The numbers are in, and a freelancing career is one hot commodity. As of 2019 there are 57 million Americans freelancing today, and it’s likely to be higher now that we’re closing out 2020 and unfortunately, many people have lost their full-time jobs due to COVID-19. Even before 2020, 28% of freelancers were working independently full time compared to 17% in 2014.
It’s clear that freelancing is on the rise, but like most who have chosen this path, I’m constantly asked, “Why did you choose to work independently over full time working as an employee?” The journey to independent contractor-hood is different for everyone, but I’ll fill you in on my own story.
My Freelancing Story
I’ve always wanted to write for a living for as long as I can recall. I remember writing poems and stories in my messy seven-year-old handwriting (they were terrible of course but A for effort, kid). I’m an ‘80s baby, though, so I grew up while the internet was still developing and online content was nowhere near what it is today. As I grew up and headed toward college, I got my degree in teaching with the goal of writing during the summers.
By the time I graduated from college, the teaching job market had tanked but the need for content writing was skyrocketing. After getting my professional feet wet in a few admin jobs, I landed a role at a marketing agency where most of my work was writing.
One day, a family member told me about a freelance writing gig with a worldwide team of independent workers where I could take on as much or as little work as I wanted. After getting to know the role a bit, I realized there was enough work for me to quit my full-time job and make as much or more money cutting out everything else and writing all day every day while having all the freedom I could want. It was the dream job that I didn’t realize existed. That’s when I took the leap, quit my 9-5, and started freelancing full-time.
Pros and Cons of Freelancing
You have my story, but every freelancer I know has their own journey. There are enough advantages to working independently that everyone has their own reason for loving the lifestyle. Of course, there are downsides to weigh too.
Pro: Personal Freedom
Freelancing gives you ultimate freedom over your work lifestyle. You choose how much to work, when to work, and what work to do. My personal favorite is choosing where I want to work (before COVID-19 shut down the coffee shops of course). I can wake up each morning and decide if I feel like working from home or if I’m feeling more like any of my favorite coffee shops, restaurants, or other wi-fi spots that day.
Con: Lack of Outside Accountability
Being your own boss isn’t for everyone. Your clients hand you a project or task list and a deadline, and it’s up to you to get it done on time. Keeping up with your freelance work to keep clients happy and keep the bills paid requires self-discipline and organization. Those skills often take time to develop.
Pro: Income Potential
Freelancing rates are all over the map, and everyone needs to have their own income goals for their personal finance planning. In many specialties, though, you can make far more freelancing than at a salaried job.
In my case, I’m currently making about 50% more freelancing than I did as a full-time employee while working the same number of hours. It will continue to increase as I gain more expertise too, as is the case with most freelancers. Freelancing also gives you the power to choose your income too by raising your invoice rates as you progress.
Con: No Employer Benefits
Traditional employment comes with certain employee benefits people take for granted, like health insurance and pay time off. As you evaluate your freelance pricing, make sure you’re billing enough to accommodate those extra expenses. Some employers have other added perks like free coffee, internet stipends, office snacks, or happy hours, so do the math on those perks too.
Pro: The Community
One of the most common questions people ask me is, “Don’t you get lonely working from home instead of in an office?” That’s a common concern but truth be told, I’ve developed far more personal bonds as a freelancer than I ever did with coworkers.
The freelance community is incredibly supportive and there’s always someone around with advice when you need it. Before COVID-19, I was often working in social settings too like coffee shops. I also found a coworking group in my city, where I met dozens of new friends including several I now consider among my closest buds. It’s a sense of community I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Making Your Path as a Freelancer
If you ask 20 freelancers why they chose freelancing over full-time employment, you’ll get 20 different answers. Everyone does their own pro-and-con analysis and has their own reasons for choosing this journey and it’s up to you to decide what you want from your work life.