The question of whether freelancing is worth it is one of the most common in the industry. Whether you’re looking to jump ship from a traditional 9-5, make some extra money with a side hustle, or if you’re already freelancing, it can be a tough question to answer. I’ll try and shed some light on it in this article.
I’m not going to bombard you with stats about how big the freelance market is or the fact that it’s always growing. Instead, I’ll talk about my personal experience as a freelance writer, talk about how things have changed (and likely will change), and hopefully help you understand a little better whether it’s the right career choice for you.
First, why should you trust me?
My Personal Freelancing Experience
I started freelancing back in 2019 while I was still at university. You can read more about me here, but the quick version is that I started as a freelance writer on Fiverr. Within 3 months I made enough money to quit my part-time job. I continued freelancing until I got my chemistry degree in 2021, then I started taking it more seriously.
I’ve been a full-time freelancer since then (the phrase ‘full-time’ might alarm those that think freelancing is only a part-time gig!), and I document my experience here on Sophical Content. Yes, I don’t have 25 years of experience, but I don’t think you should only listen to those that have been in the game for decades.
I believe, if you’re just starting out on your freelancing journey, it can be helpful to seek out guidance from those who are a few rungs above you on the ladder – not just those who are now climbing a different one altogether. Things change fast in the freelancing world, so I hope my experience can help you understand whether it’s worth getting into right now.
I think freelancing is worth it. But to understand if it’s worth it for you, there are a lot of things you need to consider.
Is Freelancing Really Worth It?
I think freelancing is worth it for a lot of people – if it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be millions of people around the world doing it (I don’t need to quote a stat for you to know that’s true). It can be incredibly rewarding, offer your flexibility, earn you a lot of money, and be a truly enjoyable career path.
But there are lots of other things to consider:
- Hard work and inconsistent income: You will have periods of abundant work and periods of drought. This cycle can be financially and emotionally taxing, especially for those who rely solely on freelance income (i.e. it’s not a side hustle).
- The stress factor: Managing multiple clients, deadlines, and administrative tasks can be overwhelming. It requires a level of self-discipline and organization that not everyone possesses.
- Your financial situation matters: My personal journey into freelancing began in university, alongside a part-time job. This combination allowed me to experience freelancing without the pressure of full financial responsibility. However, for those thinking of quitting a full-time job to freelance, especially with significant financial obligations, there are lots of other things to consider.
- The solitude of freelancing: If you thrive in collaborative environments and enjoy regular social interactions, freelancing might feel isolating. Conversely, if you prefer working alone and on your own projects, freelancing can be immensely rewarding!
- Weighing it up against traditional employment: Finally, it’s essential to compare freelancing with other employment scenarios. Some roles and industries are better suited to traditional employment structures. Assess your personal and professional needs (and skills) to determine if freelancing aligns with them.
There are obviously lots of other things to consider when deciding if freelancing is worth it or not. The key takeaway is that it depends on your unique situation. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Can you afford to go for any length of time without income?
- Do you think you could handle (mentally) the prospect of inconsistent income in the long run?
- Do you enjoy working alone, or do you need to have others around you?
- How well do you handle stress (associated with deadlines, client communications etc)?
- Do you have skills that people want to pay for?
- Do you enjoy learning and improving yourself?
There are no right answers, and your answers to these can change over time. The important ones concern income and whether you have the mental capacity to handle the stresses of freelancing.
Next, I’ll go through some of the main pros and cons of freelancing to help paint a better picture of the realities of the career path.
The Pros & Cons Of Freelancing
Flexibility & Autonomy
One of the most significant advantages of freelancing is the flexibility it can offer. You can have the autonomy to set your own hours, choose your clients, and decide on the type of work you want to do.
This level of control can lead to a more satisfying work-life balance, as you’re not bound by the traditional 9-to-5 schedule and office environment. If you value independence and have good self-discipline, freelancing can be incredibly liberating.
Caveat: You still work for other people – your clients – and so it’s not just a case of working 2 hours a day twice a week!
Freelancers often have the chance to work on a variety of projects, which can be very exciting and motivating. This diversity allows you to broaden your skill set, work with different clients, and avoid the monotony that can sometimes accompany traditional jobs. It’s an excellent way to build a comprehensive portfolio and gain experience in multiple areas of your industry.
Freelancing also allows you to control your workload. You can decide how many projects to take on and when to take breaks. This can be particularly appealing for those seeking a better balance between their professional and personal lives.
It allows for periods of intense work followed by time off, a rhythm that can be more aligned with personal productivity patterns and lifestyle needs. You will of course need to be able to find clients to cater to this control though.
Personal & Professional Growth
Freelancing can lead to significant personal and professional growth. Facing the challenges of managing your own business, dealing with diverse clients, and navigating the ups and downs of freelance work can develop your skills and resilience. This growth can be highly rewarding and contribute to your overall career trajectory.
Plus, you’ll naturally learn and pick up new skills as you take on new projects. This can improve your overall skill set, and in the long run your CV/resume.
Unlike a regular salary, freelance income can be unpredictable and highly irregular. You might experience periods of feast and famine, which can be stressful, especially if you have consistent bills and financial obligations.
Planning and saving become crucial to navigate these fluctuations. But even with careful management, the uncertainty can be a significant source of stress.
Lack Of Benefits
Unlike traditional employment, freelancers don’t usually receive benefits like health insurance, paid leave, or retirement plans. This means you’re responsible for securing your own benefits, which can be costly and time-consuming (and once again, stressful). The lack of these perks is a significant consideration, especially for those used to having them in a conventional job setting.
Working as a freelancer often means working alone, which can lead to feelings of isolation, especially if you’re someone who thrives in social settings. The lack of a team or office environment means fewer opportunities for in-person collaboration and social interaction, which are integral parts of a traditional workplace.
This is an incredibly important aspect to consider if you’re coming from a collaborative environment. It can be quite a shock to the system!
To maintain a steady flow of work, freelancers must continuously market themselves and grow their network. This ongoing effort to find new clients and projects can be draining and time-consuming.
Unlike a traditional job where work is typically assigned to you, as a freelancer, you’re always in search of your next project, which requires a proactive approach and often, stepping outside of your comfort zone.
If that all sounds great to you and you want to pursue your career as a freelancer, how much can you expect to earn?
Do Freelancers Make Good Money?
Freelancers can make good money, but salaries depend on a lot of different factors. The main factors are your niche or industry, how much you charge of course, and what kind of demand there is for your services.
Factors That Influence Freelancer Income
- Industry and skill demand: Your earning potential as a freelancer largely depends on your field and the demand for your skills. For instance, freelancers in tech, such as web developers or graphic designers, may find more lucrative opportunities than those in niches where there’s an oversupply of talent.
- Experience and portfolio: Experienced freelancers with a strong portfolio generally command higher rates. As you build your reputation and showcase your work, your ability to negotiate better pay increases.
- Market rates and negotiation skills: Following on from above, understanding the market rates for your services and being able to negotiate effectively are crucial. Freelancers who master the art of negotiation can secure better-paying projects.
- Client base and network: A robust client network can lead to a steady stream of work, which is essential for maintaining consistent income. Building and nurturing professional relationships can result in repeat business and referrals.
- Business acumen: Managing freelancing as a business, including setting appropriate rates, marketing yourself effectively, and handling administrative tasks all play a significant role in your success as a freelancer.
Note: Another factor to consider is where you are in the world. Earnings for freelancers in different countries can vary a lot!
Freelancers’ earnings can range from modest to substantial. Some may earn less than they would in a traditional job, especially when starting out or in highly competitive fields. However, many freelancers earn more than their previous salaried positions, thanks to the ability to take on multiple projects or charge premium rates for specialized skills.
But it’s important to remember that freelancing often involves additional costs, such as healthcare, taxes, and business expenses, which can affect net income (this is often why freelancers charge higher rates than an employee might earn for the same role).
So, your earnings as a freelancer can vary a lot. But if you’re still interested in becoming a freelancer, I have a few final tips to help you get started.
Tips For Getting Started As A Freelancer
Identify Your Niche
Determine your strengths and passions, and align them with market demand. For example, if you’re a graphic designer with a flair for branding, focus on building a portfolio that showcases this skill. A well-defined niche doesn’t just help you attract the right clients, but it also allows you to work on projects that genuinely interest you.
Build A Strong Portfolio
Your portfolio should highlight your best work and reflect the kind of projects you want to attract. Include detailed descriptions of each project, your role, and the results you achieved. If you’re new to freelancing and lack client work, consider creating mock projects or offering your services at a reduced rate to non-profits or startups to build your portfolio.
Pro Tip: If you’re a freelance writer, you could create your own blog or write on Medium.com to build up a portfolio of samples
Set Realistic Rates
Research the standard rates in your industry and set your prices accordingly. Don’t undervalue your services in an attempt to attract more clients (but don’t expect to earn top dollar right away either). Instead, focus on the value you bring to a project. As a beginner, you might start with slightly lower rates but plan to increase them as you gain experience and client testimonials.
Learn To Manage Your Business
Freelancing is more than just doing what you love—it’s also about managing a business. This includes tasks like invoicing, taxes, and client communications. There are lots of great tools out there that can help with these tasks. For example, accounting software can help track income and expenses, while a project management tool can keep you organized and on schedule.
Prepare For Ups & Downs
Finally, freelancing can be unpredictable. There will be busy periods and slow periods, so proper financial planning is key. Save during prosperous times to cover lean periods. Use your downtime to upgrade your skills, expand your network, or work on personal projects that can enrich your portfolio!
Will Freelancing Be Worth It For You?
It should be clear by now that there are many things you need to consider to determine if freelancing is worth it for you. From your financial position to your capacity for handling stress, there’s a lot to take into account.
If you need more guidance for taking your first steps into the world of self-employment, check out my article all about finding freelance jobs.