

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No job security.

Say goodbye to that guaranteed payday. Work can be famine or feast a lot of the time with freelancing and you’ll want to have a safety net of savings to see you through the hard times.

No perks of the job either.

If you have a job with paid leave, gym membership, company pensions, private health, and doughnuts every Friday then you might want to stay put! Unless you can live without the perks of a job or can provide them yourself then freelancing might not be for you.

No sick/bereavement or maternity leave.

When you freelance, if you get sick then it’s tough. You can get insurance to cover you for a lot of illnesses to see you through harder times. It’s also wise to build up a network of other freelancers you can outsource to in times of need. The same goes for bereavement leave.

You might be able to get some maternity payments depending on what country you live in. It’s worth looking into if freelancing and kids are on the cards.

Taxes, pensions, National Insurance – you’ll need to get familiar with all of these.

When you get paid as a freelancer, money for taxes and NI (if you live in the UK) are not automatically deducted. You’ll need to do tax returns and sort out your own tax and NI. You’ll need to sort out your own pension options too.

You’ll probably want to consider insurance for your business too such as Professional Indemnity insurance to cover you if a client tries to sue you.

Getting a mortgage or other lending can be tricky.

Depending on the lender, you’ll need at least 2 if not 3 years of accounts before you’re even considered for a loan or mortgage.

Stress and burnout can be common problems for freelancers.

Sometimes the stress of trying to bring in enough money and work can be problematic for freelancers. You may also find yourself working longer hours and burning the midnight oil just to keep on top of everything. Burnout is a real possibility.

You’ll need discipline and to hold yourself accountable.

Now you no longer don’t have a boss telling you what to do and when to do it, it can be easy to let things slip. You’ll need to find ways to keep yourself motivated to keep the business rolling.

You’ll need to take responsibility for your own career progression.

Any employee should be doing that anyway but as a freelancer, your career choices are no longer mapped out by the job you’re in, you’ll need to map them out yourself. You might need to take regular courses to keep on top of your skills or to learn new skills. It’s something you’ll need to sort out for yourself.

You’ll need to run the entire business.

It’s now down to you to do all the admin, bookkeeping, sales and promotions, sort out the website, update your social media, and handle every aspect of running a business. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but it’s not for everyone.

You’re on your own.

In the workplace, you usually have work colleagues to chat with. Working as a freelancer can get a bit lonely if you mostly work at home on your own.

In Summary

Choosing a freelance life over paid employment is a choice that should not be taken lightly. You’ll need to work out the pros and cons that relate to your personal situation and whether you can make it work.

I got thrown into the freelance life after I was made redundant so it wasn’t a choice I made but rather a necessity. There are definitely ups and downs to freelancing and the downs can have big consequences – I know of a number of freelancers who have had to return to paid employment just to keep their head above water. The lack of income security can end a lot of freelancing dreams.

For some, the freedom and flexibility that freelancing gives them outweigh the bad bits. Freelancing can be a path that once you’ve started on it, you’ll never look back.

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