Working freelance, while liberating, has its own drawbacks. Perhaps you’ve been freelancing for a while and are beginning to question the lifestyle? Maybe that traditional office job is starting to look a little less stifling, and the lure of paid vacation is a siren’s call, ready to smash you against the rocks of a 9-5 workday. You may be getting tired of the responsibility and uncertainty that a freelance career entails. While both career models have their advantages, it’s not a decision to take lightly. Here are some points to consider before making the leap back into the rat race - and whether it’s the right choice for you.
Consistency for your bank account
The most obvious draw of a traditional job is the end of a feast-or-famine mentality. You can rely on standardized, consistent payments to your bank account, and you won’t have to question if you’ll be able to make ends meet.
You can wrap yourself in the security that, unless you royally screw up, a paycheck will be there waiting for you. To top it off, you’ll have access to lucrative benefits. Health insurance, vision/dental, 401K, life insurance… These are all important resources that are a headache to corral on your own. Having it come in a neat package is a huge perk that may just draw you away from the freelance life.
Working with a team
Freelancing can often mean being the only one at the helm. You may not have to rely on the quality of other people’s work, but you also don’t have them around to help. In an office setting, coworkers come into the equation, as well as teammates. The pressure is off to tread water, getting as much done as possible, because you have a network of support that’s there to help. Not only can these coworkers help with your work, but they can also be a huge networking opportunity.
These individuals share your position and your experience, making them great allies for future job growth. It’s easier to forge these connections as you mumble over your pack-lunches or throw back a drink at happy hour. No more emails stuffed with exclamation marks and fond pleasantries to try and bond. Even with companies skewing towards remote, this set group of teammates will stay constant in your life as others rotate out with each new project.
What are your values & motivators?
At the core of it, what made you pick freelance in the first place? Reexamine what made you fall in love with the lifestyle and if those qualities still hold true. Maybe the standard job was stifling and the inflexible hours and constant management caused you to feel like you were deteriorating. Has anything changed, or have your priorities shifted? Consider what your values are.
If it didn’t work before, it’s possible it won’t work now. Take a step back and evaluate if you’re romanticizing the ways in which it would be ‘easier,’ and if you’re willing to make certain compromises in the long-run.
Consider the changes that would take place and how they might affect your mental health. As mental health is subjective to each person, the ‘better’ option really comes down to your unique needs. In freelance, you can balance the day however you like and take breaks as needed. A friend of mine would work 2-3 hours in the morning, go kayaking around lunchtime, and then clock 2-3 hours in the evening.
That’s simply not possible with a 9-5, where you may get an hour for lunch, at most. Another nice benefit of freelance is that you can be selective with the work you take on. If a client doesn’t feel right, or a particular task deters you, you can opt-out. For a company, it’s more likely you’ll have to engage in work that doesn’t thrill you. You may also have to engage in office politics, which might feel a bit inane after freelancing.
In the opposite camp, salaried roles can provide reliable schedules and consistency. While you may be working a set number of hours, these are hours you can depend on and build your routine around. This is especially valuable, as freelancers tend to work all the time. Without a set schedule, they’ll often work into the night and avoid setting appropriate workplace boundaries. You’ll have less of a grind mentality and be able to relax a bit, knowing you have a steady paycheck coming.
Being a business owner vs employee
In your transition to an office role, it’s unlikely you’ll continue to be your own boss. Most likely, you’ll report to a manager who will have expectations of your work and assign various tasks that you may or may not enjoy. You won’t have to worry about reporting business taxes or doing all the miscellany that comes with running your own freelance business. You’ll be able to focus on one brand, rather than a dozen, which may feel like a weight off your shoulders. All that being said - will you still feel appropriately challenged?
All in all, making the switch from freelance to 9-5 is a big change, not to be taken lightly. You’ll need to evaluate the pros and cons of both camps and your non-negotiables. Understand why you’re at this crossroads and what you need to do to be fulfilled. There’s no right answer, but there may be a right answer for you.