The Ups and Downs of Working for Yourself as a Freelancer or Consultant

A lot of people have a glorified idea of what their life would be like if they could quit their job and start working for themselves as a consultant or freelance professional: sleeping in, working in their pajamas, being able to take a day off whenever they want to, having more vacation time, being home to take care of the kids after school, a higher salary, and being able to focus on work that they love.

What many potential freelancers and consultants don’t understand, however, is that all of those ideals they have are not the reality at all for many individuals who work for themselves. Let’s explore some of the real pros and cons of working for yourself, to help you better make a decision as to whether or not freelancing or consulting is right for you.

Pros of Working for Yourself

Here are some of the biggest perks of working for yourself as a consultant or freelancer.

  • You don’t have to answer to a boss or supervisor.
  • You can choose your projects.
  • You can work from the comfort of your own home.
  • You get to set you own rates and fees.
  • If you work from home, you can see your family more.
  • You can dress casually.
  • You can choose what days and hours to work.
  • You can decide when to take your vacations and for how long.
  • You get to spend each day doing work in a field that you love.

Cons of Working for Yourself

Now let’s look at the other side of things. These are some of the downsides of working for yourself as a freelancer or consultant, some of which you might not have considered.

  • You have to answer to your clients. Instead of one boss, it can feel like you have many.
  • You might have slow times where you won’t have any projects at all.
  • It can be harder to separate your work from your home life.
  • It’s easy to put in more hours than planned, and overwork yourself, especially when you’re on deadlines.
  • There’s no one to tell you to go home at 5:00.
  • All of the hours you work won’t be billable time. You have to squeeze in administrative, financial, and marketing work as well.
  • Seeing your family more can be a major work distraction, and your work might cause family tension.
  • You never know when a client will look up your address and stop by, so you always have to keep your home and/or office in top condition, and despite dressing casually, you might still need to look professional. This will be a bigger issue if you focus on working with local clients.
  • You need to be available during regular business hours if clients, or potential clients, will need to contact you during those hours. That can decrease your flexibility in scheduling quite a bit.
  • If you take a day off, or go on vacation, you could miss out on potential clients because there’s no one to fill in for you.

Do you work for yourself? What have been some of the biggest benefits and drawbacks? If you don’t work for yourself yet but you would like to, what are you most looking forward to or what worries you the most? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

This post was originally published on March 7, 2007. It was updated and republished on its currently-listed publication date.

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