design researcher / creative entrepreneur

Freelance vs. Full-time

I’ve successfully completed one more year of freelancing. It has been a tough road but a great learning experience.  I have been working as a freelance designer since graduating college in 2010. Like most of my fellow design classmate I struggled to find full-time work in my field. But, I do often wonder what it would be like to work in a large design firm.

So, what’s better freelancing or working full-time at a design firm?

Since I have no experience working at a traditional design firm I consulted with some of my design friends that do to better compare the two. Here is what we came up with…

FREELANCE

Pros

  1. Setting my own schedule. I often work long hours throughout the week so that I could have one or two ‘sleep-in’ days.
  2. Bragging rights. I love saying “I work for myself.
  3. Wearing my pajamas to work. Casual Friday is every day!
  4. Being picky. I don’t always get the luxury, but I could pick and choose which projects most interested me.
  5. Short Commute. 
  6. Writing off things. When tax season rolls around, you’ll have a lot of expenses. Phone, cable, computer costs, and even a portion of your rent!
  7. Meeting new people. Freelance designers have a ‘secret club’ in which they share project ideas, inspirational sites, CSS tricks, fonts, and more.  When a fellow freelancer contacts you, RESPOND!
  8. Personal projects. When things are slow, you’ll have spare time to work on personal things which will help keep you motivated and interested.

Cons

  1. Not knowing when work is coming in. It’s a little stressful worrying about not getting enough work in to support yourself.
  2. Not knowing when money is coming in. This makes life ultra complicated when you have to spend a weekend eating Ramen Noodles and not going out just in case that client’s check doesn’t arrive.
  3. Being unable to trust clients. I learned this the hard way! Be wary of in-betweeners: the ones who outsource client work to you.  Some you can trust, some you can’t.
  4. Instant messaging. When your clients know you’re a click away, they’ll waste so much of your time by interrupting you with messages and not letting you get properly ‘in the zone’.
  5. Lack of holidays. As a freelancer, most of my holidays turned into working holidays.  I if I don’t work I don’t get paid, and my work would pile up.
  6. No benefits. You better get used to paying for dental, meds and whatever else an extended healthcare plan would cover!

FULL-TIME

Pros

  1. Steady pay. It would be nice to be able to budget accurately with a salary I can rely on.
  2. Better pay. I spend too many freelance hours doing things I wasn’t getting paid for, which meant that I work less than full-time and quite often invoice clients for less time than I spent.
  3. Holidays.  Getting away on long weekends to relax!
  4. Steady work. In a design firm I wouldn’t have to reel in my own clients!
  5. No more invoicing! Not having to take care of the administrative side of things.
  6. Social interaction. It would be nice to have people to talk to during the day!

Cons

  1. Answering to a boss.
  2. Work you’re not interested in. You can’t be picky in a design firm; you sometimes have to do things you don’t want to do.
  3. Set hours. I’m not a morning person and generally I am more productive after 10am.
  4. Planning meals gets a bit trickier. I would have to plan my lunch (or buy it) and prep dinner if I wanted to eat right when I got home.
  5. Teamwork. As a freelancer YOU call the shots – it’s a lot more difficult to work as part of a team.  But also a lot more rewarding.

All though I think I would love a secure job at a large design firm. I find the perks of owning my own business are far more rewarding. Who wouldn’t love setting their own schedule or wearing their pajamas to work? There is something pretty special about working for myself, I think I am going to try it for a little longer…

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