The Pros and Cons of Freelancing
For anyone looking to make a living from working online, one of the first types of jobs they normally get is a freelancing job. It's a very easy job to acquire because there are very little barriers to entry.
There are also many sites out there now that curate lists of freelancing jobs for you to apply for. In fact, in today's world it is very much easier to get a freelancing job than it is to get a real life working job in terms of effort.
With a real life job, there are all sorts of hoops you need to jump through in order to get a job, such as interview processes, signing contracts, getting background checks etc. For a freelancing job, more often than not, you can apply with just a simple email.
I have freelanced for around five years now; I have done it both as a side gig and as a full time job. This post is going to be all about the pros and cons of freelancing.
Pro - Immediate Money
With freelancing jobs, the amount of time you wait between starting the job and getting paid is usually quite quick. Of course it all depends on how many hours the job will take, but usually you can get half paid up front and half when completed.
For those who are just starting out, you may have to wait to be paid fully until after the entire job is done.
Consider the difference of getting paid versus starting a business that requires growth. You could put in thousands of work hours into a business and not earn a single penny. You might have to wait a full year for your business to take off; with freelancing you're going to get paid immediately in comparison.
Con - Once the job is done, there's no more income.
One con of starting out as a freelancer is that as soon as you finish one job, you have to move onto the next job. And these jobs aren't always readily available- you might have to wait a couple of weeks or even months before your next job comes along. And all that time waiting- you're not getting paid. This is one of the risks of freelancing- is that time not spent freelancing is literally burning a hole in your pocket.
You of course might get lucky and have a persistent freelance gig. But not everyone is this lucky. Most jobs begin and end with no extra work being given. You'll have to get used to this.
Pro - Take on as much work as you can handle
As a freelancer, you might be very quick and efficient at completing your jobs. If you're a writer or designer, you might be able to produce an item of work within 15 minutes, whereas other freelancers in your field might complete them within an hour. This allows you to take on as much work as you can possibly handle, earning more than your competitors.
Try not to compare how much freelancers in your area earn. Everyone works at different speeds; everyone has a different rate. These factors can sway the amount someone earns. The only true way you'll find out how much you can possible earn is to freelance yourself and see what's out there.
Con - Dealing with customers, clients and nobs.
You'll be lucky if you ever have to work for one client as a freelancer. Often times, you'll have multiple jobs going on at one time, communicating with multiple different clients. The problem with this is not everyone will be as professional and calm as you.
You will get some customers/clients who are just never happy. They can make freelancing a horrible experiencing because of the way they complain, their general attitude in approaching you and even sometimes you'll get clients/customers who refuse to pay you, despite you fulfilling everything they requested.
You may very well have to deal with other nationalities too, which can sometimes mean broken English. This can become incredibly frustrating, especially when trying discern what a client wants and needs.
Pro - You'll learn a lot
I worked on hundreds of different projects as a programming freelancer. And I got to learn a whole lot of different skills. I found out what clients really wanted, what they needed from solutions and also many times I was introduced to different libraries and products I had never even heard of.
The people you meet will also help you in your field of work.
After completing many of the same jobs, you'll get more efficient at completing them. I had one job where I had to implement the payment processor Stripe. The first time I implemented this application it took almost a whole day. After that, it literally took less than an hour to implement. These skills you learn become a great asset for your portfolio and resume and make you a much more attractive freelancer.
Con - A limit on how much you can earn.
Because you're freelancing, you are literally selling your time. You only have 24 hours every day and a lot of those hours you won't be working. You may work an average of 7 hours a day and even then, some of those hours will be spent on admin work and sorting things out. You're limited in how much you can earn each day because of this.
Yes, you can begin to raise your prices once you fill up all your hours. But again, there is a limit to how much someone will pay for something. In some fields, this doesn't matter too much; but you may often find yourself raising and lowering your prices as you get work.
Pro - Work during your own hours
Freelancing doesn't have to be a 9-5 job. You can work 3 hours in the morning, become a night owl or even work during the weekends. As long as you get the work done on time, you're free to complete your work whenever you like. This freedom of work can be a blessing for many people; if you need to take the afternoon off to visit your child's football game, you can! Just do the work in the evening.
Even though I mention you don't have to do a 9-5 hour working job, I often did do my work during these normal working hours. The reason was because most of the people around me worked during these hours and so if I tried to work during other hours, I'd end up not being able to socialise with them in their free hours.
Cons - it can be very competitive to get started
If you've ever used Fiverr®, you may have noticed that getting freelancing jobs can sometimes be incredibly frustrating and competitive. I have had my programming jobs listed on Fiverr for over 3 months now and I haven't gotten one request. Not one.
You'll often find these freelancing sites are quite hard to find jobs starting out. You may have to lower your prices by quite a bit in order to start getting some jobs and then slowly raise your price once you get comfortable.
Pro - You set your own prices
Being able to control how much you are paid for your work is a very powerful and rewarding part of freelancing. When you first start out, you more often than not go with the market trend. But as you get more and more clients, you can start charging more.
Your clients will see the great work you have done before. They won't want to go through the hassle of looking for another freelancer and would be happy to pay you your higher price. Of course, this doesn't happen all the time, but if you get enough work, you can afford to let some jobs go.
Cons - Pricing yourself out of work
As a freelancer, especially online, you're competing for jobs against everyone else in the world. The problem with this is that it can sometimes not be worth your time to do jobs. For a freelancer living in one part of the world, they might be able to survive and live a very comfortable life on $10.00 an hour, but for a freelancer living in Paris or London, this amount just won't do. It becomes very hard to sometimes get clients to choose you over others; especially when there are hundreds and hundreds of cheaper alternatives.
I hope this article gives you a good insight into the different freelancing pros and cons. As someone who has been doing it for half a decade, I definitely think freelancing is a great way to learn your market and build a customer base. After a couple of years at it though, you may want to think about making something a bit more sustainable that you can build on over time.
Let me know if you have had any good or bad freelancing experiences in the comments!