The Pros and Cons of Freelancing


Before you shoot off into the rollercoaster world of self-employment, it’s important that you are aware of the pros and cons of freelancing. Annique sheds some light on important things to consider before embarking on this joyride. 

I’ve always been a freelancer at heart, ever since I got my first job as a babysitter back when I was around 15. Parents would ask me to babysit for them on a given day, and depending on my availability and need for pocket money, I’d either accept or decline the gig (needless to say I always accepted).

I continued with freelance work throughout my gap year and both of my degrees, working as a freelance babysitter, tutor, waitress and dance instructor – always on my own terms. To this day, I’m a fan of generating an income this way, and I’m pretty sure I’ll always be involved with freelance work in one way or another.

Having said this, freelancing is not a breeze. It’s tough. And as much as I’ve enjoyed the lifestyle, I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone. It takes a certain personality with certain traits and skills to go out there and be a successful freelancer.

Here is some practical information along with useful words of advice if you are considering a part or full-time freelance career.

What is a Freelancer?

When you are a freelancer, you are self-employed. In other words, you are your own boss. When you freelance, you offer a service to someone without being bound to them by a long-term contract. So when you have completed the job or project, that’s it – until you take on the next. You could also be working on multiple jobs at the same time, for different clients.

Common Freelance Jobs

There really are endless jobs that you can do on a freelance basis. However, certain industries are more convenient for a freelance life. Here’s a list of some career directions and industries that see a lot of freelance work.

Are You Cut out For a Freelance Life?

Pay very close attention to this next point.

Freelancing is not for everyone.

If you want to go into freelancing and make a success for yourself, you need to have the right mindset, and it’s super important to have certain qualities and skills

For example, you need to have

  • major self-discipline
  • a broad set of management skills
  • communication skills
  • reliability
  • confidence & resilience
  • a go-getter attitude
  • personal values & principles

Take those qualities, and add a decent chunk of boldness, and the climb to a successful freelance career can look as badass as this champ.

The Pros

“If you dig deep and keep peeling the onion, artists and freelance writers are the leaders in society – the people who start to get new ideas out.”

– Allan Savory

  • You get to be your own boss.

Imagine not taking orders from anyone but… yourself. Doesn’t that sound terrific? Imagine being in charge of your own workload, working hours, and rates. It’s pretty awesome, in particular when you’re a natural leader and don’t like being told what to do by some corporate nincompoop manager.

  • Decide when & how much you work. 

As a freelancer you don’t need to worry about managing your life around a 9-5 job. You can work in your own time entirely. If you want to work from 5am to lunchtime, and spend the rest of your day walking along the sea or hitting the gym, so be it. The same goes for the amount of time you work. If you want to work your butt off for 6 months and then take leave for the remaining 6, heck, why not. You can determine when you work based on your needs and desires.

  • You can be yourself.

If you are self-employed, you represent yourself, and not a company or other employer. You don’t have any restrictions regarding things like your clothing style, or where you work. If you are a graphic designer who works from home and you decide you want to work in a shiny kimono that matches your green hair – ain’t nobody gonna tell you not to. Just be careful your unique awesomeness doesn’t totally scare potential clients off in your first meeting… at least while you depend on that income. You still need to be professional.

  • Determine your income.

Since you don’t earn a salary, you get paid per job, or project you complete. It’s up to you to determine your rate, and depending on your experience and quality of work, you can charge more over time.

There is no rule book that determines how much a freelancer can charge for their work, but each industry has its own general rates guidelines, and it’s important that you’re aware of them. In the end it’s for you and your client to agree on, with or without negotiation.

  • You score tax benefits.

When you are self-employed, you end up spending quite a lot of money in order to be able to generate an income. It seems contradictory, but just think about it – communicating and meeting clients will cost you petrol, airtime, wifi, etc. You might need to pay insurance for your business, or if you are an artist or designer, you need to buy supplies, stationery, materials, etc.

Since this comes out of your own pocket, however, you get to deduct a lot of those costs from your yearly tax return. That’s why it’s super important for you to keep detailed track of all your work-related expenses.

  • Your work. Your name.

When you work for a company and come up with an amazing idea, you don’t always get credit. Often, the credit goes to the company (score for them). It’s not fair. But when you work for yourself, you get all the credit for your ideas and work – as it should be. On that note, get familiar with copyright laws and make sure you protect your intellectual property.

Side Note: While we’re on the positive roll, click here for more reasons why you should consider freelance work. 

The Cons

“Anybody who is in freelance work, especially artistically, knows that it comes with all the insecurity and the ups and downs. It’s a really frightening life.”

– Alessandro Nivola

Okay. Here I go… shattering the dream. Just kidding. But I will make sure you get a reality check. Here are some serious considerations for you before you commit your heart, soul, and piggy bank to the freelance world.

  • There is no monthly paycheck.

 Freelancing means when you don’t work, you don’t get paid. There is no guaranteed income at the end of each month. You don’t get paid leave or sick days. Whether or not you have money in the bank is entirely up to the amount of work you do.

It’s scary, and it can mean a constant hustle. If you are someone who needs stability and structure, this could be problematic. Apart from the possible irregular income, you can also go through financial droughts, especially if the industry you’re in is quite seasonal. For example, actors and film crews have tons of work lined up in summer, and almost nothing in winter.

But you can learn how to manage this. If bears can hibernate for six months, then wake up and re-conquer their terrain like a boss, so can you.

  • You don’t get any employee-benefits

Yup, when you bid farewell to being someone’s employee, you also say goodbye to any work-related benefits. This can mean quite a heavy increase in living costs – office lunches, limitless coffee, petrol or airtime, memberships, insurance cover, leave, sick days….all gone.

  • You work longer hours.

 You might as well forget about the existence of working hours. When you freelance, your service is your baby. It might need your attention at any given time of the day or night – and you can’t neglect it, because it’s what pays your bills. So even though you can decide when you want to work, you don’t just “switch off” at 5pm.

But then again, if it’s your baby, you love it unconditionally, right? So the longer hours won’t necessarily bother you all too much – given the fact that you are in control of how you manage your time and work.

  • There’s more admin.

As your own boss, you also take on all the responsibilities regarding the admin and management of your business. Whether it’s about legal or tax issues, or book keeping… that all falls under your work description.

The good news is that once your business takes off, you can consider hiring an assistance who can help you with these tasks. 

  • It can get a bit lonely… or a bit distracting.

When you are self-employed and work in an industry that doesn’t require you to really interact with people all too much (writing, designing, web development, etc.) then it can get a bit lonely. You often work alone on projects, which might get to you if you’re someone who loves team work and needs a bit of action in your work space.

Working alone can also cause you to get distracted. Don’t think that just because you are now a working adult you won’t succumb to procrastination. Facebook, furniture and decor rearrangement, the fridge… all still as tempting as ever.

Don’t forget that being alone is not the same as being lonely, and many people work very well alone, with good focus. If you do struggle with loneliness, get yourself a plant or pet (or have kids… and enjoy the distraction).

Take it Step by Step.

If you’re keen on becoming a freelancer, a safe way to start out is by working part-time in a job that pays you a monthly salary, while doing part-time freelance work on the side. It will give you some financial stability and security as you find your way in the freelance world, so you don’t have to worry as much about making rent or being able to have a meal on your plate.

What’s cool about this is that you can be involved with more than one career field. I know plenty of people who work in offices, but freelance in the food, dance, or design industries after hours. 

Once you’ve started to make a name for your freelance-self and get regular clients on board, then you can start thinking about doing it full-time. By then, you’ll have experience and reputation, a more solid network, and a better idea of the kind of income you can expect.

pros and cons of freelancing

Starting Out – 3 Ways to Get Your Name Out There

There are various ways you can let the world know about your work and services. Here are 3 pointers to get you started.

1. Word of Mouth.

Never ever underestimate the power of this one. If you make a client very happy, chances are they will recommend you. I’ve scored almost all of my babysitting jobs this way.

2. Flyers, Business Cards & Other Marketing

Leave flyers or business cards in places where your target market will see them. I used to go to kindergartens and crèches and hang up flyers there so parents would know about me and my babysitting service.

Gumtree is also great – you can post a free ad to let people know about what you have to offer.

You can also make amazing use of social media to create pages for your service – create a Facebook page and ask your friends to share it like it’s the juiciest gossip on the street. Start blogging, or dedicate an Instagram account to your work (and learn to master those hashtags!

3. Join Online Platforms, Agents & Other Freelance Communities

There are thousands of websites out there dedicated to matching freelancers with clients (for all kinds of industries).

Here are some well-known South African freelancer sites for you to check out:

SAFREA (South African Freelancer’s Association)



And then you can always search for freelance jobs on any of the online job search engines like

Career Jet 




Go, Freelancers, Go!

If you think you’ve got what it takes, then go for it. Start steady and create a name for yourself. It won’t happen overnight, but if you’re good at what you do and love the freelance lifestyle, you can rock it.

And remember the words of football legend Pele.

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

  • Pele

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