Are you stuck in an unfulfilling corporate job, dreaming of a life of independence, but worried about taking the plunge into freelancing? Maybe you’re not happy with your salary, but you’re just worried that the entrepreneurial life is only for the brave and the bold. And perhaps you’re thinking, “I feel like my life is going nowhere, but I don’t know if I have the courage to quit my current job and start freelancing.”
Well, you’re not alone. Many people worry over this kind of decision, and for good reason. It’s a giant leap, both in terms of time and financial investment. And it probably means giving up the security of an established income and a stable job that you like. Plus, it can feel awkward making the transition, especially at your current salary.
The truth is, the decision to freelance or not freelance is one that deserves careful consideration. For some, freelancing is a great way to earn a living while you pursue your passion, whether that’s crafting furniture in your spare time or sitting on the beach with your laptop. But for others, freelancing could mean never getting to go to the beach at all because you’re too busy chasing clients and pulling your hair out over taxes.
So, is freelancing worth it? To find out, let’s start by taking a look at what most freelancers say the pros and cons of freelancing are.
Pros and cons of freelancing
Here are some pros of freelancing that many claim to enjoy:
– More control over your projects and schedule. You never have to answer to anyone again, which can make it easier for you to say no if you want.
– Struggles with scheduling and time management will be a thing of the past. Your work is on-demand; you just need an internet connection. The flip side is that your work schedule could be more hectic because people want to work at different times and weeks than in traditional jobs. You might even find yourself doing some double- or triple-duty and taking on more clients than necessary at the start of your career as a freelancer to make up for lost steam.
– A chance to really learn your craft and develop your skills. A freelance designer, for example, can dedicate more time to studying the field and trying new things with her client’s projects.
– You have more freedom to decide where you want to work and what projects you want to pursue.
– You can travel. Many freelancers who are doing well have the freedom to hop on a plane to take a meeting or check out a new place they want to work in.
– Freelancing online means no more commuting. If you work from home, you might not have to waste hours in traffic or on the subway every day.
Like any other profession, Freelancing can bring a sense of pride and achievement to your life.
Here are some possible drawbacks to freelancing work:
– Leading a busy schedule means that it’s more challenging to maintain personal relationships with your friends and family. You might not get to see them as much as you’d like. That can make it harder to build a lasting relationship with them or foster a sense of trust.
– You have to work harder than you might like to find your next freelance gig. It’s time-consuming to market a service and get yourself out there so that people will hire you for your projects.
– Freelancers have to put in more work and time than they might be used to, which can lead to burnout, stress, and anxiety.
– The lack of job security makes you think about your employment status on an hourly basis.
– Most freelancers will have to pay out of pocket for any taxes and social security payments, as well as for the occasional health insurance coverage. It’s not uncommon for a freelancer to feel like he’s working for pennies on the dollar compared to his traditional job peers.
– Freelancers don’t have the same access to company resources, benefits, and discounts. Yes, that means that, unless you provide it yourself, you get no retirement plan.
From my experience as a freelancer, I can attest that both sides of the coin exist.
One of the biggest debates that I’ve had to battle in my head is whether the financial benefits outweigh the work-related struggles. Many freelancers shy away from freelancing because they’re worried about not making enough money to live. Here’s what I’ve found: as long as you can stick to a budget, you can live well as a freelancer.
Case Studies in Freelancing
Let’s look at some examples of freelancers and get a sense of what day-to-day life might be like.
The Successful Freelancer
Jane is a freelance copywriter and social media manager who has been freelancing for six years. She makes $120,000 per year, and she spends her weekdays writing blog posts for small businesses in her city. Jane’s clients include local companies who provide information about events happening in her area, and she has a ton of social media accounts that she manages.
Jane is highly organized, well-rounded, and has many skills to help with her clients’ marketing efforts. When she works with a new client, she does her best to give them the option of doing all of her work for them if they’re comfortable with it. In time, Jane has developed quite a reputation for helping small businesses become even more successful by using social media to promote their businesses.
The Struggling Freelancer
John is a freelance designer who works out of his home in New York. He starts his week by sending out e-mails to the clients he’s worked with in the past, asking them if they need anything to be designed. Most of the time, he doesn’t hear anything back, so by Friday evening, he’s feeling very discouraged and has taken to watching Netflix.
The weekends that John isn’t working on his projects are spent trying his best to find new opportunities to work with clients. He spends time updating his portfolio, sending out e-mails to the people in his contact list, and posts on various social media accounts to let people know about his business.
As a result of his efforts, John has received a few new clients (which he takes on with great excitement), but most of them aren’t paying him for all the work he’s doing.
The Struggling Freelancer
Bob is a freelance social media marketer who lives in San Francisco. He spends all of his time on his computer, and he schedules his life around social media. Bob works long hours and doesn’t spend nearly as much time with his friends as he should. Whenever he isn’t working, he’s networking with people online to get new clients.
Bob realizes he’s spending way too much time online, but he doesn’t know how to stop. He keeps telling himself that social media is a business and that he should be investing more money into his blog to improve his visibility in the industry.
The Work-In-Progress Freelancer
Cindy is a freelance designer who lives in Nashville. She makes a point to hang out with friends every weekend, and she doesn’t spend her nights and weekends on social media (other than sending the occasional e-mail). She’s worked with three new clients in the last few months, and she spends her downtime planning out her weekly tasks.
Cindy realizes that she needs to get more clients, but she doesn’t know how to do it. She’s never been very good at networking, and she has no idea how to reach out to potential clients.
The Successful Freelancer
Joe is a freelance writer who lives in New York. He spends most of his time with friends, and he makes a point of taking frequent breaks to get away from his computer and enjoy his life. He works more efficiently than most of his peers, and he’s always willing to help out a friend when he can.
Joe has never had a problem getting new clients, but he realizes that it takes time to build a solid client base. He knows that he needs to start getting more involved with writing groups, and he’s also working on getting a new Twitter account. He wants people to follow him so that he can get more exposure for his writing.
Average Salary Comparison: How Much Money Can I Expect to Make?
As you can see in the chart below, many industries have higher salaries for freelancers than office workers. This may be because office work is often more specialized than freelance work, and compensation tends to be higher for specialized labor.
To learn more about how freelancers compare to other workers in different industries, please read this article: “comparing office worker salaries with freelance salaries.”
Also, you’ll notice that the only category where freelancers out-earn office workers is in the Education industry.
So what’s the data on happiness? How happy are freelancers compared to their counterparts?
Freelancers Versus Office Workers in Happiness
When it comes to happiness, there’s not much data to go on. So what’s the story?
In general, freelancers have the same happiness level as office workers in every single category except for “tolerating office work to make ends meet.” In that section, freelancers are happier than office workers.
My experience as a freelancer
I just took the plunge and quit my job last November, and it has been the best decision of my life. My now-happier life has me thinking about plenty of other steps I want to make to become a happier version of myself. The most significant factor for me in deciding to quit my job was my desire to be more self-sufficient. Having worked in 3 different agencies, I never had to worry about finding clients or managing budgets. In fact, I didn’t have to worry about much at all in my previous jobs, which was a double-edged sword.
One of the biggest cons of freelancing for me has been the challenge of self-control. I find myself wanting to jump on my keyboard and spend all day updating my blog instead of doing the important work that could help me land new clients. Now, before you start thinking that freelancing is not for you, I’ll let you know that I’m just as guilty of surfing the web and watching television as anyone else.
“Success is a journey, not a destination.”
For those skeptical about abandoning the security of your corporate job for the freedom of an unpredictable, self-employed career, I’m here to tell you that it CAN get done. You just have to decide whether it’s worth the risk to you and develop a plan.
My freelance career has given me the life that I wanted. I’ve been able to travel, spend time with my family, and work at my own pace. Yes, sometimes it is difficult running your own freelance business, but so far it has been worth it for me.
My advice? Don’t let conventional wisdom and fear hold you back.