For some developers, freelancing is an ideal job. You typically set your own hours and can dictate where you work. But while freelancing can be a great lifestyle fit for many, some may find themselves enjoying agency work instead.
So which type of developer are you?
You may already have a sense of the work environment you want, so the choice may be a no-brainer. Or maybe you’ve been freelancing and contemplating making the switch into an agency role.
Whatever the case may be, here are a few things you should consider before making the jump into freelancing (or remaining a freelancer)…
Pros and Cons of Freelancing
There are many reasons freelancing could make more sense for you than a traditional employer-employee job. A few of the main benefits that freelancing can bring include higher levels of compensation, a better work-life balance, and a higher level of optimism and control over your career.
- Greater level of flexibility in schedule and location
- Better work life balance (set your own schedule)
- No ceiling on how much money you can make
- More control over which clients you choose
- Less risk of being laid off (some call it “recession-proof”)
If those reasons alone make you say, “Sign me up!” you may want to consider being a freelancer. However, freelancing does come with its downsides if you’re not fully prepared.
Many freelancers say their biggest concerns are finding clients, going through “feast or famine” months where money is good (or bad) depending on a changing workflow, and struggling with their work-life balance when there’s no one else setting the schedule.
- Constantly finding and maintaining your own client list
- Working alone with very few other support systems
- High levels of competition from other freelancers
- Lack of clear direction and path for job growth
- Financial concerns (“When will I get paid?”)
- Setting your own boundaries with clients and deadlines
Some developers may find that they want the freedom to do things “their way” but struggle to maintain a healthy schedule when given total freedom. Others may find that the constant pressure of finding work is a deterrent to truly feeling successful as a freelancer.
But should any of the above stop you from becoming (or continuing as) a freelancer? Not necessarily. There are a few skills you may want to consider developing if you’re looking to go down that path.
Necessary Skills for Freelancing
Some may say that being a freelancer means that you don’t have a “real” job, but for those who have been a freelancer for any period of time, you know that’s not the case. In fact, freelancing requires skills more in line with those of an entrepreneur.
Freelance Folder lists 16 essential skills freelancers need to be successful, and some may surprise you:
- Management skills
- Negotiating skills
- Networking skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Project management
- Public relations
- Stress management
If all of those seem overwhelming, don’t worry. While many of those are helpful for success, there are resources available specifically designed to help freelancers in the areas they may fall short.
So while you don’t need to be an expert at accounting or the best networker in the room, those who make a life-long career from freelancing often find that developing those skills makes them better at their jobs.
But what if you’re reading this and you realize you just don’t want the pressure that comes along with working as a freelancer, but you don’t want to go back to working for a company in-house?
The good news is that you have options, with one being working for a creative or digital marketing agency.
There are many benefits of working in a team environment like an agency, though there are different skills involved with being successful in an agency setting, too. Depending on the size of the agency itself, you could experience everything from an intimate and collaborative environment to working on some big name brands with a large team.
Benefits of Agencies
- Variety of clients (both large and small brands depending on the size)
- Help dealing with clients (some developers won’t deal with clients directly)
- Working with a team of other experts in their field
- Steady paycheck (with opportunities for bonuses in some cases)
- No overhead (for yourself)
If you’re the type of person who feels like they need support but don’t want to be stuck working for one client (like an in-house position), you may love working with a creative or marketing agency. With that being said, it’s still not for everyone.
What It Takes for Agency Work
While most agencies have a more collaborative environment than an in-house position, the skills needed are somewhat similar between the two. You will still typically work a 9-to-5 in a specific location, but you don’t have to manage your own clients and you have support if you need it.
Some other aspects that could benefit you in an agency environment include:
- Working under pressure
- Loving fast-paced environments
- Enjoying being rewarded for your efforts in tangible ways
- Wanting to work on a variety of projects at once
- Being able to meet strict deadlines
- Needing people around you to bounce ideas
While working for an agency isn’t for everyone, if you don’t want the uncertainty that comes with being a freelancer and you like environments that will keep you on your toes, you may thrive in an agency environment.
Which Should You Choose?
Of course, there are a variety of factors that go into making the decision to freelance or not. You will need to consider:
- Your current economic situation – Can you afford “feast and famine” months? Or do you need a steady paycheck?
- Your work ethic – Can you put in the hours it takes to find clients and manage their expectations on your own?
- Your marketability – Can you stand out from the competition and market yourself enough to find work?
- Your desired lifestyle – Do you want to be able to set your own schedule? Or do you work better in a structured environment?
- Your level of ownership – Do you want to be in control? Or do you like passing off work to other team members if necessary?
The choice is up to you. To make the best decision, it’s best to decide which areas of your life you can handle more (or you need less) stress.
Freelancers often find that they have much less stress in setting their schedule, choosing their clients, and working from wherever they want. But they also have more stress in maintaining that workflow, keeping up with client demands, and getting paid on a regular basis.
Agency developers may find that they have less stress in managing clients, but may be overwhelmed by the 9-to-5 or by working in teams.
Freelancing can be a great opportunity if you’re able to keep up with the skills necessary for success.
To get the most out of freelancing, you may want to focus your efforts on developing a wide range of entrepreneurial skills that will help you manage your business and your time more efficiently. Remember that there are always resources out there for freelancers who fall short in different areas.
If you’re just not sure that freelancing will be the best fit for your needs but you’re tired of working in-house, you may consider joining a creative or marketing agency to give yourself a boost – that is, as long as you’re okay in a fast-paced environment.
Ultimately the choice is yours. Just remember that you’re never stuck. You can always try freelancing to see whether or not it’s the best fit for you.