We’ve all read countless articles on the reasons you should consider freelancing.
They often make it out like anyone still working in the corporate world is just a schmuck with no ambition. But the truth is, there are plenty of reasons not to start freelancing.
Below are twenty such reasons, all laid out so you can make an informed decision about whether freelancing is really something you want to do in your career.
There’s nothing wrong with staying in a corporate job, just as there’s nothing wrong with setting out on your own. But it’s a choice every designer and developer needs to make for themselves.
One note: when we talk about “corporate jobs”, we’re talking mostly about design firms with multiple employees (whether they’re corporations or not), but most of it also applies to in-house design teams at large companies.
1. You Think It Will Be Easier Than a Corporate Job
A lot of people considering freelancing think it will be easier than their current corporate job. After all, they’ll only have to take on projects they want to take on, they won’t have a boss or coworkers to deal with, and they’ll be able to set their own hours.
But most freelancers, when the first start out at least, aren’t able to be too picky about the work they take on. And while they don’t have coworkers or a boss to deal with, that means they also don’t have anyone to turn to if they get stuck on a project.
There are still clients to deal with, too. And the whole thing about setting your own hours pretty much just means you can choose which sixteen hours in the day you want to work when you’re getting started.
2. You Don’t Have Much Experience
If you’re just getting out of school, you may not have much experience to draw on. And there are a couple of reasons why experience is more important when you’re a freelancer.
First of all, you’ll need a portfolio to show prospective clients if you want them to hire you. While you can always use personal projects, it’s also good if you have at least a few sites in your portfolio that you completed for other people (bonus points if they’re not friends or family). This shows a prospective client that you’re legitimate, and that you’ve had happy clients in the past.
The other reason is that experience proves to both you and the client that you’re capable of finishing projects. If you’ve never done anything but personal projects, there’s no indication that you’ll be able to finish a project.
Freelance designers need to be able to handle client requests and revisions, as there will almost always be things your client wants to change, no matter how great your initial design is. And until you’ve finished a client project, you don’t even have any proof that you have what it takes to work with clients.
3. You Have No Business Sense
When you’re freelancing, you generally don’t have anyone around to handle invoicing, collections, marketing, PR, and the myriad other tasks that corporate design firms handle for you. These are all things you’ll need to deal with yourself when you start freelancing.
Of course, you can always outsource some or all of these functions, but you may find it prohibitively expensive when you’re starting out. It’s better if you know how to do all of them yourself.
Keeping your own books is especially important, as it gives you a clear picture of how much money you have coming and how much is going out (and where it’s going). That’s important if you want to stay in business.
4. You Need Benefits
Some people can’t get by without benefits. If you have existing health problems, you’ll almost certainly need health insurance. And even if you’re healthy, that’s no guarantee you will be in the future. Plus, if you have kids, you’ll likely want health insurance for them, too.
This is one of those issues that’s not going to matter in countries with universal health coverage, but even in those countries there are other benefits you may not want to lose.
If you’re self-employed, you’ll no longer have employer contributions to your retirement plans. You won’t get paid sick days or personal days anymore. All of these things will need to be built into your budget or schedule.
5. You Think the Pay Will Be Better
Many considering switching to freelancing think the pay will be better. After all, they’ll get to keep all the money they’ve billed out, without sharing any of it with an employer. And that’s true. But you’ll also be responsible for paying all of your own taxes (in the U.S., at least, that amounts to an extra 7.5% in payroll taxes that you have to pay that would otherwise be paid by an employer).
You also have all sorts of other business-related expenses you’ll need to pay. Things like office supplies, new equipment, software, and all those other expenses that go along with running a business will all have to be paid by you.
There’s also the difference between hours worked versus billable hours to contend with. Not everything you do will be billable work. Time you spend on administrative tasks aren’t billable.
If you screw up on a project and have to take time to fix it, that’s usually not billable either (at least not ethically). At a corporate job, you generally get paid either for the hours you actually work or on a salaried rate, regardless of how much the client is billed.
6. You Have No Self-Discipline
If you can’t discipline yourself to actually work, then you’re not going to make it as a freelancer. If you find you’re spending hours playing video games or on Facebook instead of working, you’re going to have a very hard time finding enough billable hours to pay your own bills.
When you work in a corporate environment, there’s always the threat of being let go if you goof off too much. When you work from home, you don’t have that same threat lingering. But if you don’t get client work done on time, you’ll have unhappy clients and, eventually, no clients.
If you can’t discipline yourself to work when you need to, you’ll be better off sticking with a corporate gig.
7. You Don’t Love Your Work
So many people who work the usual 9-to-5 don’t really love their jobs. They don’t wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work. But they do it in order to earn a paycheck and put food on the table. Sometimes this is because of the work environment itself, but others times it’s because they don’t really enjoy the work they’re doing.
If you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re probably not going to love it any more once you’re freelancing. Freelancing is hard work, and if you’re already struggling to find the motivation to get your job done, you’ll probably struggle even harder once there’s no boss there to motivate you.
8. You Think the Hours are Better
When you own your own business, you’ll likely end up working twelve- to sixteen-hour days five to seven days a week, at least for the first few years.
Freelancing is like any other business. Sure, once you’re established, you’ll likely be able to reduce your hours and only take on higher-paying projects. But in the interim, you’ll probably have to take on any work you can get to build up your reputation and a stable of regular clients.
It’s also likely that your workflow won’t be as efficient as it could be for your first few months, or even years, in business. You’ll spend time on unnecessary activities. You’ll end up repeating things because you don’t have good methods for keeping track of everything.
And because of this, you’ll spend more time than is necessary on a lot of things. Time and effort will eventually fix these issues, but they’ll still have to be dealt with for a little while.
9. You Have No Space in Your House/Apartment/Bedroom for an Office
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