Recently, one of my closest friends decided to leave the office cubicle and become a self-employed freelancer. I wasn’t surprised; career migrations are common nowadays, and people are moving back and forth looking for better career options in order to adjust to a rapidly changing environment.
A study conducted by Edelman Intelligence in partnership with by Upwork and Freelancers Union claims that by 2027, more than 50% of Americans will become freelancers. These findings might sound astonishing for seniors but not for millennials, who tend to want to work for themselves. No matter how old are you, if you’re considering becoming a freelancer or have decided to work full-time, it is better to find out about the pitfalls of each option first before making your final decision.
I want to help those of you who are just starting a career and struggling with the choice, and the full-time employees who are already tired of the daily grind in the office and want to break free from the corporate world. I’ll compare both types of work formats and share my personal experience on what benefits you can ultimately get by choosing freelance employment or a full-time job.
1. Flexible Working Hours vs. Fixed Schedule
If you’ve chosen to work as a freelancer, your working schedule is more flexible, allowing you to manage your work-life balance successfully (in theory). You can plan your day according to the amount of work you receive, and then have a rest for a day or two. When you’re obliged to work from 9 to 5, you’re forced to deal with all the tasks in a fixed period of time. This might sound good, but your productivity may vary depending on the difficulty of the task you receive, leaving you absolutely exhausted and not able to take a break in the middle of the week.
For me, this point has become vital, since my peak energy hours come in the morning. I can complete the main tasks from 5 to 10 a.m., and then allow myself an afternoon rest. It would hardly be possible if I worked in the office. However, there are certain benefits to working a traditional 9-to-5:
- your day is well-planned and scheduled
- no one will disturb you at weekends (as a rule)
- you develop self-discipline
- your social life is often much better
2. Work Control Difference
A full-time employee is not responsible for the customer’s flow (unless it is one of their duties). That means you are guaranteed to have work. On the contrary, freelancers have to hunt for clients and actively promote themselves. This issue becomes more complicated especially when you are one of the young professionals who don’t have regular clients yet. Once, I even had to cold call and pitch my services to a company, which rejected me fiercely. And that is completely normal; you have to be prepared for that. It took me a while until I realized I can’t just sit for weeks on end waiting impatiently for a call or a message. I was in charge of finding work and making a livable income for myself.
Despite that, freelance work gives you an opportunity to develop a career strategy by choosing challenging projects, unlike salaried employment, where you are bound to the company’s needs (and if there’s nothing interesting on the horizon you perform menial tasks). In addition, freelancers are in a total control of their progress, while full-time employees are involved in complex workflows where they depend on their teammates — if they cannot handle their part of the job on time, you’re basically wasting your time not being able to complete your task or even take a break, thanks to the tense office atmosphere.
3. Financial Stability Issues
When it comes to financial security, it seems like a full-time job wins. Whatever happens, you receive your paycheck and your income will remain stable. But what if you suddenly got fired? Despite the fact that the employer informs you in advance and may even provide a severance pay, it still means that from now on, you’ve been left with no sources of income. In addition, you got used to your colleagues, weekly table tennis tournaments, and free lattes with salted caramel syrup.
From a psychological point of view, it might be quite stressful to step outside of your comfort zone and start sending résumés again while waiting for the recruiter’s call. But freelancers are immune to this situation. They are responsible for looking for clients and maintaining a steady stream of consistent work. So if a freelancer loses one client, they (hopefully) still have a few left.
4. Social Package
Freelancers typically don’t have colleagues to engage with on a daily basis. They also don’t have any guaranteed health insurance, loan reimbursement, or a free gym membership because they are not part of a corporate team. If you’re looking for “crunchy corporate cookies” or the annual “best employee” announcement that triggers your motivation — a full-time job is the way to go! If not, prepare to be a loner with no strings attached as a freelancer. Is freelancing worth it? It is up to you to decide.
5. Work Environment: Office vs World
This is the main reason why Gen Y chooses a freelancing life over office stability and security. By the way, research conducted by the University of the West of England showed that every extra minute spent on commuting to work reduces job dissatisfaction and worsens mental health. That’s why writing articles lying on the beach in Portugal, performing marketing research from the top of Burj Khalifa, and skyping with clients sitting in a boulangerie in Paris might sound like a much better option. In addition, you can shoot a travel diary and become popular on YouTube, which can also be considered as an additional source of income.
I bet these thoughts often come to your mind when you think of a freelance job. The sad truth is: if you’re not used to working elsewhere except the office and suffer from procrastination each time you come home, you probably won’t be able to perform successfully. My working day as a freelancer started at 8 a.m. and ended at 7 o’clock in the evening. It was completely the same as if I was working full time. Office politics helped me to develop self-discipline, as I was expected to be seen at my workplace every single day.
Having experienced both freelancing and a full-time job, I cannot definitely say which type of work format is better. Both freelancing and full-time employment have their own pros and cons. On one hand, working full time at the company makes you feel more secure and avoid instability. On the other hand, online freelance work enables work flexibility. In addition, each option may suit you in a different period of your life. Sometimes, it is worth considering freelance work from home. Other times, your life goals change, and you feel that the office environment may increase your professional potential and help you gain better experience.
But there’s one thing I’m 100% sure about — whatever you decide, make sure it enables you to do what you love, whether at work, home or elsewhere. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.
Alice Berg is a blogger and a career advisor at Skillroads, who received a degree in Social Work and Applied Social Studies. Now she helps people to find their own way in life, gives career advice and guidance, helps young people to prepare for their careers. You can find Alice on Twitter.
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