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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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20 Comments

20 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

Startup helps freelancers find trusted partners for overflow work

(BUSINESS NEWS) Covailnt is a service for freelancers that takes the mystery out of collaborating, helping us all to focus on what’s in front of us.

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Trying to balance work and networking can be a huge pain even as a traditional worker; for freelancers, maintaining both categories is often downright impossible. If you’re struggling to make meaningful partnerships in the freelancing world, Covailnt may have a solution for you.

Covailnt takes the mystery out of freelancing, which—unlike romance—could do with a bit less guesswork. The service is best described as a combination of a workflow app and a social network, but its core function is to serve as a database of freelancers. Each person who signs up for Covailnt fills out a profile which includes skills, availability, location, and a portfolio; as a Covailnt user, you can use this information to determine whether you want to work with the person.

The ability to review a freelancer’s highlight reel without having to initiate a conversation is sure to be a time-saver, and you get to avoid the awkward follow-up conversation to boot.

Time efficiency is clearly a strong influence on Covailnt’s platform: each freelancer’s surface-level profile prioritizes the preview window to display their level of business, using metrics from “Not Working” all the way through “Slammed”. Having this information front-and-center makes it easy to differentiate between who in your network might be available for overflow work and who you shouldn’t contact for the time being.

Covailnt also makes it easy to find compatible people with whom to collaborate. In what always seems to be the case when a group project emerges, your go-to collaborator might be too busy to handle a joint effort, and not everyone has the time to troll through the classifieds in search of a temporary partner. Searching for a like-minded, similarly skilled freelancer via Covailnt can significantly cut down on the time you spend looking and help you prioritize the work itself.

Beyond its site-level features, the coolest part of this service is that it allows you to build a network of talented people with whom you share interests, goals, and workstyles. Once you’ve established such a network, you may find your work queue filling up with things you actually care about, enabling you to push some of your less enjoyable work to someone in your network who will give it the care it deserves.

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Business Entrepreneur

What’s the difference between an accelerator and an incubator program?

(ENTREPRENEUR) When considering your options for growing your startup, do you know how an accelerator differs from an incubator? The differences are bigger than many realize…

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incubator vs. accelerator

There are now more options than ever when it comes to applying to as well as choosing the best startup accelerator or incubator.

For those of you who may be new to the startup world (welcome!), I’ve compiled some helpful information to determine the difference between an accelerator and incubator, and which one might be best for your company.

Yes, all programs tout value to burgenoning businesses such as business plan assistance, introduction to other founders and mentors, and most importantly, guidance on fundraising to VCs and angels. But what’s the difference? Here’s the lowdown:

Incubators:

Incubators are built specifically for founders that are at the initial stages of starting their companies and don’t have set program timelines.

Unlike accelerators, incubators operate on a less structured time schedule with less programming and resources, and it’s not uncommon for a company in an incubator program to last for several months or even years.

Incubators typically offer their portfolio companies free office space, business plan advice, and mentorship.

The incubator may offer assistance in introducing your company to potential investors, but it’s not always the main purpose of the program (whereas the majority of accelerators have “demo days” where founders specifically pitch to potential investors).

Incubators are especially popular in local economies and can be run by organizations like non-profits, civic organizations, co-working spaces, and universities. Since incubators have less of a time requirement and offer less resources, you’ll only need to commit to a small amount of equity, often around 1%.

Accelerators:

Accelerators are more focused, time-intensive structured programs for companies with a proof of concept/minimum viable product (MVP) and market validation.

Accelerators do just that: accelerate company growth for startups with proven potential to exit (either eventually sell or go public). Because of this, accelerator interview processes are typically extensive and competitive.

Most programs can last anywhere from 10 weeks to 3-4 months. With many top accelerators, you’ll be expected to move to the city where it’s hosted and spend 40+ hours a week minimum in their dedicated coworking space, and several accelerators offer housing stipends to make the move easier.

These programs typically conclude with a demo day to pitch your product to a variety of community leaders, angel, and institutional investors.

Many accelerators are industry-agnostic, but some specialize in specific industries such as The Brandery or Comcast LIFT Labs.

Accelerators offer exclusive access to investors, web hosting credits, other perks, and special access to program mentors as well as program alumni.

Because of this, the equity required is often somewhere in the range from 3% to 6%.

Y Combinator, one of the most prestigious accelerators in Silicon Valley, invests $150,000 in each startup in addition to its program for a 7% equity stake.

Overall, incubators and accelerators can offer extensive value for founders, but make sure to research carefully when choosing a program. Next up, we’ll talk about choosing the best accelerator for your company and founding team, so stay tuned!

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs: You’re unemployable in your own company, must define your role

(ENTREPRENEURS) Once you’ve built a successful business, it’s time to reexamine your role and determine where you fit in best.

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In my experience, most entrepreneurs are “accidental entrepreneurs.” They happened to be good at something, or they had a unique one-time opportunity to provide a product or service to the market. Then years later, they wake up one day and realize that they’re running a big business.

As an entrepreneur, one of the unintended consequences of building a business is that you become essentially unemployable within your own organization. After living the life of freedom, flexibility and responsibility of being a business owner, it’s difficult to go back to a “nine-to-five” job. This is why many entrepreneurs don’t enjoy staying with their businesses after they’ve sold to other organizations. Within months, they are frustrated that they’re no longer in control and the new owners are (in their opinion) making poor choices.

I see many situations where entrepreneurs are bad employees in their own organization. In fact, they may be the worst team members in the organization by having inconsistent schedules or poor communication skills and/or by inserting themselves into areas that aren’t useful. They can also have too much freedom and flexibility. And while most entrepreneurs insist on clearly defined roles, expectations and goals for all of their employees, they don’t always take the time to define their own roles, expectations and goals.

So why do entrepreneurs become bad employees?

I believe that it’s because they don’t have someone holding them accountable. Think about it: Who do they report to? They’re the owners. Part of the definition of “owner” is being accountable for everything but not accountable to anyone. Having a board of directors, a peer group or a business coach can provide some accountability for them, but another solution is to clarify their roles in the company and then abide by those definitions.

If you find yourself “unemployable” in your business, it’s time to define your role. It starts with outlining your main focus. Do you concentrate more on day-to-day execution or strategic, long-term decisions? Do you consider yourself an owner-operator or an investor?

Most entrepreneurs start as an owner-operator and put in countless hours of sweat equity doing whatever needs to be done to build the business. But over time they reinvest earnings in the business and hire a management team so they can step back and take on a more strategic role. Sometimes it’s not clear when the entrepreneur makes that transition, which can lead to challenges for the entire team.

Focus: Strategic Overview

If your main role is in dealing with long-term, strategic decisions, then it’s important for you to communicate that to the team. Clearly delegate tactical roles and responsibilities to the leadership team.

I’ve seen many instances where owners do more harm than good by haphazardly injecting themselves into tactical decisions that should be handled by the leadership team. Instead of jumping in when they see something they disagree with, I encourage owners to actively “coach” their leadership team to be better leaders. The approach of micromanaging every decision of others will frustrate everyone and lead to an underperforming organization.

I have one client that decided his role was to build strategic relationships and work on a new service offering. He was confident that his leadership team could handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Over time he discovered that being in the office every day was actually a distraction for him and his team. So, he moved his office out of the building.

To maintain his ownership responsibilities to the company, he scheduled one afternoon a week to physically be in the office. Team members knew they could schedule time with him during that weekly window when he temporarily set up office space in a conference room. Not having a permanent office in the building also sent a message to the team that he was not responsible for day-to-day decisions. Sometimes not having an office in the building is better than the team seeing the owner’s office empty on a regular basis.

Focus: Day-to-Day Execution

If you decide that your role is in the day-to-day execution of the business, then clearly define your role in the same way you would define any other team member role. Are you in charge of marketing? Sales? Finance? Operations? Technology? R&D? Or, some combination of multiple roles? Take the time to outline your responsibilities and communicate them to the team.

Just as you define your role, also define what you are NOT going to do and who is responsible for those areas. After all, sectioning off some tactical work does not abdicate you from long-term decision-making. You must set aside time to make the long-term, strategic decisions of the company.

Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous to those that haven’t done it, but ultimately, the owner is accountable for everything that happens in their organization. It can be quite sobering. And while some entrepreneurs have a delusional belief that they can do everything in a company, it’s not a path to long-term success.

All entrepreneurs have to decide what their role should be in their organization – even if it means that they’re contributing to their “unemployable” status.

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