Freelance jobs, sometimes referred to as contract work, 1099 jobs, independent contractor or consulting work is a type of work where you are not directly employed by the company you are working for, but fulfilling specified duties for a company defined by a contract. Usually the contract has a set amount of time it will last for, a set of tasks which need to be completed or both.
This type of job is sometimes called a 1099 job because that is the IRS form an independent contractor fills out. While other times it is referred to as contracting work because the employee has a contract with the company rather than an employer employee relationship.
There are some advantages of being a freelancer over being an employee as well as some disadvantages.
Freelancers can sometimes make more money per hour than employees or make a full time salary working part time because the company they are working for does not have all of the overhead such as paying for benefits that they have with a traditional employee.
Paid by Results = Incentive to Complete Tasks Faster
Freelancers often work from home and are contracted to complete a certain project so their rate of work matters. For instance if you are an in house writer, you need to be in the office eight hours a day. If you are a freelance writer, your job may be to write three articles per day. If you can get that done in six hours you can take off early. The in house writer can’t go home early if he completes his work and needs to find something else to do for those additional two hours. However, if the freelance contractor has to write three articles per day and it takes nine hours they don’t get paid any overtime for the additional hour.
Choose Your Own Hours
The freelancer gets to choose their own hours. So if you want to drop your kids off at school in the morning and then work from 10 – 6 you can do that as a freelancer. An in house employee needs to be in the office at the same time each morning.
Higher Potential Income
A freelancer has higher potential income because a freelancer can take on additional contracts if they can complete their first contract at a fast enough rate to leave additional time to do additional contract work.
Ability to Shift Between Full Time and Part Time
As a freelancer, you can work full time or part time or over time. You can essentially accept as much work or as little work as you can earn offers for. So if one month you only want to accept 20 hours of work per week and then the next month you want to accept 80 hours of work per week to earn more money, you can do that.
Ability To Grow Into a Business Owner
As a freelancer, you are technically a business owner. But if you’re the one doing the work, you’re not really acting as a business owner. If you can grow your reputation and build your portfolio as a freelancer or bring on more work than you can do yourself, you can subcontract out some of your work at a lower rate and earn money on other people’s work. With this technique your earning potential is only limited by the amount of work you are able to find and the amount of qualified subcontractors you are able to find.
More Protection or Security During Your Contract
As a freelancer, you have more protection or security than an in house employee during the duration of your contract, if your contract is worded in a way that gives you this protection. An in house employee can be fired or laid off at any time without notice at the whims of a boss or the financial situation of a company. However if you have a contract that obligates the employer to buy six months of work from you or pay out the full value of the contract, then the employer can not legally fire you without risking litigation. So if they hire you and then run into a financial problem or want to change direction half way through the contract they are still obligated to pay you unless there is a clause in the contract that allows them to terminate the contract at their discretion, in which case you would not have added protection. If you write your own contract and they sign it, you get to define the terms of your work agreement. However if they write the contract or have a standard contract for freelancers, they define the terms of employment.
The first disadvantage of being a freelancer is that your work isn’t permanent. While an employee could potentially work at one company for their entire career (although often they don’t) a freelancer will usually only work for any one company for a few months or a few years before needing to go out and look for more work.
Freelancers usually have to provide their own benefits and overhead like health insurance, a home office and computer and what ever software or hardware they need to get the job done. While these expenses become tax deductible, they are still expenses.
Constantly Looking For New Work
A freelancer is constantly looking for new work. Because the nature of freelancer work is contracts which have a set end date, freelancers are constantly going out trying to find, sell to and close new clients and contracts. You don’t get paid for all of the time and work it takes to find and sell to new clients.
No Long Term Job Security
While freelance work can be more secure for the duration of a contract, once the contract expires there is no job security and that portion of work and of your income goes away.
Unknown and Inconsistent Income
As a freelancer, you only get as much work as you can find each month. One month you may make as much money as you would make in three months working as an employee. The next month, if you can’t close your next contract you may make nothing but spend hours of your time looking for and applying to freelance jobs. So you have to balance and budget your money well to account for potential lack of work periods. There is a feast or famine aspect to freelance work. If you can consistently find work, close contracts quickly and complete the work at a rapid rate or subcontract, you can earn way more as a freelancer than an inhouse employee. But if you struggle to find work, have slow sales cycles or work slowly to complete deliverables you will make less per hour than employees make.
It’s not an either or situation: Some positions are contract to hire meaning that there is an expectation that if the contractor does good work, a full time job will be offered. Some contracts turn into full time job offers if the contractor does good work. Some people do contract work while looking for a full time job or moonlight by doing contract work at night while having a full time day job. Some people start a career as a contractor after losing their office job. Other people do part time contract work while attending school to get a degree. And some people work their entire career as a freelancer.