The Pros and Cons of Freelancing

Published on Oct 16, 2013
Photo by Kat SilversteinPhoto by Kat Silverstein

Freelancing can be a great opportunity for emerging professionals to build up experience and strengthen a thin portfolio. It can also end up leading to a full-time career where you’re the boss, or help you get that first full-time gig. Creatives of all stripes are in demand as freelancers. Photographers, film and video editors, graphic and web designers and writers are common freelance positions.

Before diving in, there are a few things you should consider about the ups and downs of freelancing.

Pros

Great Job Flexibility 

You get to make your own hours.  No such thing as being late for work! Need to stay home to receive a package? No prob.

It can help build your resume.

“Freelancing while you’re a student can be a good way to build up a client base and generate some good work samples,” advises Christie Andersen-Asif, Assistant Director of Career Development in the Portfolio Center. It's real work for real clients and can really be the deciding factor in your landing full-time employment.

It’s something you can do until you’re permanently employed.

“When you’re looking for full-time work after graduation, sometimes it takes a while to land something,” Asif recognizes. “Freelancing can keep you busy.”

You can potentially make more money.

This depends on your work ethic, but the opportunity is there. The harder you work and market yourself, the more money you can make. On the whole, freelancers make more hourly than their salaried counterparts, but without the benefits. Unsure about what to charge? Here’s a basic guide.

Cons

Unsteady Income.

Pay amounts vary and work isn’t guaranteed. You need to know how to marketing yourself, not just do the creative work.  “In the beginning, it’s a 50-50 split between actually doing work and marketing yourself,” Asif says. “You end up spending a lot of time generating future projects.”

Lack of structure.

This is great for some people, but really hard for others. Will you get stuff done when it’s just up to you? Does working from home seem fun or kind of lonely? You might not know until you try. You might not also know when to call it quits and take a vacation since no on else is paying for your time off. Freelancers have been known to be harder bosses on themselves than they would be on someone else.

Separating work from home can be a challenge.

Since you will probably do most of your work from home, it can be difficult finding a balance in your life and deciding when to stop working.  You’ll have to make a disctinct separation between "work time" and "free time". Plus, you might need to make an effort to actually leave the house everyday and see other human beings.

Tax issues.

“Nothing is coming out of your money for taxes, so you have to stay on a good schedule so that you don’t have financial penalties,” says Asif. If you think all that money is yours to keep, you’re wrong. It would suck to find out you owe 10K at the end of the year. You have to be super-organized.

If you’re wondering where to get started, the Portfolio Center offers freelancing workshops throughout the year. The fall workshops are almost over, but there will be new ones in the spring. Plus, you can always make an appointment to get advice. Good luck!