Article by Michelle Abrahall 18.01.15
The original ‘free-lances’ were mercenary soldiers in the middle ages, who hired out their fighting skills to any Lords or Ladies who needed them. Modern freelancers have considerably broadened this remit. Alongside the established skillsets (writing, photography, design) we now have a huge variety of services on offer, from virtual PAs to web developers, recruitment consultants to genealogists.If you’ve got a niche skill or aptitude in a particular area, you may be better off ditching the 9-5 and ‘going it alone’. Far from being alone, you’d actually be joining a huge community. Self-employment in the UK reached a record high of 4.5 million in 2014, and apparently 1 in 7 people work for themselves (a statistic I must admit I was surprised by!)
So why the apparent exodus from traditional employment? It can’t be about money; self-employed people earn less on average than their employed counterparts. There have been various government incentives over the years to encourage people to start their own businesses, but leaving a steady job still means financial uncertainty, no holiday pay, and no company pension.
Like most things in life, it all comes down to personal taste. So far, I’m enjoying being self-employed and plan to stick with it for the foreseeable future. After a decade in salaried roles, I think I’m in a pretty good position to weigh up the pros and cons of freelancing. As it turns out, they can often be one and the same…
Pros- Ahh, freedom. The oft-quoted reason to give up the day job. Freedom to set your own hours and set up your office wherever you like (depending on the kind of work you do). Freelancing can fit around families and other commitments better than any company’s flexible working policy.
Cons- Freedom can be scary! If you’re able to work whenever you want, losing motivation is a very real danger. There are benefits to a scheduled, ordered day and lots of freelancers find they struggle without the structure of the 9-5. You can create a routine, but it takes discipline!
Working from Home
Pros- You must have heard these benefits a thousand times from smug home-workers! No road-rage inducing commute, no boring dress code, no infuriating office politics. You can accept parcel deliveries, pop to the shops, or put on loads of washing to your heart’s content.
Cons- Working from home is a never-ending test of self-control. Temptation is everywhere, from the TV in the corner to the fridge full of food and the pet giving you that ‘let’s go for a walk’ look. You’ll be amazed how hard it can be to get up at the same time every day without a hard deadline.
Being your own boss
Pros- Do you like setting targets? Are you good at motivating yourself? Then you’ll love being your own boss! You answer to no-one but yourself, and if you’re having a bad day or feel like death, you can give yourself the afternoon off. Business going well? Give yourself a bonus!
Cons- If you’re self-employed and you feel ill, there’s no-one to send you home. And the guilt of not being able to work is magnified when you’re a freelancer. There’s no-one to criticise you, but there’s no-one to praise you either. You have to become your own HR department!
Pros- Nothing motivates you like the thought of not being able to pay your mortgage. Financial uncertainty may be the biggest gift of freelance life – it ensures you never rest on your laurels. Without a regular salary, it’s impossible to become complacent or ungrateful, which can only be a good thing.
Cons- It’s a no-brainer why this is a ‘con’. Planning any big financial commitment (buying a house, getting a loan, going on holiday) becomes instantly more complicated when you’re self-employed. The key is to be ruthlessly organised when it comes to your finances, and always, always put money aside for tax.