Freelance Work Pros and Cons

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If you had to list the pros and cons of freelance work, what would they be? What is the balance between pros and cons when it comes to freelance work?

It is one of the main topics of conversation that comes up when people ask about a freelance career.

The Pros of Freelance Work

  • Choice and Variety. The ability to (eventually) choose clients, topics, and projects appeal to those of us who want to work on certain topics or fields. Granted, you often take an "all comers" approach when you start out, but many/most freelancers eventually focus on anywhere from one to five "niche" expertise areas. Also, you're able to choose when it comes to other aspects, too, such as schedules, pay rates, and so on. On a personal note, I tend to become bored or distracted easily. My brain wants constant stimulation. Varying the topics that I research and write about works for me in that regard.
  • Scheduling. I'm listing this first because it has, without a doubt, been the absolute best part of this career for me as a mother. When I came out of university in 2005, I was a non-traditional student in my upper 20s with two kids. I had become accustomed to being available to them by scheduling classes just so. When I began working in a traditional job as an editor, it was a shock to us all. The university schedule had spoiled me; I think I was probably destined for freelancing all along. My career allows me to travel, be available to my children, and respect my natural rhythms (I'm quite the night owl).

Cons of Freelance Work

  • Sporadic Payment Schedule and Amounts. It is the number one complaint that most people have about freelancing, and it's quite logical. It takes a while to develop a set of clients whose payment schedules vary enough to have a constant flow of cash. In my humble beginnings, there would be a month and a half between payments. Even now, I sometimes have clients that pay 90 days out from when the work is accepted. Luckily (and here's the only real solution to this), I have a couple of clients who pay on more "normal" schedules: a website that pays monthly, a nonprofit that pays biweekly, and a magazine that pays quarterly. For more information on the different payment types and schedules that your clients may have, be sure to read "Different Types of Freelance Work."
  • Health insurance. This career would not work (for me) were I not in a traditional heteronormative marriage with someone with a traditional job. This situation privileges me, in that I can ride his insurance coattails. This doesn't apply to everyone, and I see some injustice in that. Organizations like The Freelancers Union are working within the new policies from The Affordable Care Act to try to alleviate some of this issue. Time will tell.
  • Separation of Work and Home. In addition to the scheduling pros, there is also this specific scheduling con. I am very guilty of answering emails when I'm supposed to be watching a movie with my family, or so on. Also, sometimes those huge projects require some serious 60 hour work weeks. That's just how it goes.

So, what is the balance you ask? For me, this is a no-brainer. As long as my children are around, I'm not going anywhere. I have never loved a job like I do today, and I feel quite fortunate to feel that way. My advice would be to take a proactive look at the negatives, make plans to alleviate them as much as possible, and then give it a try.