Freelance or employment? It’s a question that many members of the working class ask themselves every now and then — usually when it’s a particularly bad day at work, right? Plus, in these post-pandemic times — please let this be the tail end of this global pandemic — a lot of people are rethinking their careers and what they want their lives to be.
Thinking of testing the waters of freelancing? Or maybe you are a freelancer, and tough times are making you long for a stable income. Well, we’ve navigated these uncertain career waters ourselves, and we know how overwhelming it is! In this adulting guide, we’ll try to offer a little insight when you’re weighing the pros and cons of freelance or employment.
First, what is freelance work? What about employment?
Employment is basically enjoying a permanent job, where payment comes in a fixed salary, on a per hour basis, on commission, or some type of combination. For most people, it usually means working from the company office for eight or so hours a day. Although, it’s worth noting that the last few years have made some employers more open to remote work, even for full-time workers. Expect certain benefits if you’re a full-time employee, such as health care.
On the contrary, freelancing means not being tied to just one company or employer. Instead of getting a fixed salary, you are contractually paid per project. Terms vary. Some clients pay a set amount, while others prefer paying per hour, per day, or per word (for writers). Freelance workers can juggle as many clients as they want! It usually means working from home, although this really depends on the industry. However, freelancers don’t get the mandatory benefits employers must provide their employees.
The pros of freelance work
Flexibility is a major perk and the main reason why so many people dream of quitting their jobs and becoming freelance workers. Setting your own work hours sounds like a dream, right? Imagine working when you’re most productive, even if it’s at a time that’s outside regular working hours. As a freelancer, you can churn out deliverables at 2 am without anyone batting an eye.
Plus, you’ll get to control how much you work. Unlike full-time employees who typically work eight (or more) hours a day, full-time freelancers can scale down their workload anytime they want. This freedom can work wonders in achieving the right work-life balance for you.
Remote work setup
Earning a living from the comfort of home is definitely another great perk of freelance work. It’s not always the case — in some jobs, you’ll still have to show up in person — but generally, there’s no need to show up at an office every day. In Manila, where commuting often involves bad-to-worse public transportation, constant traffic, and ever-rising gas prices, staying at home is ideal.
Moreover, many freelancers can work from anywhere in the world. As a digital nomad, you’ll enjoy the freedom of making your office wherever you want it to be, whether that means jumping from one country to another or parking yourself permanently at the beach. Not a bad way to make a living, huh?
Set your own rates
Let’s just make it clear: You won’t be raking in the dough in the beginning. That said, the potential to earn more is there, as opposed to a full-time salary that’s practically set in stone. Freelancers establish their own rates, with the freedom to turn down work that’s more effort than it pays. Thanks to the Internet, there’s now an endless stream of freelance jobs available online, which means you get to cast a much wider net for well-paying work.
Working with different clients
Working with multiple clients comes with challenges, but it also keeps things fresh and exciting. Getting to know an assortment of people from different backgrounds and countries is a luxury you won’t always get in an office where you’re working with the same people every day.
Additionally, a medley of clients allows you to hone your craft. News writers might get gigs that let them flex their skills in copywriting or business writing. Interior designers who are used to working on residential homes may find themselves enjoying sprucing up commercial spaces. Freelancing comes with the excitement of always getting to try something new. Hard? Possibly. Boring? Never.
Be your own boss
No matter how great a boss is, there’s still something satisfying about finally working on your own terms. Without the management, micromanagement, or even direction of other people, you’re free to be as bold and creative as you want to be. Everything is in your control; your work is ultimately a business you’re creating from the ground up, and you can take it wherever you want it to go.
The pros of regular employment
We all have bills to pay, whether you’re in freelance or regular employment. A major advantage of a 9–5 job over freelance work is the guarantee of a fixed income every month. That means employees can pay for all their living essentials: mortgage, car, credit card, phone bill, groceries, etc. And if you’re decent at the job, you’ll probably continue to enjoy this hard-earned security in the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, freelancers depend on the work they get at any given time. No hustle, no pay — and during a dry spell, the money you earn may not be enough to cover all the bills. When you have plenty of financial goals and responsibilities, the job security that comes with employment is worth sticking around for.
Just as big of a perk as a regular salary are the benefits you’ll enjoy as a full-time employee: SSS, PhilHealth, Pag-IBIG, and other supplemental benefits. Many employers provide secondary healthcare, too. Plus, you’re entitled to paid leaves, so you’ll still be earning even when you’re suffering from the flu or vacationing on a remote beach somewhere.
Meanwhile, freelancers are left to fend for themselves. Employee-provided benefits? If you’re freelancing, you’ll have to pay for them out of your own pocket, which can be difficult when you’re still getting the hang of finding and securing clients. And btw, that means filing your own taxes, as well.
Working with colleagues
Say what you will about the daily grind, but it’s quite motivating being surrounded by other people, even when you’re all working on different tasks. Plus, some people simply thrive working with others. When you need a little help, you can always turn to the person beside you. Whenever the job is becoming a little toxic, a hearty lunch or a drinking session after work is always a good stress reliever.
Freelancing can be a lonely business in comparison, with little social interaction outside of talking to clients once in a while. Some opt to work in one of the metro’s many co-working spaces, although this can be quite pricey to do every day.
Structured office life
When deciding between freelance or employment, the freedom of self-employment is often lauded as the most glorious perk. It’s true. But we’re here to tell you that the structured nature of an office job is also an advantage. Having a routine means that you can set time aside for other priorities, like travel, family, or working out. Moreover, it’s easier to set boundaries between work-life and regular life when you’re not actually working at home.
Plus, working in an office means you don’t have to pay for internet, air-conditioning, and printing services. This is one of the perks that you probably won’t miss until it’s gone, but trust us when we tell you to savour freezing air-conditioning temperatures while you can!
Success looks different from person to person. But in general, there’s a clear-cut path to career advancement when you’re employed that doesn’t exist when you’re a freelance worker. Jump into a good company, work hard, and aim for that promotion! There’s no corporate ladder to climb in self-employment, which may be good if you’re not about that cutthroat life but not-so-good if you’re dreaming of that corner office.
Freelance or employment: Which one’s the right choice?
We’re afraid there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s a personal choice, depending on your career goals, financial responsibilities, and current lifestyle. Freelancing is a risk — one that may be worth taking if you have the skills, the network, and the savings for it. It’s also worth exploring if there are freelance opportunities in your line of work.
Oh, and some people manage to combine both. You can have a regular workweek with your full-time employer, and then take in freelance work from other clients during the weekend. (Just keep in mind that you may not be allowed to work both, especially if your employer and clients are part of the same industry.) Taking side gigs is also a good way to dip your toes into freelance work without diving into the deep end all at once.
Freelance or employment — should we wish you all the best in job hunting?
Featured image credit: Al ghazali | Unsplash