How much can I earn as a freelancer? How do I know that there will be enough projects for my skill set now and in the future? Will freelancing bring along a lot of extra work? How do I build a support network as a freelancer? These and lots of other questions puzzle the ones thinking about becoming a freelancer. On this blog post, I and our Talented freelancers have compared the differences between freelancing and employment and will try to encourage you to take the step towards freelancing.
“I became a freelancer for multiple reasons. The biggest reason must have been the fact that I was fascinated by the freedom: You can choose how much to work. The money factor was also tempting, as you can make more money as a freelancer. I also like the idea of being more responsible for my skill set and know-how – it’s like you’re on trial period all the time.”
“For me, it felt natural to move into a environment where people and technologies change regularly, because when I looked at my CV I noticed I had been switching jobs every 2-3 years. I have this need for new things from time to time, and as a freelancer this works out great.”
The money factor. Let’s think about this from the business side of view. At the other end there is Heikki, who has fixed monthly salary and at the other end Matti, who works through his own limited company and bills his working hours afterwards. Our homie Heikki doesn’t really have to worry about anything else than his employer having enough money to pay his salary.
Matti, on the other hand, has multiple factors, such as the number of projects and potential delays, that can affect his income. Heikki has negotiated a more or less satisfying monthly salary with his employer but as a freelancer, Matti can determine his hourly price himself. Reality is though, that in the end, Matti’s client will decide whether to pay the price or not so there should be some flexibility in the pricing. At Talented, the senior developers’ hourly rate varies between 80 and 100 euros.
As a freelancer, you can bill your work by its value: You’re not paying for company’s business premises or fringe benefits, you only pay for things that you need or want. If you want to keep the costs to a minimum, you can earn up to 50% more than as an employee but as you probably know, entrepreneur’s salary isn’t the whole amount they make in a certain month – part of it is left to the company’s bank account. What comes to the salary, it can be paid as money, dividends or the money can be invested in purchasing services. Entrepreneurs also have their secret club where the VAT can be decreased from company’s purchases, yay!
Risks and workload
You can set up a company in a day, but what happens then? Where do you find customers and how to minimize the risks?
“My approach to this was “what is the worst thing that could happen”. The worst thing would be not getting projects, but I then thought that I can surely get back to full-time employment if needed. When I was starting out, I minimized the risks by not resigning before I had my firs gig confirmed. Otherwise I manage the risks by having insurances and enough financial buffer.
“Of course there’s a risk of not finding a project on time, but you can manage this risk by asking the customer regularly about the future of the project, if they’re satisfied with your work and trying to listen the upcoming quaters’ budget estimates. As a freelancer you can plan your work beforehand in a certain level, and start looking for new projects in time.”
Like said, you can determine the workload yourself. If you want, you can work only 3-4 days a week, work remotely or have more holidays. Many freelancers stick with the 5-days-a-week routine though, and you can also work remotely or shorter working weeks as an employee once you’ve built the trust with your employer. I’d also like to remind you that running the business brings along some extra work, so the number overall working hours can increase.
As an entrepreneur/freelancer you’re responsible for your employees’, including yourself, wellbeing, so try to stick with the decent workload and remember to relax and spend time with family and friends because burnout is not a joke.
Alone or with an agent?
The hot IT market and huge demand of developers lower the financial risk of becoming a freelancer as an experienced developer gets employed easily. Project hunting and customer meetings require lots of time which takes time away from the billable working hours, so why wouldn’t you hire an agent to do the project hunting for you and benefit the vendor role’s stronger negotiation power? Approximately two freelancers find projects through Talented every week, and we mainly try to find long-lasting and business model critical projects for them. Moreover, our freelancers get a direct window to the IT market and can easily monitor the employment situation.
“For me the biggest advantage was the fact that the risk of starting out was basically zero. I continued working as an employee and at the same time my agent looked for potential projects. I also got help with establishing my ltd.”
“Talent Agency brings you potential clients instead of you cold contacting them yourself. From the business point of view you’ll outsourse sales (=project hunting/customer acquisition) and you don’t have to hire someone who’d only have work every couple of months when you need a new project.”
A support network is necessary for our survival both at work and at home. Even if you had more project offers than you could handle and you’d enjoy enormously the freedom of choice to work when and where you want, you could still find yourself missing the coffee break conversations and good laughs with colleagues. As a freelancer, you might also miss the benefits (lunch-, cultural- and sports vouchers, trainings and events) you used to have as an employee as well as the feeling of belonging to a community. If you’d like to learn new and network with other techies, join the Talented Network of 1200+ nerdy Talents and our monthly events with varying themes!
Lastly, we have listed the pros and cons of both working as a freelancer and employee:
+ freedom and flexible time management
+ possibility to make more money
+ you can choose the most interesting projects
+ you have an impact on your business
+/- more responsibility
– no fringe benefits and other benefits offered by the employer
– no similar support network as had as an employee
– burnout alert
– financial risk
+ fringe benefits and other benefits offered by the employer
+ support network
+ trainings and events offered by the employer
+ minor financial risk, fixed monthly salary
– not necessarily having a similar freedom to choose your projects and workload
– no similar possibility of a greater income
– you don’t really have an impact on the company’s operations
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