Expatations, Random Ramblings

The Pros and Cons of Self-Employment

March 21, 2016

Not sure if the timing is right? Will it ever be right? Here are some pros and cons of self-employment.

If you are a creative sort, or are even vaguely interested in travelling or living as an expat, chances are that you have considered going freelance at some point in your career.

I took the plunge two years ago. Was it the right decision? Eh, I dunno. In many ways, it opened up a lot of opportunities for me.

That being said, freelance life is not all sunshine, rainbows and puppies. It’s a real shame for anyone who identifies themselves as being a dog person.

You have the freedom to take off large chunks of time, which is perfect for those who wish to travel

In all honesty, I think moving to London would have been pretty pointless if I’d chosen to find a full-time gig straight off the bat. Freelancing has allowed me to travel more than I could have ever imagined… and keep working in the process. Can you imagine any company allowing a staff member to take 3 months off within a year and keep employing them? Yep. Me neither.

So, if travel is your primary concern, freelancing is a way you can keep your job, while travelling as much as you like in between work.

You can work anywhere in the world

Not sure if the timing is right? Will it ever be right? Here are some pros and cons of self-employment.

Depending on what industry you work in, there are freelance opportunities across the globe.

I’ve been fortunate enough to find work in both Doha and London. If you’d told me that I’d be able to live and earn a living in either of those places three years ago, I would have told you you were dreaming.

Then there are those that work online. If that’s you, then the world is pretty much your oyster. Digital nomads have set up shop across the world – from Central America, to Eastern Europe and South-East Asia.

Some earn enough to live comfortably in cities such as Melbourne, London and New York. Snaps to them.

You’ll learn how to hustle

Freelancers have to be on the ball. No source of income is guaranteed – that gig that pays your rent could dry up at any time. You’ll constantly have to keep your eyes open and your ear to the ground.

Honestly, this could be a good or a bad thing. I try to view it in a positive light.

You’ll be able to manage your own time

Life as a freelancer means that you’ll often become master of your own time, working to your own schedule.

Maybe you’re a night owl and could barely keep your eyes open during the morning commute. Now you can wake up at your own leisure, start working in the early afternoon and get your best work done late in the night.

It’s an incredibly handy form of employment if you’re wanting to employ a work schedule that works for you.

You’ll be as free as a bird while others are at work

Not sure if the timing is right? Will it ever be right? Here are some pros and cons of self-employment.

Many hours were spent at the beach.

One of the greatest benefits of freelance life (if you ask me) is having weekdays off. You can do things like go to the post office or the bank, without having to beg off time from work, or queue up during your precious lunch break. Public transport is generally free from obnoxious teenagers and screaming children. You can wander around town in almost complete peace and quiet.

Even little things like going to the shops or movies becomes far more delightful when you’re not having to compete with masses of people who are let loose on the weekends.

It’s perfect for those wishing to change careers, but aren’t quite ready to take the plunge

Freelancing is often a good move for those who are wishing to tentatively enter new working territory.

Perhaps you’re an accountant by day, but harbour a secret desire to become a graphic designer. You’re not quite ready to take the plunge into a new career, so you take on a couple of jobs to test the waters – moonlighting evenings and weekends.

This way you’ll successfully safeguard yourself. You’re earning your bread and paying your bills, but building up a skill set and portfolio on the side. You’ll eventually decide that you want to proceed with your new career, or discover that it just isn’t really for you.

Either way, you’ll have a better idea and be more informed when it comes to making that final decision.

You can wear an all manner of different work hats

It can often be quite hard to earn a wage freelancing from just one role.

For example, I identify as a video editor. However, many editors either have a background in ingest, or are familiar with media management systems. This is a skill that I’ve had to pick up during my career, but it has doubled my chances of employment, as that is a viable role within itself.

Freelance blogging is quite lucrative. Blogging is a multi-hat role – you’re writing and editing your posts and creating content in the form of photos and maybe video. You’ll learn how to market yourself effectively – if you want your work to be read. You may pick up both graphic and web design skills here and there. You’re learning the fundamental skills of running your own business, an invaluable experience.

You may be more skilled than you realise – and these are skills that are in high demand.

You could end up working less, for more money

There are many perks that come with being a member of staff, such as pension, sick leave and holiday pay. None of these are guaranteed as a freelancer.

This is good and bad, but seeing as we’re reviewing the pros first and foremost… this means MORE MONEY FOR LESS WORK!

You’ll often find you’ll be working around half or even a third as much as you once did, to make the same amount of cash. This is a lovely, lovely thing.

It may leave you time to pursue other activities

Working less opens up another opportunity – that of pursuing that thing that you’ve always wanted to do, you’ve had it in the back of your mind for years… if only you could just find the time to get it done.

This could be anything, from taking a cooking class, renovating your kitchen, taking cello lessons or learning self defence. I freelanced for a year while doing a course back in 2011. I wouldn’t have survived Sydney without this form of income.

You can benefit from specialising in a set skill

If you’ve benefitted from picking up skills in your career that are considered particularly niche, then you can often make an absolute killing by going freelance.

Say you started off working as a video editor in the film industry. Somewhere along the line, you realised that you had a deep personal affinity for colour grading. You jumped at every opportunity to learn all you could about various grading systems, such as DaVinci and became a pro at it. There’s a real science to colour theory and you just got it.

Then, you decided to go freelance and began seeking work as a colour grader, rather than a plain old run off the mill video editor. These are skills that are in high demand, yo. Your worth has increased as a result and you’re earning more money than you know what to do with.

Not sure if the timing is right? Will it ever be right? Here are some pros and cons of self-employment.

As with anything in life, there is a flip side to the coin. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into the freelance world, I would strongly advise you to consider the following.

You could stagnate in your career

If you’re lucky, you may pick up a client who gives you more than enough work to get by on. This however, is not always a good thing.

New roles are challenging… at first. Then you get used to the workflow. Then you may become complacent. Suddenly, you’ve been doing the same job for two years, with no career progression and nothing really to show for it.

This is why you should always be on your toes, looking for opportunities to propel yourself forward.

The hours can be wild and unruly

Often, one of the cons of being a freelancer is that you get stuck working the jobs that the full-time staffers simply don’t want to do.

I work in an industry that never really sleeps. When I was a staff member of a company years ago, I often had the unofficial right to avoid doing the particularly heinous jobs at horrible hours (like, the middle of the night). They were reserved for the freelancers, who got paid twice as much for doing the same role. Fair’s fair, right?

Freelance work can often lead to being stuck working weekends, when all your mates are out having fun, or nights, when everyone else around you is asleep.

This is neither healthy, nor fun and yes, I can tell you this from my own personal experience.

You may not ever have a routine

Not sure if the timing is right? Will it ever be right? Here are some pros and cons of self-employment.

Which means you’ll have to put those German lessons on indefinite hold.

Likewise, your work or shifts may be all over the place. A client could ring or email you the day before, with a job. They don’t care that you have tickets to see your favourite band that night and have been counting down the days for the last six months.

Refusing work could ruin both your personal relationship with them and your reputation within the industry.

You may miss out on something that many 9-5ers take for granted – the beauty of having a set routine. From maintaining a regular exercise schedule, to making a commitment to weekly German lessons – freelance work could get in the way of pursuing activities that you feel are vital to your sanity.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up working from home

I think a lot of people see the life of a freelancer through rose coloured glasses. It’s quite easy to picture someone waking up at their leisure, working studiously at their Pinterest-worthy home office or setting up shop at their local cafés. No morning commutes, no lunchtime rush for food… no problems. Right?

Not necessarily.

Personally, I spend anywhere between 2-6 days a week working at an office in the city. The hours are often long and unsociable. On top of that, I often find myself spending my “days off” working on my blog and my freelance writing work. I do this, because deep down I do enjoy it. However, it is the very definition of a labour of love.

You have to be semi-good with finances

Money is never guaranteed. You have to be diligent with putting aside money for living expenses, savings, tax and emergency back up funds, should you find yourself in the midst of an exceptionally dry work spell.

Even the most financially savvy will have difficulties in managing this. You’re basically having to prepare yourself for every eventuation – the worst being that you have no income.

Work can often be a feast or a famine

This fear is at the back of every freelancer’s mind.

What if the work runs out?

Sometimes you’ll find yourself slogging it for weeks, months or even years on end, to wake up one day and realise that you’re out of work… and no one is biting.

This is a super fun situation to find yourself in when you’ve run out of food, or your rent is due.

Getting sick could lead to a big financial downfall

Not sure if the timing is right? Will it ever be right? Here are some pros and cons of self-employment.

I’m using this as a metaphor – it’s the road of uncertainty.

I’ll share a secret with you.

I have deep desire to pick up rollerblading.

This was mostly fuelled on by a sweet montage I saw of Jessica Wakefield skating around Sweet Valley when I was binge watching SVH on YouTube several years ago (go watch all of it immediately. It’s the worst and the best).

I have this mental fantasy where I whizz along, the wind rippling through my hair, dressed in more fluro spandex than should ever be seen on one person in public. Yet, I’ve hesitated in making this dream a reality.

You see, if I were to fall and god forbid, break a wrist, I would be stuffed. I use my hands for work. As a full-time staffer, this wouldn’t be a problem. As a freelancer, I’d be up the creek without a paddle.

Freelancers often view themselves as these mystical beings who simply aren’t allowed to get ill. As a result, many will continue to come to work, even when they’re coughing up their lungs or vomiting in the toilet every ten minutes. I kid you not – I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

It makes sense to stay home when you’re sick, but many freelancers don’t see this as a financially viable option.

Ultimately, I think the choice is up to the individual. If you feel the time is right, then consider taking the plunge into the freelance world. If you’re not entirely sure, consider taking it anyway. Just don’t see it as the magical solution to all your problems.

Not sure if the timing is right? Will it ever be right? Here are some pros and cons of self-employment.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Alice September 15, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Awesome ideas i have learned many important things after going through your article.Having time for other activities and becoming our master is the best part i found here.
    Thank you very much for sharing!

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