I love a lot of aspects of the freelance life. It suits me well, which is why I’ve done of it for most of my 15 year career. In fact, in those 15 years I’ve only held one full-time salaried job. And now I’m back to freelancing again. So that may tell you something.
But the freelance life is not for everyone. If you’re the type of person that absolutely NEEDS a stable paycheck every week, or gets really timid taking risks, freelancing may not be for you. At the very least, you should do some soul searching before even considering it.
All that said, you’re crazy if you don’t at least consider freelancing at some point in your career – consider it right now if you haven’t already.
What’s great about freelancing
When you freelance you have a degree of flexibility in life that other people do not. You also have a constant variety of new experiences which provide opportunities that people who stay in one place rarely have.
Here are some of the perks:
- Higher income potential. Some argue that freelancers earn more than other people on average. There are definitely arguments to the contrary as well. But since you’re setting your own rates and selling clients on them, the potential is there to charge whatever you want.
- Lifestyle flexibility. I currently work 25 hours per week for other people. The rest of my time is spent exercising, traveling, socializing, writing and otherwise managing my life. In other words, really living (as opposed to just working). I also can work from anywhere.
- Variety of projects. The cool thing about not “settling down” at a job is that you can date a whole lot. I tend to keep my projects limited to 1-2 months at a time. Which gives me the ability to work with different clients and different technologies. If you do this early on in your career, you can try a bunch of things before you settle at a job (or realize you don’t want to).
- Constant learning. Each project requires something different, so you constantly get to learn new frameworks and technologies.
- Staying sharp. Not only are you learning new things, you get faster and better at the tools you already know since you use them in so many new environments. This creates a more well-rounded and honed expertise than if you’re working on the same project all the time.
- Broader network. Each team you work with introduces you to new people – each one is another LinkedIn contact or twitter follower who may get you more work in the future, teach you something valuable or save your ass when you need it.
Oh snap. Pretty cool, eh?
Is there even a downside? Well, everything has a downside.
What sucks about freelancing
- Paying taxes. This can be a royal pain. Since no taxes get taken out of your paycheck, you’ll have do store away a chunk of your earnings and pay the government at the end of the year. You get used to it, but nobody likes seeing a big-ass bill every year.
- Getting paid. With a regular job, you don’t often have to chase down your boss to cut you a check. With clients, you do. With the lazier ones, you have to do it repeatedly.
- Being picky. It takes a bit of practice to get confident enough to turn down clients that don’t suit you. When you need cash you want to take on any project that comes along, but this can be a recipe for disaster.
- Getting sued. Knock on wood, this has never happened to me. I want to say that I’ve heard of it happening to colleagues, but I can’t recall honestly. But it’s always a possibility if something bad happens on the project – and when it comes down to it, you’ve got to be responsible for everything. Make sure you get incorporated, for this reason – which leads me to the next bullet…
- Paperwork. LLC filings, SOW contracts and invoices are things you never have to do with a normal job. Now that you’re running a business, you do.
- Constantly proving yourself. Every time you take on a new project, you’ll have to your clients and their employees that you’re worth the money you’re charging, especially if it’s a high rate. You have to demonstrate your skills right away along with being confident and communicative as a practice so clients know they’re getting their money’s worth.
Is freelancing worth the trouble?
In a word, hell yeah. The perks far outweigh the downsides once you get into the flow of it. The constant new challenges make it impossible to get bored, and mean you’re constantly growing in knowledge and skill. And you meet new people all the time.
Freelancing is honestly the shiznit, and I think most people should try it for at least 6 months in their career – whether it’s web development, copy writing, graphic design or coaching of any kind. If it’s not for you, hey, at least you tried it out. But give it a whirl, you might get addicted. 😉
Are you a freelancer, or considering going freelance? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.