Deciding between full-time and freelance work is more than just a question of suits vs. sweatpants. In today’s gig economy, it’s easy to dream of a different career path, but there is a lot to consider when transitioning between the freelance and full-time lifestyle. 

Whether you are craving independence or trying to land something more stable, it is all about finding the right fit for you. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each, starting with the independent contractors who are ready to flee the gig economy and go to work full-time. 

The Pros of Full-Time Work

  • Steady paycheck: No doubt about it, the best thing about working for someone else is receiving a consistent income. Each month you can count on your bills being paid, which can give you the psychological freedom to pursue passions outside work. 
  • Benefits: Most likely if you’re working full time you will have some sort of benefits: paid vacation and sick time; health (and maybe even dental and vision) insurance; and a 401k, pension (hey, it’s possible!) or another type of retirement plan. 
  • Fewer Tax Day worries and/or consequences: Beyond filling out a W-4 when you start a new job, you don’t have to give much thought to your taxes. Your employer handles everything. 
  • Your co-workers: Collaborating and communicating with co-workers is often what people love most about their job. Having people to bounce ideas off can help you stay creative while learning new things.

The Downsides… 

  • You have a boss (and co-workers): Even if you like your boss, you still have one. If you have become accustomed to calling your own shots, having someone else tell you what to do can be challenging. And co-workers? Yes, they can be great — when they’re great. It all depends on your personality and the amount of collaboration that keeps you productive. 
  • You have a dress code: Say goodbye to yoga pants and old sweatshirts. Whether it’s a uniform or business casual or a suit, you will likely have a dress code to follow. 
  • Set hours and vacation/personal days: Your full-time gig requires you to, well, work full time—on the days and times someone else determines. Paid time off is pretty wonderful, but how much time off—and when you can take it—must now be cleared. 
  • Less job security: The days when adults worked for the same employer for a decade or more are fading. When you work for someone else, your job security is in their hands. 

Now for you full-timers who are considering joining the approximately 150 million people working as independent contractors, here are the pros and cons of being a gig worker. 

The Pros of Freelancing

  • You’re the boss, and you don’t have co-workers: You decide your area of expertise and the type of work projects you say “yes” to. No one tells you what to do (except for the clients you choose). And the upside of no co-workers? No more listening to the guy in the next cubicle clipping his fingernails or arguing with his girlfriend. 
  • Every day is casual Friday: Having the freedom to be comfortable, wearing what you want and working where you want is a huge draw to the freelance lifestyle. Unless you have a video call. Then you should probably put on a nice shirt. 
  • You set your hours and vacation/personal days: Want to work four days a week? Do it. Work better at the crack of dawn? Rise and shine and get to it. Need time off for your cousin’s wedding? Take it. You’re in control of your schedule. 
  • You control your destiny: Yes, fate enters in here, but if you work hard — and you’re good at what you do — you determine your success. No more worries about pink slips. 

The Downsides… 

  • No steady paycheck or benefits: When you’re a gig worker, you will likely fluctuate between being busy and being on the hunt for the next gig.. That variable workload translates into variable income. Prepare to learn how to budget. And paid benefits? It’s up to you to decide which option is best for you. It can be done, but it takes a bit more work on your end. 
  • You manage your own taxes: Unless you establish an LLC or a Subchapter S and implement your own payroll service, your taxes won’t come automatically out of your paycheck. Depending on how much you make you may have to pay estimated taxes on a quarterly basis — and you will have to pay a self-employment tax while keeping good records. 
  • Potential client headaches: Sometimes projects can go sideways. A client may not pay or the scope of a project could escalate. To protect yourself, always have a freelance contract in place so you can document that details, project scope and expectations. That means you will either create your own and/or thoroughly understand the ones your clients provide in order to keep your relationship a happy one. 
  • You live where you work: If you work from home versus a co-working space or coffee shop with wi-fi, you will always be at work. Setting up your own boundaries is key, especially for clients today who often expect you to be available 24/7. Remember, you’re in control of your schedule and sanity — that includes occasionally turning that cell phone off. 

How Columbia College Chicago Online can help 

The decision to transition careers is a big one. Whether you’re a writer or photographer, developer or consultant — succeeding as a creative entrepreneur always requires some homework. Check out the Self-Management and Entrepreneurship course with Columbia College Chicago Online to develop practical strategies for managing and monetizing your creativity. 

We also offer an online Professional Certificate that will launch you into a self-sustaining career as a creative entrepreneur. The Entrepreneurship for the Gig Economy Professional Certificate teaches the skills and competencies you need to succeed in the rapidly growing, project-based gig economy. 

Student Stories: Why Take an Online AR/VR Course >