What are the pros and cons of being self-employed?

If you are making a positive choice to strike out on your own, it’s important to do it with your eyes wide open, because there’s a flipside to every benefit freelancing can bring you. Weighing up the pros and cons of self-employment before you take the plunge will give you a good idea whether it’s right for you.

Pros

  • Choose when you work: start work early and take the afternoon off; pull a late one, then have a long lie-in; take Tuesdays off.  Freelancing usually gives you lots of flexibility with how you arrange your working time. At the end of the day, getting the work done is all that matters. 

  • Choose where you work: many office-type roles can be carried out wherever there’s an Internet connection. Stay at home, pop to a café, rent a co-working space, go live in another country if you like – as long as you’re not scheduled to be somewhere with a client, it’s completely up to you. 

  • Choose what you work on: in theory at least, you are free to say no to any work that comes your way (although you can’t afford to be so choosy if you’re short of cash).

  • Potentially make more money: in many lines of work, your hourly rate is going to be much higher than what you would earn in a full-time job. You still represent good value to a client because they only pay you for the time you work and don’t have to pay you any in-work benefits, such as annual leave or sick pay. If you’ve got a full schedule of work booked in, you could make a killing.

Of course, the freedom to choose when and where you work is freelance at its most flexible, and many contracts are still based at a workplace during agreed hours. In any case, many contractors in fact prefer the combination of a traditional structured working framework with the usually favourable rates of freelance pay.

Cons

  • No guarantee of work (or money): unlike a regular 9 to 5 employee, you don’t know what work you will be able to secure when and for how long. Like buses, you may not get a freelance job for ages, then three will land in your inbox at once. You’re only in work as and when clients need you. This means you have to keep right on top of your finances, because they can fluctuate wildly from one month to the next.

  • Potentially make less money: Freelancing requires a certain degree of self-motivation. If you don’t have the get-up-and-go to chase jobs, or are just a bit lazy, you’re going to earn less. And it’s a lot harder to enjoy acres of free time when you’re worried about cash.

  • Working for free: Your job now involves a lot more than just doing paid work. You’ll spend almost as much time trying to market yourself and quote for jobs. And unless you pay someone to do it, you’ll also have to spend your precious time doing your accounts. 

  • Few employment rights and no workplace pension.

  • Isolation: a common experience for people who don’t work in a regular workplace environment is that they struggle with being alone during working hours for days and weeks at a stretch. Apart from the basic lack of human contact, there’s no one to discuss your work with, and few opportunities to improve your skills and develop your career.