Sometimes on social media, I see people use the phrase “fun-employed”, and while I have never completely understood why people feel the need to glamorize being out of work, I guess everyone has their own reasons for making the choices they do. For those of us that enjoy being employed (and also have to be employed) there are two options to consider: Freelance or fulltime employment.
Factors to consider
Every job comes with its problems and perks, and both paths can lead to success. There are definite factors to consider before deciding which is a better career choice for you. Responsibilities, lifestyle and the city you live in are the primary factors. If you have to pay rent every at the end of every month, children or parents to take care of, and bills that are due, then the inconsistency of freelancing may be a hindrance.
If you are not the primary breadwinner of your household, and prefer a minimal lifestyle then freelancing is a viable option because you will have the opportunity to only select work that fits with your preferences. Lastly, where you are geographically, plays a big role in deciding whether or not freelancing is a good fit for you. If you live in a big city where multiple potential clients have offices, then you can assume that there will be many avenues to find work, in smaller cities with fewer potential clients around, freelancing may not be possible.
What it means to be a full-time employee
Right after college, all graduates are riddled with the unnerving problem- where to go career-wise? The primary distinction between full-time employment and freelancing is the opportunity to gather experience, loyalty and most importantly network. Being a part of a larger organization, allows time to gain the trust of colleagues, overcome the inevitable teething problems on the job and perfect skills. Working a full-time job allows the opportunity to collect experience, which can later be used as a basis for finding work as a freelancer. It’s easier to find short termed employment on the merit of solid prior experience.
What and how
The genre of your work also acts as a deciding factor. People pursuing the arts often have the option to freelance, but more often than not, this also means finding a ‘day job’ or taking up assignments that may not fall in your area of interest because being out of work for too long is not a good look. Not having a decent body of work can also be a disadvantage while negotiating a fee, as a freelancer your quality of work is just as important as your quantity of work. No two clients will have the same brief and so it is important to be able to share a portfolio that is extensive and diverse. Photographers, artists, actors, and so many others in creative fields often find themselves working on a freelance basis, however for more traditional areas of work like medicine, or let’s say architecture, no one wants to consult with a freelancer. Not too many people would trust a freelance doctor to do their stitches or a freelance architect to build their dream home. The nature of work does inherently decide the environment of your workplace as well, but this doesn’t mean that freelancing is solely for those in creative/artistic fields. It is possible to be an interior decorator or architect on a freelance basis but do try to have a resume that reflects a full-time job in the past to add credibility. Even in the area of education, it is possible to find freelance work after tenure of full-time employment. Many teachers and professors go on to tutor and conduct coaching classes after having worked at formal institutions.
Chefs go on to open their own restaurants and businesses; investment bankers go on to become consultants and lecturers, as do lawyers. There are many ways to channel talent and skill into a freelance/ part-time job once there is enough expertise to back it up. The nature of your work does dictate whether or not freelancing is a viable option, but in time all experience can be channeled to explore new avenues. The amount of time needed to build a suitable portfolio varies from industry to industry- for example a doctor might have to practice for a decade or so before becoming a lecturer or a consultant at a pharmaceutical company, but a stylist may only need a few years training under a senior before branching out on their own.
Transitioning between the two
Almost all careers can transition between freelance and full time, but a few industries are more likely to have freelance culture. In advertising and films especially, it is quite routine for professionals to be exclusively freelancers. Even if directors and stylists are associated with certain production houses, there is room to work independently outside of the realm of that particular production house. Likewise for photographers, art directors, event managers, cinematographers, and many others within this industry because the nature of their work is more project-oriented, with each project being different from the last. Unlike more corporate environments such as banks where professionals are doing similar tasks over a long period of time, creative jobs have a little more room to work on freelance basis because their body of work tends to have more diversity.
The smaller details
Once you consider the bigger issues, the relatively trivial aspects need to be weighed out as well. Being a freelancer means not having a large office space with facilities such as a printing room, a coffee machine and 24/7 internet. For most freelancers, the cost of a work station and utilities is the biggest expense, and while working out of coffee shops and bistros may seem like a charming way to spend the day (and can certainly make for likeable Instagram content) there is a good chance you will be spending money before making it.
Being a freelancer also means being able to take control of your schedule, being in charge of keeping yourself motivated and creating a timeline for each day. Not having a professional space to meet clients and collaborators can be an inconvenience, but lots of co-working spaces are cropping up all over the city, that are feasible options to consider. While it is possible to stay at home and work out of your pajamas, it sometimes helps to get up, make your bed, get dressed and get out for the day.
There is a level of loneliness to tackle while freelancing, because moving from assignment to assignment means constantly working with new clients and teams, and not having enough time to make workplace friendships. On the plus side however, this also means not having to deal with pesky colleagues and creepy managers.
Being in charge of your own schedule also means having the ability to take days off whenever you choose, and it is easier applying for leaves when the only person that has to approve them is you. The flip side to that coin is that not being part of a larger organization means not having a severance package and company planned savings to bank upon should you have to take a permanent leave from the job.
Both paths, freelance or full time can lead to success and both can bring job satisfaction. There is no right or wrong choice because we live in a time where it is possible to transition from one to the other. Ultimately if you know what you want to do, you will find a way to do it whether it’s from a desk in a corporate park or the corner table of a café.
If you’re a freelancer and looking for assignment here are some sites that offer freelance assignments.