03/23/2016 Stephanie Anderson

The future is freelance: pros and cons of going independent

How many people do you know who work as freelancers or consultants? That number is likely higher than it was just a decade ago. The freelance economy is booming and it won’t stop anytime soon. In fact, more than 40 percent of the American workforce will be independent workers by 2020, according to an Intuit study.

Thanks to a multitude of technology options, freelancing has never been easier, even when working for companies on the other side of the world. You can fully equip your home office or grab your laptop and head to one of the many co-working spaces flourishing in major cities across the country. The options are virtually endless for the savvy independent worker.

Demand is also a big reason why more people are freelancing, as companies are increasingly looking to freelancers to fill talent gaps. They choose freelancers for their expertise and fresh perspective, and they come without a long-term commitment or the cost of a permanent hire. There is particular growth in demand for executive freelancers. Great for startups and SMBs, companies can get tenured talent and stay within budget.

Whether you’re fresh out of college or a seasoned C-suite executive, there are many considerations to weigh before jumping fully into the freelance pool. It’s important to look at the main pros and cons of freelancing so you can decide what’s best for your career.

Pro: Because you can offer your services without the overhead a firm would typically charge clients, you can often make more independently.

Con: You can also make less. You must be a great self-manager and be able to sell yourself to clients so you can keep contracts coming in regularly. You also must deal with accounting activities, such as filing taxes and funding your health-care expenses.

Pro: One of the main reasons people freelance is for the flexibility. Younger generations don’t want the job constraints they saw their parents struggling with. Older generations who aren’t quite ready to retire find freelancing a great way to put professional skills to use without the demands of a full-time gig.

Con: While having a flexible work arrangement might seem attractive, it’s not for everyone. Some people function better in a traditional work atmosphere and struggle to be as productive as independent workers.

Pro: You can choose who you work with, and that can help bring deeper meaning to your job. Similarly, if you start freelancing and don’t like a client, you can “fire” them by either ending the contract early or not renewing when it’s up.

Con: The businesses hiring you can be equally selective. Furthermore, if they don’t feel you’re fulfilling the need adequately, they can let you go at any time, which means an instant end to any income (and potentially a mark on your professional reputation).

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more things to think about, including some comical thoughts like working in your PJs as noted by The Onion. What other big considerations should professionals think about before making the transition to freelance?

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