According to recent predictions, there will be 90 million freelancers in the US by 2028—an increase of over 50% in ten years.
In the UK, an estimated 4.21 million people are self-employed, making up about 12% of the workforce.
While this number has dipped over the last two years, it still represents a rise of almost a million people in the past two decades.
Freelancers work for themselves, get to choose the projects they work on and can turn down anything that doesn’t interest them.
Plus, the potential income you could make as a freelancer is pretty much limitless.
If you dream of leaving the 9–5 behind and embracing the freelance lifestyle, you might be wondering what the catch is.
But the truth is, while freelancing comes with some big advantages, there are some major downsides too—and you need to consider everything before you decide to take the plunge.
In this post, we’ll explore eight of the biggest benefits of freelancing, as well as eight of the most significant challenges you’ll have to overcome if you decide this is the path for you.
8 Pros and Cons of Freelancing to Consider Before Making the Leap
Here are some of the biggest pros and cons of freelancing:
Pro: You control your own schedule
Are you a night owl that prefers to work in the small hours while most of us are snoring?
Or an early bird that wants to be at your desk as soon as the sun comes up?
As a freelancer, your time is your own, and it’s up to you to decide when to get your work done.
Obviously, an exception is when you’re working with clients who need you to be available during their office hours—but you’ll still usually have far more flexibility than you would as a full-time employee.
Con: Work might be sporadic or inconsistent
As a freelancer, it’s inevitable that some months will bring more work than others. In fact, you might find that you’re rushed off your feet one month, and then twiddling your thumbs (and worrying about the bills) the next.
This doesn’t have to be a disaster — most freelancers quickly learn to set money aside from the busy months to see them through the leaner times. However, this way of managing your finances can take a bit of effort if you’re used to having a set salary coming in each month.
Pro: You have complete independence
Freelancing gives you total independence.
Once you start freelancing, you’ll be free from overbearing bosses, performance reviews, and even office politics.
All you have to worry about is finding clients, improving your skills, and getting your work done.
Con: Freelancing can be isolating
While office politics can be annoying, going to work every day also gives you the chance to interact with colleagues and meet new people.
Since most freelancers work alone, people who prefer to have daily contact with others might struggle with isolation when they start freelancing.
If this is you, you might want to consider working from a cafe or coworking space instead of from home, so you’re not totally on your own.
Pro: You have the potential to increase your income
When you have a full-time job, you might be able to increase your take-home income with overtime, bonuses, and the occasional pay rise.
But otherwise, it’s more or less fixed.
As a freelancer, on the other hand, your income is only limited by how much work you can do and the price your clients are willing to pay — giving you the potential to earn a great living.
Con: Taxes and administration can be complicated
Freelance workers are responsible for declaring and paying their own taxes, which can be tricky if you’ve never done it before.
There are also usually certain formalities involved with setting up a business, although this varies from country to country.
In the UK, for example, you’ll need to set up as a sole trader to get started.
Pro: You’ll get the opportunity to work with a diverse range of clients
Over the course of a freelance career, you could easily work with hundreds of different clients.
Getting to work with so many people from different backgrounds and with different stories to tell can make working as a freelancer an interesting and rewarding experience.
Con: You’ll have to hustle to market yourself and find work
As a freelancer, you’re responsible for finding work. That means marketing yourself through various channels to attract potential clients and find gigs.
This can take up a lot of your time — taking you away from the work you actually want to be doing.
It’s a good idea to think about what methods you’ll use to find clients before you launch your freelance business.
Pro: You can work from anywhere
Have you ever dreamed of working from a beach in Bali, or a sunny balcony in Barcelona?
Many freelancers travel the world while they’re working, staying in each destination for just a few weeks or months at a time.
In fact, many countries are now offering ‘digital nomad visas’ specifically to attract freelancers who might want to come and work there before moving on to the next place.
If this adventurous lifestyle appeals to you, then building up a freelance career that you can do from anywhere could be a good move.
Con: You’ll miss out on employment benefits like PTO
Employees receive all sorts of benefits in addition to their salary, from sick pay to maternity pay to paid holiday time.
As a freelancer, you won’t have access to any of these benefits, which means that you’ll need to account for the extra cost when you’re setting your prices.
For example, if you want to take six weeks’ holiday every year, you’ll need to make sure you earn enough in the months you’re working to cover the weeks without income.
Pro: You can choose which projects you work on
Have you ever had to work on a project at work that you just… didn’t care about?
As a freelancer, you have the freedom to say no.
This means that you can fill your time with projects that you actually enjoy working on — and stop wasting your energy on the boring stuff.
Con: You might have cash flow issues
When you work as a freelancer, your income usually changes from month to month.
While this is totally normal, it can cause cash flow problems if you earn less than expected one month and haven’t prepared for it.
If you find yourself in this situation, you might end up having to say yes to projects you wouldn’t usually take just to make ends meet.
Pro: You can skip the commute
If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that life is better when you don’t have to sit in traffic—or on a crowded train—every morning just to get to work.
Most freelancers work remotely, which means they can work wherever they want — whether that’s from home, a nearby coworking space, or even the local park.
Con: You’ll be on your own with limited resources
Companies typically have all sorts of resources for their employees, from software to office supplies to colleagues you can turn to when you have a problem.
When you’re a freelancer, you’re all on your own.
That means you need to pay for any supplies or subscriptions you need yourself and figure out any problems you run into without much help.
Pro: You’re the boss
When you’re a freelancer, you’re in charge.
That means that you’re free to decide how, where, and when you work — but it also means that you’ll be fully responsible for the success of your business.
Achieving great results for yourself and your clients can be very satisfying, since it’s all down to your hard work.
Con: You’re solely responsible for the success of your business
One of the biggest benefits of freelancing is also one of its biggest downsides: you are solely responsible for your business’s success or failure.
This can give you a great sense of achievement when things go well, but it can also be stressful.
It’s important to build a network of professionals in similar fields so that you have people to ask for advice if you’re struggling.
So, Should You Go It Alone?
Deciding whether or not to take the leap into freelancing is a big decision and not one you should make quickly.
Before you take the plunge, be sure to take some time to set out your business plan, including the clients you’ll target and how you’ll approach them.
It can also be a good idea to make sure you have some money set aside at the beginning of your freelance journey to see you through the potentially lean months while you’re getting started.