Is freelancing right for you? It's a question that recruiters and careers advisors are asked time and time again. We're delighted to share this guest post by Tom Savage, co-founder of 3Desk, in which the pros and cons of freelancing are laid bare. We hope it helps you formulate the right next career move for you.
Careers are dead, says Forbes. Temporary jobs, whether high or low paid, will increasingly become the norm, with over 50% of people being independent by 2020, say some.
Yet despite the boom, many have pointed out that freelancing is still a brave choice given the market for part-timers remains illiquid. Meaning that despite the current economic and legal rationale for employers to use temporary employees and the increase in the number of freelancers, it can still be difficult to find the right people, at the right time, at the right price. Many freelancers decry periods of ‘work drought’ and time required for business development, networking and administering their mini-businesses.
At 3Desk our aim is to help people find freelancer work more easily, more quickly and more cost-effectively. Despite technical advances in other areas, like trading goods - which eBay and Amazon have capitalized upon - the trade of services still lags behind, with job boards primarily offering solutions for full time jobseekers, and sites like LinkedIn focusing on and deriving most of their revenue from permanent employees.
Yet things are changing. There are a number of tools that are helping create more positives and fewer negatives for freelancers - and for their employers.
Here are some of the pros and cons of freelancing, which are helping to drive these changes:
Freedom and Flexibility - freelancers have long celebrated the freedom and flexibility that temporary work enables. Project-based work empowers workers to negotiate their own terms, regarding timing, pay and location and often allows people to introduce their own style to their business, rather than having to tow the corporate line.
Variety - with projects comes variety and that, for many, is the most exciting thing about going alone. Many temporary workers initially started because they had been laid off from permanent jobs, but refuse to go back to the 9-to-5, citing the variety and control of their lives as a principal reason for continuing. Whereas full-time jobs normally mean the employer is beholden to one culture, boss and environment, freelancers can pick and choose.
Multiple income streams - in previous generations, jobs were often ‘for life’. Nowadays, we’re lucky if a job lasts a number of years. Full-time roles no longer offer the kind of protection or security they used to. With high unemployment and political troubles in countries like Greece and Italy, more and more people recognize that a ‘permanent job’ can be a misnomer. Freelancers, contractors and consultants usually have multiple income streams, so that if one client stops hiring them, or folds, they continue to maintain other sources of income.
Support services - alongside 3Desk, there are an increasing number of services which serve to support freelancers, from co-working spaces, championed by companies like NearDesk, to automated proposal software from Quoteroller and accounting packages, like those offered by FreeAgent.
Yet despite the changes, there is much to be remedied and there are still a number of problems with freelancing.
Business Development is Hard - freelancing requires both dealing with the projects to-hand and simultaneously running one’s own business. For all the jokes friends make about working in one’s pyjamas from home, freelancers have a lot of responsibility to keep the business coming in - both impressing current clients as well as scoping out new ones. A brilliant but timid graphic designer, more comfortable alone in a studio won’t currently fare as well as a dynamic mediocre one, at least in the short-term. The incumbent systems - using recruiters, job boards or word-of-mouth and self-promotion to find work means people often have a limited reach. Obviously we’re trying to change this at 3Desk, the way eBay did for goods, but we’ve a long (exciting) road ahead of us.
Cashflow - freelancers can struggle to get paid on time, especially when dealing with big, complex companies which have labyrinth-like accounting departments.
Isolation - freelancing is sometimes lonely. Co-working spaces have gone some way to helping the freelancer feel part of a community, but some people miss the life and support of a team. There are freelance networks and increasingly people are able to win projects together, but often freelancers are forced to fend for themselves.
Benefits - pensions, healthcare, insurance, keeping the office in toilet-roll are all benefits that a steady paycheck takes care of. When freelancing, this must all be added on, plus of course, it’s important to remember the time it takes to administer these niggles - if you’re earning £50/hour as a freelancer, but spend 5 hours doing your admin each week, you could be losing £250 a week.
Mortgages & Loans - finally, regulation, red-tape and support services have failed to keep up with the changing nature of the labour market. Although freelancers might earn more and have a group of regular, reliable clients meaning they are less exposed than a full-time worker, the sheer unpredictability of their income obviously makes some companies a bit nervous and as such mortgages, loans and insurance for full-time workers are much easier to come by than for people of the same wage who are freelancing. We’d love to know of more specialist services dedicated to supporting freelancers and will be trying to feature them over the next few weeks.
This list is by no means exhaustive. At 3Desk we’d love to know more about what frustrates you about freelancing, so we can build a more effective platform to help improve your working world. Get in touch with us on our Twitter page or on our Facebook page to share your stories.
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