Another Zoom meeting that could’ve been an email. You’re daydreaming about working on your own terms as a freelancer—your own schedule, your own clients, flexibility, independence. Doesn’t it sound nice?
Or maybe you are a freelancer. But the month was rough. You haven’t had a steady flow of client work in a while, and the idea of a stable paycheck gets more enticing by the day. Not to mention employer health insurance and a 401k.
Ultimately, both options come with their own sets of pros and cons, making neither a definitive “better” choice than the other. That decision comes down to weighing both career choices and using the information in front of you to make the best personal choice.
The Pros and Cons of Freelancing
Freelancing is appealing because of the flexibility and the freedom to build your own schedule and work remotely. Many of us have also seen the glamorous lives of digital nomads on social media—those who travel the world and use their income from freelancing to pay for it. But those influencers don’t always dive into the tough parts. Let’s walk through all of it.
Managing Your Own Business
You’re a business owner! New freelancers don’t always realize that freelancing—whether you’re a graphic designer, programmer, writer, or something else—means that you’re also managing a full-fledged business. You craft your brand, build client relationships, set your business hours, and manage your income and expenses. Building a business from the ground up is one of the most exciting parts of being a freelancer.
Working from Home
There’s no dingy office for you to drive to every morning. You get to work from home! Or from a coffee shop. Or from a park. Or from another country. The possibilities are truly endless.
Do you need to take a day off to take care of your kids? Or run errands? Or simply because you want to?
Being a freelancer means that you’re your own boss, and you can build the schedule that works best for you—tweaking it as you go.
Managing Your Own Business
Wait, isn’t this a pro? Yes. But managing your own business is a double-edged sword. Learning the ins and outs of being a business owner is the most difficult part of being a full-time freelancer.
Aside from all the cool stuff, there’s a bucket of uncool stuff that comes with it—tracking your finances to pay income taxes, seeking new clients, buying your own office supplies, purchasing insurance, and planning your retirement without aid from a company. All of these things are manageable, but they each require a learning curve and resilience when times get tough.
You don’t typically have a consistent income as a freelancer. Clients can discontinue working with you. And obtaining new ones isn’t always easy. This means that while some months might be great, others can be difficult. Having a level of comfort with uncertainty and instability is an important trait for any freelancer.
Going to work every day means you have coworkers to talk to, people to see, and team activities to enjoy. When you work alone, you don’t have these things, and you must come up with ways to combat the feeling of loneliness that drift into your home office every so often.
The Pros and Cons of Being a Full-Time Employee
These are a bit more well-known, but I’ll go through the ones I think are most important in order to paint a clear picture for the purpose of comparing and contrasting.
Full-Time Employment Pros
Employers take care of their full-time employees—health insurance, taxes, paid time off—and depending on the quality of the company, that list might go on and on. Having a company to lean on for these things is perhaps the biggest pro of being a full-time employee vs. being a freelancer.
Working freelance means that you might not always know when you’ll land a new client. Employees don’t have these concerns because the work is always there. A consistent paycheck is always there. Consistency and security are massive pros for people with full-time jobs.
If you don’t like being around people too much, then consider this one pro for the freelancer. But if you do, then one great thing about going to work is having people around you. Throughout the day, you communicate with your co-workers, collaborate on projects, and even go to lunches together. This can make work more fun, and it’s one thing that many people miss after going freelance.
Full-Time Employment Cons
Lack of Flexibility
I love being a freelance writer because I work when I want to. Full-time employees don’t have this luxury. They generally work 9-5, and report to their boss when their boss demands it.
Workplace culture varies from company to company, but one thing that is always present—even if it’s only to a small extent—is office politics. Navigating how to act around certain people, building the right relationships to get that promotion, and other elements of workplace culture can be exhausting and typically don’t feel rewarding. Part-time employees, full-time employees, and even independent contractors navigate these waters when being part of a company.
Working full-time is a great safety net for all the reasons listed in the pros section. But it’s easy to get comfortable in a full-time position and find little room for growth. On the contrary, freelancers strive for growth because it’s a key element of owning a business. Employees might not always have that same growth mindset while working for a corporation.
Making a Decision
Living a wonderful life is possible for both freelancers and full-time employees. Choosing between the two comes down to weighing the pros and cons and determining what fits your dream lifestyle the best.
If you’re currently a full-time employee and thinking about going freelance, I highly recommend looking for part-time side gigs and term projects on the side before diving in full throttle. This will give you a realistic taste of what freelancing is like without jeopardizing the stability you have with your current employer.