Friday, April 22, 2011

10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Working as Full-Time Freelancer

Since I quit my office job in Singapore and relocated myself to Malaysia, I've been working as a full-time freelancer, taking up project-based works for almost three months by now. The reasons being for me not to look for an office job in Malaysia are (1) I don't live in Kuala Lumpur (in the town where I currently live, there is no job with my niche expertise offered) (2) I have no idea in switching a job field at this moment. I just can't figure out what else I can do to earn for living other than doing what I've been doing professionally thus far (3) I can't drive a car yet and am not familiar with Malaysia's roads (4) I have no confidence in taking public transportation in Malaysia to commute to Kuala Lumpur every day.

The plus and minus values of working as full-time freelancer that I state below may not be new stuff to those who've experienced earning a living by becoming a freelancer or self-employed or working from home. Based on my experience so far, the following are the positive values, challenges and drawbacks working as a full-time freelancer as compared to working as a full-time employee stationed in an office from 9am-6pm.


1. No boss hovering around the room
Freedom due to the non-existence of a boss around is one of the best things to have when working from home as a freelancer. There's no more boss lurking around the room to eye on what we do during office hours or constantly check on our work progress. One thing though, we are usually required to regularly update our direct boss/employers on our work progress either via phone, online chatting or email during the course of the project at a specified time (weekly, biweekly, etc.). This being said, we have to make sure that we have everything to update ready whenever the boss checks.

2. Have more than one master and choose who we want to work with
Working freelance usually means we can work for more than one organizations and have the ability to choose clients (provided if we have more potential employers). We can extend our service to several employers but usually there are certain terms and conditions applied for this according to the respective work contract. Some types of work require full attention and longer lead time to finish the work product hence; having more than one employers for this kind of job may not be visible to do. Also, for this kind of job, if we were to engage multiple employers, what we can do is to finish the outstanding working contract with a particular employer then only extend our service to other companies once we are no longer bound with the previous company.

3. Own our sweet time
Working freelance or from home means we own our time. We can pursue our hobby more actively, even during the usual working hours, as long as this activity doesn't intervene the work deadlines or end result. For example, if I can complete the tasks that I need to do in one day, I finish my work earlier and do some baking before 6pm. Whenever I feel like taking a break, I can just go out to my garden and do some brief gardening. Also, when I have finalized a project with the company and there is a longer break in the interim, I can have a short holiday anytime without the need to apply leave to my employer.

4. No need to go to office
Freelance works generally imply working from home. Working from home means no need to go to office every morning, no need to waste time and money commuting from and to office every week days and no need to dress up. Once we wake up, we can straightaway hit our work station in pyjamas. As for myself, every morning I try to shower and dress up a bit (still in casual outfits but not pyjamas) before I start working so I feel refreshed and become more alert throughout the day.

5. Wake up anytime, take nap anytime
As mentioned above, working freelance means no need to go to office every morning nor have outside meetings anymore. As the usual working hours start at 9am, I try to maintain my working productivity by start working at 9am as well. However, working at 9am now doesn't mean that I rise and shine at 7am anymore. I can just wake up at 8.30 am then take a shower, get dressed and have quick breakfast, yet I still can start my work at 9am too. Another benefit from working freelance is also to be able to take a nap during the day when we feel drowsy and coffee is no longer an aid. One thing though, we have to make sure that we take a really short nap during the day especially when the work load is still heavy otherwise we'd have problems in meeting the work deadlines.

6. Lower stress level
No boss around and owning our sweet time definitely mean lower stress level at work. No need much explanation about this. Unless we have problems in meeting our work's targets then probably our stress level is not that low anymore. One thing to remember, freelance work doesn't mean stress-free.

7. Do whatever we want during official working hours
An instance for this point is by being so active in social media tools during office hours. Some companies block social media tools whereby we can't really play online games, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the kind during official working hours. Moreover, we need to be alert in playing with our smart phones in the office-setting during office hours as our bosses may not be so happy with this attitude at work. Working from home spells no restriction to all these. We can still comment our friends' status or photos on Facebook, tweet, read or update blogs during office hours.

8. More time for errands
Sometimes we can't really run errands when we work in the office and most companies don't operate on weekends. When we work freelance, running errands is definitely not a problem anymore. We can sneak out from work and run errands in town or finish some light house chores for a while during the day.

9. Find entertainment when we get bored
When we are bored in the office, we can't do nothing much. Most to most is to have a brief chat with a colleague in the next cubicle or get some coffee outside or browse some news in Yahoo!. Then continue working again until the clock ticks 6pm. Working from home gives us freedom to watch TV for few minutes when we get so bored at work, listen to our favorite songs in iPod whilst working (some bosses don't like this), etc. However, this entertainment dosage during office hours have to be carefully monitored, otherwise our job in-hand is neglected.

10. More time to spend with family
This last point is perhaps another best thing to benefit from working as freelancer. We can work all day long yet we don't really neglect our family. We can work overtime yet we still feel close to our family. We can eat lunch, breakfast and dinner with our family almost every day. As for me, working freelance means more time with my husband.


1. Extra efforts to set up the work station at home 
It's probably not a massive issue to create our work station at home but in the beginning, setting this up definitely takes extra efforts and our own pocket-money. Depending on the nature of the job, the basic things we need for working at home are usually a separate phone line for work (which means we have to apply a new number, buy the telephone and do the installation at home), internet, fax machine, printer, a computer/laptop and special software - as for me I needed to purchase Microsoft Outlook software for my professional email exchanges and it took one working day to settle my Outlook's account setting alone. Once all these are settled, we can start working peacefully.

2. Less income
Working freelance usually means less income, unless we can negotiate a higher fee to the employer, handle some multiple projects at the same time or have a side business other than the freelance work. For project-based freelance work, we are paid once one project is completed. If there are extensions to finish one project or follow-ups work need to be done, we won't get any extra money. Unlike working project-based job in a formal office setting, even though we miss the deadlines, we'd still receive the monthly salary.

3. No colleagues
Working from home means no interaction with colleagues. Even if we are supposed to liaise with them usually we do it either via phone, email or online chatting. Working life can be a little lonely sometimes as we have neither lunch buddies nor friend to bitch about work at times.

4. People don't really take you seriously
It's freelance. It's part-time job. We work from home. No title. No career advancement. Less income earned every month. We are seen to loiter around the house way too often sometimes. We wake up late. We take recurrent holidays. These are why some people look down at freelancers.

5. Tight competition
Usually those who are offered job as freelancers are people with extensive experience in their respective field. Senior people are given more trusts to finish their job from home, with minimum supervision. Therefore, to be able to take up a freelance job means we have to compete with those established senior people equipped with extensive work portfolios who usually possess their own professional websites. Furthermore, some companies prefer to have in-house workers instead of hiring freelancers.

6. Strong network is prerequisite 
Becoming a freelancer requires large and strong network in the industry we serve as these people can be our good source of potential employments in the near future. The more people we know and have good relationships with mean higher chance for being introduced to potential employers looking for freelancers.

7. Being sick doesn't really count
Sometimes, being sick doesn't mean that freelancers can have official excuse to not finish the work product on time. Although, of course, freelancers have the liberty to take rest any time when we fall ill but deadlines for project-based work mean deadlines. We get paid on project basis to finish our duties on time and because of this reason, missing deadlines for a freelancer means more pressures in the shoulder. We can be seen as a not performing individual and may not be offered more projects in the near future if our professionalism and end work product are doubted.

8. No employee's benefits or bonus
As an independent contractor, not an official employee of an organization, freelancers are sort of required to waive any claims, rights, benefits and privileges that a full-time employee entitled. These indicate no retirement plan, no pension fund, no insurance, no medical benefits and no potential profit-sharing or performance bonus received from the company we work with.

9. More personal administration tasks to do
Being a freelancer means we have to take care of our personal work-related administration things such as invoicing our clients. One of the things that I don't really enjoy doing is invoicing my company. I know it's important thing to do, as without this, I can't get my payment but this task can be quite tedious. Generally, some things that we should invoice monthly or per project include invoicing our service fee, phone bills (scanning the monthly phone bills and sometimes highlighting specified phone calls we make for a particular project then sending the file across to our employers) and transportation bills (if stated so in the contract).

10. Extra efforts required to maintain discipline and professionalism
There are lots of temptations and higher distraction levels when working at home. TV, social media platforms, online chat rooms, hobbies, house chores, errands, invitations to go out for a walk or dine out or even your bed's smell are some examples that can affect productivity of working from home. The key here is to always remember our professional commitment to our employers. Also, if possible, we should set a daily target of things that we are supposed to do and achieve them. Don't call a day off yet if 90% of the to-do-list of the day is not accomplished.

Working freelance from home means uncontrolled working hours and there are obviously advantages and disadvantages to work under this scheme. Some people are happier working from home then become more productive and tend to love their job more. However, as the distraction level in working from home is quite high too, self-motivation and diligence are the secrets to be successful in pursuing career as full-time freelancers. Therefore, excellent time management to get the work done in time whilst balancing the work-life issues are critical.

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