For creative people, freelance work is a way to supplement any income they may derive from their art. For some, it’s also a creative outlet in and of itself. It’s just another way artists, writers, poets, and musicians can treat their art as a business while they pursue the freedom to create it. While the life of the freelancer may appeal to some, there are things to consider before traveling the path of the freelancer.
The Pros of Freelance Work
There are many great benefits to working as a freelance writer or graphics artist. Here are six to consider:
You can create your own work schedule
As a freelancer, you can indeed set your own hours. Of course, this depends on who your clients are and what demands they make of your time. Deadlines must be met, but if you prefer to work in the early mornings and have your afternoons off, you can certainly do that. You can break up your time any way you like as long as you’re getting the work done and your clients are happy.
You are your own boss
Yes, you are your own boss. You can work when you want to (see above), wear what you want (see below) and take time off when you need to, or even when you feel like it. When I was freelancing full-time, I loved the freedom I had to quit working in the middle of the day (a non-deadline day, of course), get on my bike and ride, sometimes ending up at the lake or the zoo. I also liked the freedom of turning down work (when I could afford to) from habitually late-paying or low-paying clients.
You get to work from home
No long commutes spending hours crawling through traffic. Yes, that’s a huge time and money saver. It can be good for the soul too. Some may worry about all the distractions that the home/work life presents. For me, getting distracted by a pile of dirty dishes and taking ten minutes to do them is a distraction I welcome. As long as the work gets done, I don’t consider it a problem. There are plenty of distractions in office environments too. You need good self control no matter where you work.
You don’t have coworkers (or a boss)
Assuming you enjoy working independently, or are a bit of the reclusive artistic type, not having to deal with coworkers or a boss is a huge perk. Some people just don’t like small talk, or continually getting hit up for contributions to this or that birthday party, baby shower or retirement gift fund. Freelancing will definitely solve that problem, although it could be argued that freelancers have many bosses/clients.
You can work in your pajamas
This benefit is often mentioned in work-at-home job ads. These jobs are typically low-paying gigs so companies try to hype up this pretty worthless perk (in my opinion). I wouldn’t recommend working in your pjs, as it blurs the work/home line a little too much. But hey, if that’s something that’s on your career bucket list, you can certainly work in your pajamas or nothing at all.
The Cons of Freelancing
For every pro there is a con. Here are five negative aspects of freelancing.
Sometimes the money just isn’t right
It’s feast or famine in the freelance world. There will definitely be lean times where jobs don’t materialize and clients will pay late simply because they can. To counter this, it is necessary to have good money management skills and to learn to live within your means. Even with savings and a good plan, when the work dries up and the money slows to a trickle, the stress level ticks up a notch.
No benefits (medical/dental, paid vacation, etc.)
Freelancing is a struggle for sure. The freedom of creating your own work schedule is a huge draw, but the financial uncertainty makes it hard to relax and enjoy it sometimes. I never stopped worrying about when and if I was going to get paid and whether it would be enough—is it ever enough? Even when the work was coming in, pay can be slow to arrive and there is no such thing as paid time off or medical insurance, much less dental and vision benefits.
No feeling of security
There is simply never a guarantee that you’ll find enough work to support yourself as a freelancer. If you can find one or two clients, publications or websites to give you steady work, then that’s great, but you never know when one will go out of business and/or will no longer need your services. It’s a crap shoot.
If you really enjoy the social interaction an office environment provides, then freelancing may not be your cup of tea. It can be very lonely sometimes and freelancers often go an entire work day without interacting with other humans. Freelancers need to make an effort to connect with other people (offline) when they start to feel too isolated.
No time for your own work
Many artists think that freelancing will give them lots of time to work on their own projects. This is true in theory. The lack of a commute can give you back ten or twelve hours per week which can be used to create, however, the brain does get tired and the thought of painting, drawing or writing after a day of doing that for someone else, can be daunting. I personally recommend starting the day with your own stuff. Give your best effort to yourself. Don’t put it off for another time. That time may never materialize.
Now go do it!
So there you have it. Do the pros outweigh the cons for you? If so, you may be suited for the freelance life. It’s not much different than the life of a working artist. There is the same freedom of autonomy coupled with the constraints of finances. Let me know your thoughts and experiences as a freelance writer, artist, set designer, or studio musician.