Going Freelance – The pros and cons of being a Freelancer

Freelancer (noun) – a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer

As of 2021, freelancers make up 14% of the European and 36% of the US labour market. That may not sound like a lot, but freelancing is one of the fastest-growing segments in both markets. Despite, or perhaps because of the pandemic, people increasingly turn to freelancing instead of permanent employment, but why?

At its most basic, because it allows for a mode of work that is quite different from traditional employment. Being a freelancer means having more freedoms, from working remotely to having a flexible schedule. The pandemic has unsettled how we think about work and the working environment, and the rise of freelancing fits right into that. So how exactly is freelancing different from working on a permanent contract? And what are the freedoms and challenges it brings with it?

The Pros

The main word you may associate with freelancing, is freedom. You are freed of the minutiae of working for a company – no bureaucracy or weekly meetings.

Functionally you also are your own boss. Depending on what kind of work you do, that may mean you can be fully remote. Working from home, or even a different country – some freelancers even become digital nomads, earning their living through remote work while travelling around the world. It may also mean you can decide when you work: You work best at night? No problem. Prefer to get all the work done early and go to the beach in the afternoon? Go for it. As long as you are able to perform the work your clients ask for, there is no limit what you can do. The prospect of flexible and remote working is, in part because of the pandemic, becoming more popular in general. Being able to adapt your schedule to accommodate things like appointments or caregiving responsibilities is a big plus.  

Reasons for Freelancing, as given by Freelancers. Source

Freelancers also earn well.  Studies show that up to 60% of freelancers in the US earn more than they did in their previous fulltime jobs. Similarly, skilled freelancers on average earn more than 70% of the US labour force. In the DACH region, the hourly rates among IT freelancers have been steadily growing in the last years as well. A survey by freelancermap shows that the average hourly rate currently sits at €96. According to a joint report by Malt and BCG about freelancers in France, Germany and Spain, Germany has the highest hourly rates among the three.

The Cons

But freelancing isn’t just like playing on the easy difficulty in the game of life. Being your own boss also means that you have to self-motivate, as well as acquire your clients and do your own scheduling. There is never a guarantee of work – you may be busy now, but struggle to find a new project in a months’ time. This is a contrast to a permanent contract, where the work is continuous, and you can predict your schedule months ahead. Freelancing means making long-term plans or arrangements might be more difficult.  

Some of the pros and cons of freelancing. Source

There are also benefits to working in a traditional fulltime job. The pandemic made many people realise how much they relied on the office community to socialise, and how lonely homeworking could feel. Work benefits and sick pay – something that is standard in most permanent contracts, are also out of reach if you are a Freelancer. Being off sick means the work doesn’t get done, and you don’t get paid.

Possibly most daunting of all – freelancing means you are not just in charge of doing your job – the profession you are trained in and the services you deliver – but all kinds of administration around it. From acquiring new clients, to doing literal admin work like filing your own taxes or making sure you get paid.

Considering a Switch?

So, is the grass really that much greener on the other side? The freedom (and potential pay) of freelancing might seem appealing, especially to someone who feels run down by the bureaucracy and monotony of a 9 to 5 job. Most freelancers have no regrets about their career choice and have no desire to return to their old jobs. But still, entirely uprooting your career and working life is a big step to take. Before doing so, it is worth taking a break, to see if that changes outlook. You should also carefully consider how these changes would affect your life.


10 Pros and Cons of Being a Freelancer in 2022

Freelance Forward Economist Report | Upwork

Freelancing in Europe 2022: Companies can learn a lot from freelancers

Pros and Cons of Freelancing in 2022 | Upwork

Skilled freelancers earn more per hour than 70% of workers in US

The IT freelance market in Germany – Market Insights 2022 [Study results]

The true state of freelancers in Europe: less self-employed workers, but critical for the future – ToTalent