Freelancing: Pros and Cons

Many people dream of the day they can go freelance. No more bosses, no more alarm clocks, live anywhere in the world you want… there’s a fantasy about freelancing that many office workers subscribe to, but – a bit like a week’s holiday in Faliraki – the reality is rarely up to expectations.

On many levels freelancing sucks, and here are some things you should consider before you decide to chuck in the corporate gig, with its free gym membership, health insurance and generous pension.

1) Money. Many freelancers think that they will earn more if they leave their job and service their clients directly. In fact the chances are they will earn considerably less. What you have to bear in mind when you go freelance is that you won’t get paid a single cent for work you haven’t done… unlike with standard employment where you get 25 days holiday, bank holidays, bonuses, benefits, pensions etc. etc. And sick leave. And just days when you can’t be arsed. Your boss may not be impressed if you do bugger all all day, but unless you get sacked you’ll still get your full pay at the end of the month… hangovers, colds and even bad moods are all expensive if you’re a freelancer. To have the same perks and bank balance as a freelancer you’ll probably have to earn at least 25% more than you did as an employee (statistic sourced from the Duncan Rhodes School of Rough Guessing), and if you ever get seriously ill/injured, you’re completely screwed.

2) Admin. Imagine a world where you go to work every day, bust your balls, and then at the end of the month the money owing to you appears in your bank account. Now imagine a world where you go to work every day, bust your balls even harder, and then look at your bank balance to find no one has paid you. In fact you still have invoices outstanding from 6/12/18 months ago. Imagine a world where every day you get up knowing some mofos owe you money and it’s gonna be a major pain in the arse to get it from them. Welcome to my world!!! Not only that but you know those nice girls in accounts. They don’t give a shit about you any more. You’re going to have to try and work out, despite a complete lack of training, how much tax you owe the government every year. And yes it’s a lot more painful paying it back to the tax man in one lump sum after Christmas, rather than have it arrive, minus the amount owing, every month. As time is money, you’d better go back to point one and factor in how much extra time you’re now going to have to dedicate to arduous, tedious, soul-destroying invoice-chasing, general admin. and tax returns.

3) Escaping the office… not as good as it sounds! I always used to think to myself if I ever went to jail I can’t see why solitary confinement would be that bad. I’d rather that than be shut in a cell with a load of rapists, madmen and murderers. But if you’ve ever read the Count of Monte Cristo you’ll realise this is simply not true. Man is a social animal and even bad company is better than no company. Freelancing is a lonely world, and whereas I enjoy sleeping in in the mornings, what I wouldn’t give for a few colleagues I could joke with, flirt with, gossip about etc etc ever day of the week. The office is also useful for helping you maintain a work life balance. You’re in the office you’re at work. You’re out of the office. Fuck work! When you work from home (as with most freelancers) it’s hard to know when you’re at work and when you’re not… and for me at least, I tend to feel I’m always at work. There’s always something important I could be doing. It may sound strange, but the office and the office environment is the thing I miss most about my previous life as an employee. No cuties wear a short skirt around my house, no one cares about the latest Arsenal results and there’s no one to call me “Rat Boy” and throw paperclips at my head when I’m on the phone.

I guess the proof is in the pudding though. Despite all of the above I’m still freelancing, and not planning on changing any time soon. I get to spend a lot of time in cool cities, like Barcelona and Krakow, I can go on (working) holidays whenever I want (even if I rarely do), I can sleep in, I am always available to party if some hot girls want to go out on a Monday night. I am free to work on the projects that interest me most, and take them in the direction I want to take them in… without having to ask anyone for permission. Freelancing = freedom, basically. But the life of an employee is a cushdie life of slavery alright and that’s something you should bear in mind when you’re taking a corporate cockshafting this summer. You may have sold your soul, but chances are you got a damn good price.

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