When it comes to freelancing versus full-time employee work, often the biggest opportunities for one are the largest drawbacks of the other and vice versa.
In an ideal world, we’d all have as much paid holiday as we needed, flexible hours, endless perks and total job satisfaction.
However, freelancing is becoming more and more the norm and whilst it’s not for everyone, if you’re weighing up whether to stick in comfortable, consistent employment or go it alone by being self-employed as a freelancer, here are some aspects to consider before you make any big decisions.
Free time. Me time. Time to really focus on tasks at hand. Time to look for new projects and clients. Time to take your career into your own hands. All the time in the world as a freelancer, which then quickly needs to be filled with paid work. Time is the greatest asset and luxury any of us have and it’s certainly a desirable aspect of freelancing when you consider the prospects: managing your own schedule, working from cafes, shared workspaces or even the couch, making time for coffee with friends in between pitches and meetings.
Time is precious, but as a freelancer you may feel there’s no actual time to switch off. Carving out a work/life balance is absolutely essential to avoid burnout and being “on” 24/7. Sometimes, the stability and structure of clocking in in the morning and clocking out in the evening without a care until clock-in time rolls around again provides more free time in the long run.
Being in control of your own workflow as a freelancer is one of the most rewarding and liberating aspects of the job. Not having a boss (but still being answerable to clients paying your bills) is a real luxury and very empowering. However, having a team around you to bounce ideas off and a talented team of experienced individuals leading the team forward, like in an office, also has benefits.
When it comes to control, it’s also not your job description to manage every aspect of your company’s affairs when you’re in full-time employment. You share responsibility with the various colleagues and no one person necessarily is answerable for every issue. However, when freelance, it’s you and you alone to bear the brunt.
Working in a team and below managers can feel like you have a never-ending workflow and you’re struggling to keep up.
Deadlines, meetings, reports, one after the other, as you’re dreaming of that summer holiday that goes by in the blink of an eye and then the cycle starts back up again and again. It’s true that in freelancing, being in charge of your own workflow is a real perk. Saying no to projects, opportunities and work offers is a wonderful luxury when you’re busy and comfortable… but when the work dries up and the offers aren’t there and you’re anxious that you don’t have enough work it can add to the anxiety.
Isn’t it wonderful to submit your personal details, sign a contract and in return for the work you carry out you’ll receive a regular salary, paid time off, some additional perks and maybe even an annual bonus and a couple of staff social events throughout each year? All for little admin work on your part – Human Resources can handle the rest.
As a freelancer you are the creative, the manager, the receptionist, the accountant, the boss, the intern, the HR department (if you decide to add more people to your team) and so much more, as you take on every role in the operation of your personal business. Yes, there are resources and support out there to make it a little easier, but be prepared to be the captain of the ship and spend most of your time chasing invoices, filing taxes and being surrounded by paperwork.
Getting to work with different clients, varied briefs, exciting projects and fun collaborations is one of the best aspects of freelance life. It can provide a wide scope of work that keeps you energised, on your toes, challenged and quite fulfilled in your career.
Full-time employment can be seriously monotonous if you’re not regularly being challenged or empowered with different work. Does fixing that require you to quit and become freelance or maybe do you need to sit down with those in charge at your full-time job and explain your predicament and how it could be changed?
We’ve all been there – stuck in work with colleagues who really irritate you and wishing to be anywhere else, preferably on a relaxing island completely alone. However, a major aspect of being freelance is being resigned to a one-person team. So the mindless chatter at the coffee station or the hum of everyone talking in the office whilst you’re trying to focus on getting something in before deadline may be the things you take for granted, as you might miss the company.
There’s comfort in being comrades in a team, and there’s stark loneliness when you only have yourself for company most of the time. Everyone’s work situation is different as a freelancer, but loneliness crops up more and more as a drawback. Being isolated from others can become an issue, so freelancers should always explore activities that involve meeting and being around other people, like pencilling in a yoga session twice a week, attending a cooking class or learn a language through a semester, prioritising friends meet ups or going to networking events.
So, in reality, often the positives of one can be the negatives of the other when it comes to work situations. There are so many other ups and downs, benefits and drawbacks, threats and opportunities when it comes to choosing between full-time employment or self-employed freelancing.
You have to ask yourself: What do I want from my situation? Control of my career, diversity in my work, going by my own schedule and dealing with the isolation, the admin and every day-to-day aspect in order to hopefully succeed on my own? Or, being part of a team with a regular pay check, benefits and structure but in a role which may not be satisfying, very routine and having to work to someone else’s schedule? Only you can answer the questions…
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