It boils down to the type of person you are, and how you want to live.
Full time workers have more predictable income and workloads, but for this they sacrifice some freedom.
After they've made a name for themselves; freelancers can pick and choose their projects, take as much time off as they want, and be their own boss. But this often comes with a little less predictability all round - including financial.
If you value predictability far more than personal and professional freedom, you may want to stop reading now and stick to FT. If you're somewhere in between there might be something here for you.
Switching to Freelance
It used to be hard to switch to freelance. 15 years ago you'd have needed a strong network, or a very successful career to talk about. Today all you need is a simple freelancer profile somewhere like UpWork.
You don't have to quit your FT job straight away. In fact, it's definitely ill advised. I know because I did it that way, and without the support of family and friends I probably would've failed.
Before you switch you need:
- Plenty examples of your work - whether that's design, copy, or strategy documents.
- Recommendations from bosses and co-workers - you can request these on LinkedIn and / or UpWork.
- A clear value proposition about what you offer.
I created a mini-series last year about starting a business you might find helpful.
The Good and the Bad
When you're freelancing you generally get to choose your clients. I had a client pitch me work recently to build a sales funnel (landing page, email series etc.) using lot's of emotional triggers for people in debt. That just felt predatory to me. I didn't accept the offer, even though he was paying well.
You also get to choose how much work you do. This is game-changing. If you like to work fast so you can spend the rest of your time on personal stuff then freelancing could be for you. No more 40hr per week slogs. You get your work done then relax.
This is available is some FT jobs, although they are exceptions to the rule. In their book It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson explain:
If you’ve only got three hours of work to do on a given day, then stop. Don’t fill your day with five more just to stay busy or feel productive. Not doing something that isn’t worth doing is a wonderful way to spend your time.
Freelancing also teaches you to create the life you really want. It's easy to 'go with the flow' in a FT job but there's no such thing when you're freelancing. You have to push to get anywhere when you're self-employed, so you find yourself choosing where to push more deliberately. You get better at making decisions that are right for you.
I wrote about this in The Orientation of the Creative last year. Gore warning - it has a pic of my massive belly scar 🙈
Over and above personal freedom, how much you earn is really up to you. If you're happy to work 40, 50, 60 hours per week then you'll likely make more than you would FT. That's because you don't need to earn as high a top line salary. If you're set up as a limited company, you don't take all your remuneration in tax inefficient salaries. You take some via dividends, which are much more tax efficient.
If you're UK-based, you don't need to worry about company set up complexity either. The process has been made so easy by the government. And you can handle accounting by yourself using platforms like FreeAgent, or hire an accountant to do it for you for at a reasonable price.
To set up a pension, companies like PensionBee are awesome. Not only do they help you consolidate your FT pensions, they give you much more flexibility in deciding where your investments go.
The biggest hassles arise when you're looking for loans, or mortgages in particular. For example, before applying for those, you may need to change the way you're paid for a while which might reduce the financial / tax incentives of going freelance.
With that said, there are plenty options out there.
It has to be said, freelancing can be a bit lonely at times. Even when you're working with a client you're often not considered fully part of the team, which can hurt if you're used to this type of setup.
For me it's an acceptable trade-off. Plus, freelancing actually helps you remain objective about the project at hand if / when team disputes break out. You end up providing more bang for their buck, which not only feels good but helps you level-up and get noticed faster.
I'm just generally happier choosing my own projects and work schedule, which feeds more happiness into my personal life. No boss to worry about. No fear of losing that single important job that provides all my income. And plenty time and energy to pursue projects I REALLY WANT to be involved in.
Reply or ping an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to ask any questions.