Whenever freelancing is talked about, one of the most common questions many new and aspiring freelancers may have is whether it is better than full-time jobs? In this blog post, we address this question in detail so that you can have a clear response to ‘is freelancing better than full-time jobs’ the next time someone asks you.
As is the case with everything, there are no clear answers. Freelancing CAN be better than full-time jobs for some professionals, but not so much for the others. After all, both kinds of employment have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Freelancing may be better than full-time jobs as a career option for you if you have the discipline to work by yourself, are comfortable with financial uncertainties, are interested to scale your operations, and are an introverted individual by nature.
- Working for Yourself
The most easily distinguishable factor of freelancing is that you do not have one person watching your every move and decision. You are your own boss in the sense that you decide when to work and when to not. Granted, there may be times when you have no choice but to take up any project available, but the likelihood of such events reduces over time as you build your brand equity.
In most cases, freelancers are almost NEVER under a pressure to accept a project they do not think is worth their time. If you have a potential client who is trying to lowball you, you could always politely refuse it. After all, your time is precious and others need to respect that.
Unfortunately, for full-time employees, they have no choice but to perform whatever tasks they are assigned regardless of how mind-numbing they are. Employees at large companies such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) may be assigned projects that are neither interesting to them, nor helpful to their career, and yet, there’s not much they can do about it. As a freelancer, you are free to constantly hunt projects and opportunities that may either be financially rewarding or intellectually stimulating or both.
On the flip side, however, if you struggle with discipline to get things done yourself, then freelancing might be a problematic choice for you. I have personally known many professionals who swore by regular, full-time opportunities because they confessed their lack of motivation or discipline to get things done without constant supervision.
So, it isn’t a bad thing necessarily if you tend to get lazy when you have nobody watching over your shoulder, but it could likely affect your success as a freelancer.
2. Earning Potential
The second point that makes freelancing stand out from full-time employment is the concept of earning potential. As a salaried employee, your earning potential is largely linked to your overall cost to company (CTC); regardless of how hard you work, there are going to be limits to how much you can earn.
Fortunately, freelancing presents the complete antithesis of this notion; freelancers have the choice to work more and make more money. As a freelancer, you are not tied to one company and can work for multiple employers at once provided that you can handle the workload. If you are someone who doesn’t get burned out or tired easily, then freelancing could make you a lot richer in a few years than most full-time jobs would.
Additionally, you can always choose to not renew a certain contract if you find a better-paying gig. This privilege isn’t available to full-time employees since it isn’t as easy to switch jobs, particularly when they are full-time engagements.
An employee may build a career, but a freelancer builds a market (for himself/herself). As a salaried professional, you may build a strong CV, but as a freelancer, you create a brand of your own, and it’s not new knowledge that the latter is more important.
However, if you are an individual who is more comfortable with doing the absolute minimum required to take home a salary, then freelancing may not be the most suitable choice for you. Freelancers are opportunists; they are constantly on the lookout to make more money or build their reputation. It’s not a bad thing though if that doesn’t sound like you, but you are more likely to benefit from freelancing if it does (or did).
3. Scaling Opportunities
Yet another difference between freelancing and full-time employment is the opportunity and ability to scale. Full-time employees may be able to switch jobs with better pay packages and more rewarding incentives, but freelancers can always hire interns or employees to work under them.
If you have ever wondered what makes the rich richer, it’s because they understand the concept of leverage and use it to their advantage. A full-time working professional may not make as much money in his/her lifetime as a business owner or freelancer who employs contractors to work under him/her, and the reason is simple – leverage.
Leverage is essentially the magnification of your efforts and results; as an individual, you only have 24 hours in a day to utilize. Now, how efficient can you possibly be? How much work can you finish all alone? Can you possibly do the work of 5-10 people all by yourself on a consistent basis?
Not really, right?
But what if you were to hire those 5-10 people to work under you and help you accomplish your goal? Could it be doable then?
And that is what freelancing offers you. If you fancy winning a huge $20,000 project, you can always hire some professionals to work under you to ensure that the deliverables are taken care of. Of course, you would need to manage and supervise their work, but once they are trained, your overall involvement is going to be much less.
Freelancing allows you to deploy leverage to maximize your earnings, but be warned – the risks are also higher. If you hire others to work under you and the client ends up absconding, then you will still be liable to pay the fees or charges owed by you to your workers. Many freelancers do end up ghosting and not paying their workers, but it isn’t an ethical practice and is likely to hurt your reputation in the long-term.
If you have no intention to scale your operations (ever), then you may consider sticking to your regular, full-time job. The overall rewards may be lower, but so would the associated risks be.
4. Introvert vs. Extrovert Personality
Finally, as a freelancer, you are likely going to be working alone most of the time. There may be times when you may have to collaborate with the in-house teams of companies, but those opportunities may be rare.
Being a full-time freelancer myself, I know several professionals who prefer regular, full-time employment not because of any other reason but the camaraderie they have. Office employees tend to form strong bonds with each other and may have more avenues to socialize with each other.
Unfortunately, most freelancers aren’t as lucky. Unlike full-time employees who may have identical work and break timings, freelancers could have vastly different working hours depending on their clients. This makes it hard for them to hang out together.
Also, the fact that freelancers usually may work on a per-project basis doesn’t help. When companies’ employees collaborate and deal with freelancers, they may keep their guard up since they do not know the latter personally.
So, in short, a freelancer may not have a lot of friends. At least, I don’t.
Although this might sound like a bad thing, it may not necessarily be so. If you are an introvert by nature, you likely don’t care about having a lot of friends. If this is the case, freelancing is a perfect choice for you.
On the other hand, if you are what others might call a ‘people person’, then perhaps freelancing can end up mentally taxing you severely. One of my students wanted to try her hand at freelancing, but very soon, she ended up being miserable working all alone and having nobody to talk about her day-to-day life with. Naturally, she returned to full-time employment for the said reasons.
If you too are someone who enjoys working in a team, then it is advisable that you stick with your full-time job. Sure, freelancing might make you more money, but is it really going to be worth it for you if you end up depressed and demotivated? You decide. Ultimately, you should enjoy whatever you do. If you prefer freedom with regards to your work choices, want to remove limits to your earning potential, and are an introvert by nature, freelancing could be your dream choice for a career; otherwise, you can always continue your regular, full-time employment. There’s no harm in sticking to whatever works for you!
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