5 Reasons Not To Become a Freelancer
I’ve been freelancing for nearly 10 years now and can’t imagine returning to the 9-to-5 grind. (And not only because these days, it’s more like 9-to-6, followed by several hours of answering emails.) The freedom, flexibility—and yes, even the pay—far exceed what I encountered during my pre-freelance career as an employee.
That said, it’s not for everyone. I have friends and colleagues who are spectacularly successful at navigating the corporate world. They hit their goals, climb the org chart, and rack up huge raises at high-profile jobs. But by their own admission, some of them wouldn’t last a quarter as a freelancer.
“I would sleep until 11 a.m. every day,” one friend confided in me. “And make about $10,000 a year.”
So how can you tell if freelancing is not the right choice for you? See if any of these reasons resonate.
1. You Prefer a Set Schedule
Maybe you have procrastination issues or maybe you just prefer having guidelines for your day. No matter what the reason, if you like someone else to tell you when things are due and what time to sit down to work, you probably won’t be very happy as a freelancer.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it a try. You may find it easier to get motivated when your earnings depend on it, or you might learn that your procrastination problem was tied to working in a more corporate environment. But if you don’t like calling the shots, it’s perfectly okay to recognize that about yourself – and choose your employment situation with that in mind.
2. You Don’t Like Dealing With Money
One of the perks of working as an employee is that your financial situation is typically a lot simpler. You know how much you’re going to get paid and when you’ll receive that paycheck. In fact, if you’re like 82% of American workers, you don’t even have to wait for that check—the money shows up in your bank account via direct deposit. You get a W2, so no need to pay quarterly estimated income taxes. Plus, your compensation may include non-cash benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, paid vacation time and sick time, and so on.
When you’re a freelancer, you don’t have that security. In the U.S., you have to buy your own health insurance, which may be of lesser quality than an employer plan, or get your insurance through a spouse. You might wait several months to get paid or lose a valuable contract when you least expect it. But on the other hand, you might also earn a lot more than you would as an employee. According to research from Freelancers Union and Upwork, skilled freelancers earn more than 70% of U.S. workers.
Becoming a successful freelancer often means combining the soul of a gambler with the conscientious nature of an accountant. It’s feast or famine, and you have to have the mettle—and the emergency fund— to withstand the ups and downs. If you’re risk avoidant or just value your security, freelancing might be more stressful than you can tolerate.
3. You Can’t Say No
And speaking of feast or famine, the ups can be nearly as stressful as the downs when it comes to working for yourself. Why? Because it’s all too easy to become a work-hoarder, saying yes to every contract that comes along, fearful that your luck will soon turn.
Go on like that long enough, and you’ll get burned out and start turning in sub-par work. In both the long- and short-run, it’s always better to draw a boundary before you overcommit.
4. You’re Strongly Extroverted and/or Very Social
Freelancing is a great choice for introverts, who draw their energy from within, rather than from external stimulation.
“As an introvert, I’m able to spend a long time alone without going crazy,” writes Lindsay Van Thoen at The Freelancers Union’s blog. “I don’t need a group brainstorming session to come up with my best ideas. When I’m alone, I have the mental space to play around, scribble things down on paper, and see how things work. An extroverted freelancer might feel understimulated when they’re not surrounded by colleagues bouncing ideas off of one another.”
However, an introvert’s ideal work situation might just be professional hell for extroverts, who typically find social situations energizing and enjoy working with groups.
Of course, the truth is that many people fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of introversion vs. extroversion. Beyond that, there are many ways for extroverted freelancers to get their social fix, from joining a co-working space to connecting with colleagues via Skype, Slack, and other collaboration technologies.
But if you are an extrovert who’s giving the freelance life a try, it’s important to know what feeds your creativity and productivity. If you need social interaction, make a plan to incorporate that into your schedule.
5. You Love Being an Employee
Finally, the best reason not to become a freelancer is that you prefer being an employee. Maybe you enjoy feeling like you’re part of a team, or you’ve met many of your best friends through work. Perhaps you feel a strong attachment to your employer’s mission or have found that it’s easier to achieve your professional goals by working for an organization.
There are plenty of valid reasons to work for an employer instead of for yourself. Plus, you never know what tomorrow will bring. Your personal circumstances may change, or your professional goals may evolve to make freelancing seem like a more attractive option. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about your needs and wants, and to build your career accordingly.