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10 advantages and disadvantages of becoming a freelancer

For many reasons, you may be considering becoming a freelancer, and while there is great freedom in becoming your boss, you also take on a great deal of responsibility and risk.

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You already know the signs of when it’s time to quit your job and become an entrepreneur. But before you start your own freelance business, you should be aware of the pros and cons for your decision. After all, this type of decision has the potential to be life-changing, in either a positive or negative way. But we’ve done the work for you. Here are the top five positives and the top five negatives of becoming a freelancer in lieu of a full-time, 9-to-5 employee.

5 advantages of being a freelancer

1. Flexible Hours – The first advantage of becoming a freelancer is that you can work whenever you want. You get to choose your own hours. If you want to sleep in until noon, you can do that. If you want to take the weekend off so you can explore the city, by all means, go for it. As a freelancer, you can actually work during your most productive hours, and those hours don’t have to fall in during regular business hours.

2. Control over Jobs and Clients – When you work for someone else, you don’t get a choice of who you work with. You can become stuck with unprofessional or rude clients. But, when you’re a freelancer, you can choose with whom you work. If you don’t mesh well with a client’s personality or business or payment philosophies, you can pass on the opportunity and wish them the best. It’s as easy as that.

3. Work Wherever You Want – Whether you prefer consistency or shaking things up when it comes to your work environment, you can choose to work wherever you want, whether you choose to work in a local coffee shop or while you’re on vacation in Europe.  You are no longer stuck in an office or even in your home. Find a place in which you work best. You could work in a park, at the library, or in your living room while you’re wearing your pajamas.

4. You’re the Boss – You no longer have to answer to anyone but your clients and yourself. No one is hanging over you or micromanaging you. You are free to do as you please, when you please. Making all the tough decisions just became your responsibility; you have all the control.

5. You Keep All the Profits – No longer do you have to work for a flat rate, no matter how large the projects are that you complete. Now, you get to allocate or keep all the profits from your large and small projects and clients. This gives you the freedom to then use that money to improve yourself and expand your business.

5 disadvantages of freelancing

1. Not Steady or Reliable Workloads – Unfortunately, being a freelancer means that your income and your workload are unstable and inconsistent. For the most part, you won’t be able to depend on any regular project, client, or profit, whereas you would know the exact pay you’ll receive at a traditional job.

2. Distinguishing Between Work and Personal Time – Being your own boss and working from your home also means that it can be difficult to distinguish between your work time and your personal life. This means that you can work long hours and never make time for your personal interests.

3. A lot of Legwork – You are now in charge of finding all your own clients and projects. When you worked a traditional job, your projects were probably handed to you. But now, you’re the sole person responsible, so that means a lot of legwork on your part.  And that means you have to wear many hats, including marketing, advertising, and sales.

4. Not Getting Paid – Being a freelancer also means that you run the risk of not getting paid. This is fairly common in the freelance world, and one more hat you’ll have to wear is that of a debt collector. There are ways to protect yourself from non-paying clients, but sometimes you won’t realize you’re at risk until it’s too late.

5. No Employer Benefits – Health benefits are expensive. Depending on your current health, switching to a freelance lifestyle might not be in your best interest. Also, starting your own freelance business means you no longer have paid sick days or vacation time to use. Every day you don’t work is a day you won’t get paid.

The takeaway

Freelancing is equal parts positive and negative. You just have to decide if you’re willing to take the risk that almost always accompanies it. Freelancing means professional freedom, but it also means instability and the risk of failure. And that may not be what you need in your professional life. But if you risk your stability for something more in tune with your professional goals than a traditional job, you have the opportunity to build your name and reputation and reach your professional goals.

This editorial was first published here in 2012.

The American Genius Staff Writer: Charlene Jimenez earned her Master's Degree in Arts and Culture with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Denver after earning her Bachelor's Degree in English from Brigham Young University in Idaho. Jimenez's column is dedicated to business and technology tips, trends and best practices for entrepreneurs and small business professionals.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

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  3. Sabrina

    August 29, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    I started freelancing in June after graduating from college. Prior to that I was unemployed for 2.5yrs. Honestly, freelancing was the best decision I ever made. Sure, I ran into problems with non paying clients but perseverance paid off and I’ve not looked back.

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  5. Christopher

    December 30, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    I was a hotel general manager for sixteen years. In 2008 I was laid off due to the financial crisis with nothing more
    than a severance package which was laughable. Since then I have been a freelance teacher specializing in Business English. My students are located throughout France, Germany and Japan, I have never felt more happier than at this moment. At the beginning it was difficult understanding what I was teaching, however, after a few months the light came on and things became easier. It has been 7 years since I began freelancing and from my heart, I am truly happy and my experience has been absolutely positive and life changing. It has been a zen like feeling and I have new friends
    all over Europe and an education no masters degree can provide. Freelancing has been a life changing experience and I no longer look back to the financial crisis or the past.

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  15. Rosie Beckett

    June 5, 2018 at 11:23 am

    My sister is really good at graphic design and illustration and she is thinking of doing freelance work but doesn’t know much about it, so I am glad that I found this article. It is interesting that you say you can choose the jobs and clients that you want to work with. This will be great for my sister because she can choose to only take jobs that interest her! Also, I think that my sister will enjoy being the boss and having control over all of her projects.

    • Lani Rosales

      June 5, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      With great risk comes great reward. Peter Drucker said, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

      Good luck to your sister!

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Business Entrepreneur

Amy’s Ice Cream – a front for spawning entrepreneurs?

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Why would an ice cream shop bother with “30 hours of non-ice cream training” in personal finance and give teens and young adults access to a 401k program?

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amy's ice cream

Scooping ice cream is a classic summer job for the cash-strapped teenager, but for employees of Austin-area favorite Amy’s Ice Cream, it could lead to a lifetime of financial literacy, or even eventual entrepreneurship.

Founder Amy Simmons half-jokingly describes her namesake dessert franchise as “a front for educating primarily young people in business, and finance, and decision making, and problem solving so they can go out in the world and be really successful themselves.” Amy’s employees receive “30 hours of non-ice cream training” in personal finance, and even have access to a remarkably popular 401k program.

Simmons credits her business philosophy to a book by one Jack Stack of Missouri, entitled The Great Game of Business. Its tagline reads, “Teaching employees to think and act like owners,” and the ice cream entrepreneur is now extending the practice of “open book management” to companies across the country through Amy’s EDU, a consulting company cofounded by Simmons, Aaron Clay, and Mark Banks.

Open book management “empowers all employees to know, understand, and ultimately run the business.”Click To Tweet

“It’s a path and it’s a way of looking at your company so that you really engage your customers as partners… your stake holders as partners,” says Simmons.

Amy’s EDU also offers courses and seminars in customer service, leadership, public speaking, and company culture, but the primary objective of each track is the same: get employees and customers involved in the business, excited about what they’re doing, and educated enough to contribute something new.

Take note, CEOs and leaders: Amy’s Ice Cream is a highly successful company with impressive longevity – it was founded in 1984, and now boasts 14 locations, including 12 in Austin.

What Amy’s advocates for, others should imitate.Click To Tweet

And imitation does not necessarily mean adopting every single tenet of the Amy’s EDU syllabus, imitation means embracing the ethos of educating your employees on the company they’re devoting time and energy to.

It means giving your employees knowledge, and then giving them some freedom to use that knowledge for the benefit of your company.

It means recognizing that employee success and company success go together like hot fudge and vanilla ice cream, and that the teenager serving your sundae could, and maybe should, one day be founding an enterprise of their own.

This story was first published in February 2017.

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Business Entrepreneur

Business advice from Babe Ruth that all leaders should mind

(OPINION) Leadership comes from years of refining your practice, and great leadership comes dedication and focus, but Babe Ruth would add more to that…

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All good leaders pull from a variety of inspirational sources to create their formula for success, even from unlikely sources like an overweight baseball legend. Babe Ruth was a winner in his day without steroids and without the paparazzi and while he wasn’t a business leader, he hustled every day to be the best.

Today, we share with you a quote from Babe Ruth that all leaders should mind when operating business because this simple concept is one of the hardest to remember. “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games,” Babe Ruth said. Let that settle in. Are you resting your laurels on yesterday’s home runs?

Are you puffing your chest because last year’s sales were high or because your net worth was higher in 2008 than anyone else’s in your circle or because you won a prestigious award in 2007?

It’s very common to consider past accomplishments as part of your identity, there’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes relying on yesterday’s home runs stunts a leader’s intellectual growth – once you think you’re at the top of your game, sure you keep working, but are you really focused on today’s game?

The cliche of keep your eye on the ball would also be relevant here, because if you’re in the outfield dreaming about last week’s home run, you’re not in the game today with everyone else.

What steps are you taking to focus on today’s game? Maybe the image below should be your desktop or smartphone wallpaper as a reminder to focus?

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Business Entrepreneur

Transitioning from corporate life to freelance life

(ENTREPRENEUR) A look at what it takes to pivot your career from corporate cubicles to your couch at home.

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Freelancing is rad. I’ve gone into some depth on why I think that’s the case and even provided some thoughts and resources for my rush hour and necktie-averse kin.

Freelancing is also challenging, in many ways more so than office work. I’ve transitioned between the two, both ways, and while I’ve landed on the liberating, self-motivated (but insecure, complicated and confusing) freelance side rather than the dull, workaday cube farm side (with it benefits, job security and human interaction) I can obviously see arguments for both.

Here’s what I wish I’d known before I set out to navigate the minefield between corporate and freelance work. With any luck, it should help you do the same without hearing a click and having to offer a sad and final “oops.”

Have a plan.

This is where going corporate to freelance starts to differ from vice versa. Choosing a new corporate employer takes hard goals, but also flexibility: an ex-freelancer has to learn to accommodate other people’s plans, on account of, you know, working with other people now.

Entering the freelance world requires the opposite.

You don’t just need goals. You need a schedule.

You need deliverables, you need a budget, you need Plans B-Z inclusive for when you come in over or under, because you will.

In short, you need a boss in your head.

It is the best boss you’ll ever have: that cat (feel free to imagine it as an actual cat in a business suit; I certainly do) doesn’t care if you party til 2am on a Wednesday, or skive off for three hours in the middle of the day to catch “Fate of the Furious” at matinee prices. All your new boss cares about is hitting the numbers.

Have numbers. Hit them.

Go slowly.

This is the one that everyone screws up, by which I mean that I did. It is so tempting to stick your boss’ tie in the shredder, shot put your least favorite appliance out the window and burn a sweet donut in the parking lot before you drive off to your freelancer future. Every office drone’s dream, right?

Don’t do it. Do not.

On my last day before I went freelance, I wore a Metallica tee and sweats to my shirt-and-tie day job. Joked with my cube buddy, what were they gonna do, fire me?

Thing is? That was the first time I went freelance.

As you’ll recall from the intro, I’ve done that twice. Thankfully, when I did have to return to the realm of gridlock and beige, I was in a different time zone. But the whole reason I had to return to the corporate world in the first place was summed up in that I didn’t prepare. I did the dream, cut loose, and burned the bridges behind me. Unwise.

It’s standard wisdom that you should build up savings before starting a business. Real talk: for an awful lot of people, that’s fantasy. Even in my coziest corporate days, north of the 50th percentile, between rent and urban cost of living my only shot at meaningful savings was retailing organs.

Keep your kidneys. Instead, bank your time.

I’m a writer. You may have noticed. Most of my day jobs involved that skill. If you think every character I typed into Word in my cube days was corporate-approved, as opposed to projects or practice for my freelance adventures, there’s this great bridge I’d like to sell you.

So for the first few months, keep your day job and build your skills.

Take small projects on your own time, buoyed with that glorious cushion of salary.

Train your brains out. You may even be able to do that at work: plenty of employers, especially in fields like tech and medicine that a) value certification b) translate nicely to freelancing, will shell out to train you up. Wade into the shallow end while you’ve still got a roof and a health plan. It’s vital experience, but more importantly, it’s how you figure out freelance IT or consulting or Etsying artisanal dog sweaters is actually how you want to spend 80 hours a week.

Keep a schedule.

Wait. 80 hours? Fraid so, at least early on. It will take serious legwork to get those artisanal dog sweaters off the ground. No client list means permanent hustle. No infrastructure means weeks on end of pure trial and error, figuring out what works. No employees means every last bit of it is on you.

That’s not what I mean by scheduling. You have a job, and, being an American Genius reader, are by definition intelligent and insightful, not to mention good-looking and possessed of impeccable taste. We don’t let just anybody around here. You know you’ll need that stuff.

When you freelance, you need to schedule life.

That boss in your head? Still your boss, which is to say a sociopath who can and will take every minute you’re willing to offer. For better or worse, an office job does work-life balance for you: come in then, leave now, this is due whenever. The nastiest trap in entering freelance work, the last, biggest boom in the minefield, is that it can swallow you whole. If you let it, it will take over your life, and it’s better at that than the cube, because it’s something you want to do.

Integrate both ways.

So, not every day but now and again, put down your dog sweaters and catch Vin Diesel. See a concert on a weekday. Spend a whole evening playing with your kid.

Whatever you like, with a single rule: no work allowed.

Freelancing means your job is much more thoroughly integrated into your life.Click To Tweet

Make sure your life is integrated into your job.

And that, my friend, is how you transition from drone life to freelance life.

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