Anyone who has ever worked a job that requires leaving their own four walls, has at some point wished they could stay in bed a few more hours, or to work a few days a week from the comfort of their own home. This post is for those readers among you who have started to more seriously contemplate this scenario. “Why work from home?”, you may ask. It’s a good question, so I’m here to tell you the pros and cons of freelancing so you have a clearer understanding of the lifestyle.
If you’re looking for a quick summary, the table below sums up some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a freelancer.
|Advantages of Being a Freelancer||Disadvantages of Being a Freelancer|
|More autonomy over work time||Variable workloads and income|
|More flexibility with work and non-work activities||Less defined work-life boundaries|
|More comfortable environment||Admin tasks|
|Deciding your own pricing||No employment benefits|
|Commute savings (time and transport costs)||Longer/late working hours|
|Less office-related distractions||Fewer networking opportunities|
|Location independence||Increased isolation|
|Equipment often already available||Self-reliance when things break|
|An opportunity to learn more||Higher need for self-discipline|
Advantages of Being a Freelancer
More Autonomy Over Your Work Time
You make your own hours – and are never forced to waste them. This is the big one for most people. Want to wake up at midday and work a little later? You’re the boss.
While you’ll no doubt work with clients who have time-sensitive issues that need dealing with, and overall deadlines that need to be kept, you can generally approach your day as it best suits you. Personally, I’m more of a night owl and wake up between 11am-1pm, but then often have to work later into the night – but you might prefer the opposite. I’m of the belief that every freelancer has their own “golden hours” – the time of day when your productivity reaches its absolute peak. However, this can take some experimenting to nail down!
Having a choice in how much and when to work gives you the flexibility to combine work and other responsibilities. However, remember that it’s not risk-free – it can lead to blurring the lines between home and work.
Additionally, think about how many hours are spent wasted in traditional job settings. An employee might wrap up most of their work in the first few hours of the day, and subsequently has to “look busy” for the rest of the day for fear of looking bad or being swamped with more work. As a freelancer, once you’re done for the day, you’re really done, and you can get on with whatever else you want.
Having the Equipment Needed
Assuming that your freelance work is online-based – you likely already have all the equipment you need. For the vast majority of remote freelance work, all you need is an internet-connected computer, a phone, and a comfortable place to work.
Once you’ve settled into your routine you’ll likely want to invest in some other bits and pieces to spruce up your work environment and improve your productivity. If you’re a writer, you’re in luck – we’ve reviewed the best laptops for writing and blogging with a focus on what writers really need – in particular a great keyboard, display, and comfortable battery life. There are even a few choices with more powerful graphics cards in case you need to take on some creative work or enjoy a little gaming on the side.
Control Over How Much You Charge
You earn as much (or little) as the effort you want to put in. Don’t get the wrong impression, being a freelancer is far from easy. Dealing with the 9-5 has benefits that even I still miss after years of freelancing, the main one being a stable salary that I always knew would be in my bank account on the same day every month. Lazy freelancers might have a payday that never arrives.
On the flip side, if you do put in the work, build up your list of clients, and excel at what you do, you can make more money than you ever would have at your 9-5.
You also have control over how much you charge people, either per project or per hour (or maybe per word if you’re a writer). If they’re not willing to pay what you ask, it either means that you’re charging too much, or that you need a client who recognises the value in what you do.
You’re not limited by geography. The vast majority of jobs where you have to show up on-site are only available to a very specific group of people – those who live nearby. Being an online freelancer solves this problem by allowing you to work in any time zone your heart desires. Do you think there’s more business opportunity in America? Hunt down some American clients. Always loved the French accent? Bonjour, there are clients there, too!
As long as you’re good at what you do and differences in time zones don’t scare you off, the world can truly become your oyster – either stay at home and work with a global audience or travel the world and work where your heart desires. You can check out our list of the top countries for freelancers and maybe you’ll find your next destination!
More Comfortable Work Environment
You can shape your own work environment. While there are companies out there dedicated to creating a pleasant work environment for their employees, there are also many who fail to live up to even the lowest of expectations. One of the major advantages of working from home is that you can shape almost every aspect of your environment. The paint on the walls, the chair and desk you use, the background music, and many other factors are all up to you.
An Opportunity To Learn More
You’re bound to learn – a lot. Though an office job can teach you a lot, this learning is fairly restricted to your role and how much value your employer places on employee education. You might go years without learning anything that’s interesting to you, and the things you do learn may serve no useful purpose outside of your workplace.
As a freelancer, you don’t have much say in the matter. If you want to keep offering your services to your clients, you’ll need to keep up with what’s happening in your field. You’ll also have the ability to teach yourself new abilities that can contribute to your existing work, allowing you to take on more clients and charge higher rates. You’ll also need to gain some business awareness, including a basic understanding of your legal environment (like deciding between sole proprietorship vs LLC), as well as how to make a profit, attract clients, and market what you’re offering.
Disadvantages of Working From Home
More Need for Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is not for everyone. Being your own boss can be incredibly liberating, but not having anyone giving you direction can also feel daunting at times. While your clients will tell you what they want doing (more or less), they will still rely on your expertise in guiding the job to completion. It’s up to you to get down to work every day, even with all of the 21st-century distractions we have around us 24/7. Freelancing comes with the need to develop not only your own work-life balance techniques, but also to be skilled at self-discipline and time management.
No Employment Benefits
You don’t receive the benefits of a salaried job. Freelancers have to live without some benefits, such as sick pay, healthcare, holiday pay, perks such as gym memberships, and other financial extras such as pension contributions or an employer matching your 401k (or other such investments, depending on where you live). As we’ve mentioned earlier, while your income as a freelancer can outweigh what your traditional salary was, it also lacks benefits which some may not want to live without.
Long/Late Work Hours
As your time is flexible, you can often work long/late hours. Another flip side to an advantage I mentioned earlier, is that your newfound flexibility can end up with you working very long days, especially if you don’t properly budget your time. Getting distracted early in the day can lead to your work being pushed back, with it sometimes having to be completed late into the night.
This can be prevented by getting into a solid freelance routine. On the other hand, factors like working for clients in other time zones, or taking on too much work at once, can lead to a more pronounced shift in your biological clock. However, any freelancer worth their salt learns pretty quickly that time management is one of the most vital skills to possess when working remotely.
Business Admin Is in Your Hands
Once you’ve completed your work for the month, you’ll need to complete your general business admin. This includes invoicing clients for your freelance work, dealing with your taxes (or getting the relevant documents to your accountant), and generally updating your business-related documentation for the month.
This can be quite a change of pace from being traditionally employed and having many of these tasks taken care of by your employer. However, realistically it doesn’t take up too much time and only needs to be done once a month – well worth the trade-off when balanced against the benefits of going freelance!
Being a remote freelancer and working from home isn’t always as easy as it’s made out to be, but if you can manage your time well and self-motivate, there’s no reason why you can’t make the leap yourself! The freedom gained from working for yourself and being able to take full control of your days is something that can be hard to give up once you’ve experienced it. For me, the advantages of being a freelancer far outweigh the disadvantages – so why not see what roles you could take on as a remote freelancer, and give it a shot for yourself!