The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Freelancing in the Creative Industry

We put together a list of things you should consider when deciding if freelancing is the right thing for you!

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When entering the creative industry there are two routes one can take: 1. Working as an independent contractor, also known as a freelancer, or 2. Working as an in-house creative. Each route has their perks and their caveats. But, today we are going to be looking at entering the creative, professional world as a freelancer and what comes along with that title. 

Every job has its perks and its downfalls. Unfortunately, being a creative independent contractor is no different. While freelancing offers highly desired freedom and flexibility; it also comes with the ugliness of instability and the potential for artistic plateaus.

If you are considering stepping out as a creative freelancer, check out these podcast episodes:

Episode 1 with Mural Artist and Designer Eric Friedensohn

Episode 2 with Designer and Art Director Verena Michelitsch

This is our list of eight factors that should be considered before entering the world of freelancing. We divided our list evenly into two parts, the pros vs. the cons, because at the end of the day there is no easy answer. It’s up to you!

The Good

Flexibility

You can work when you want, where you want. Planning a two week vacation to Iceland at the end of May? Great. You don’t have to worry about reporting your vacation or sick days because you’ll have a deadline and as long as you get your project done by then you’re in the clear. Also, thanks to technology you can work in Iceland, make your meetings and communicate effectively so you’re never out of the loop. 

Unlimited Earning Potential

When you’re an independent creative contractor you don’t have a fixed salary. This means you can potentially earn way more money than you ever could working in house. It also means you can charge whatever you want for your craft because you have no boss or rules to report to. This means that your and your art’s value have skyrocketing potential. 

Freedom of Choosing Projects and Clients

One of the greatest perks of being a freelancer is you can pick and choose which projects to be a part of. This usually means that you only work on projects and for companies that excite you and align with your personality. It also gives you the freedom of working on multiple projects at once; increasing your income, keeping you a busy bee and adding versatility to your portfolio. 

The Beauties of Working From Home

Working from home is fabulous for a lot of reasons. You can take breaks and get your chores and errands done. You can wake up in the early A.M. and get straight to work without having to shower or brush your teeth or anything! You can be a disgusting hermit, eating your cereal in a blanket fort, while being creative and still getting paid!

The Bad

Work (Thus Pay) Can Be Inconsistent

One of the downfalls of freelancing is that you never really know what your next gig is going to be or when it’s coming. There could be a month or two where there is simply no work; your consistent clients don’t have anything for you or they don’t have the budget to work with you. There could be a few weeks where you’re scrambling for any kind of work and so you end up working for clients you might not prefer, might not pay on time or offer less money than you would normally accept. An inconsistent paycheck can be hard to swallow when you’ve got rent to pay and you need to eat. 

Lack of Benefits

No health insurance. No 401k. No stock options. And you have to remember that just because taxes aren’t automatically being taken out of each paycheck you still have to pay taxes on your freelancing income. All of this can be scary if you are the main provider for a family or a partner. It can also be scary if you have pre-existing health issues or are thinking about starting a family in the near future. 

Rut Potential 

Artistic ruts, sadly, can be found in in-house creative positions as well. This happens where you find yourself not creating for yourself anymore, but only for your clients and their projects. Freelancing gives you the freedom to work on your personal projects as well as those for a client, but it can be real easy to get stuck in creating for the money or to get that next gig instead of for yourself. This is how people lose their passion for their craft. 

Work/ Life balance

When you are working from home or at a coffee shop there are limitless distractions. Suddenly, you’re playing with your dog for two hours and have also fallen into an Instagram worm hole. You have a deadline at midnight and there is no way you’re going to get the work done in time. You stress eat an entire box of cereal and grow three white hairs in the span of five hours. Or on the opposite side of that, you are constantly checking your email even though you’re at your two-year old niece's birthday party. You don’t know where your work life and your real life starts and ends and you become a freelancing workaholic. Either of these scenarios or a combination of both, sadly, can be the reality of a freelancing career.

When thinking about whether or not to follow the unique path of freelancing, the factors listed above should be considered. Freelance gigs are also a great place to get started. Even if you are unsure if you want to be freelancing for the rest of your career, taking on a few freelancing jobs on the side or initially freelancing full time is a great way to get a feel for this style of work and see if it fits you and your craft. 

Love this article? Want to learn more about establishing yourself as a professional within the creative industry? Sign up for our newsletter! We’ll send you the best content to get started on your creative career, whether it is at a local firm or in a remote style position. You’ll also be alerted to our weekly podcasts, uploaded every Tuesday, so you don’t miss a beat.


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@ari_irwin
A lover of peanut butter toast and comics first, a writer second and an editor third.

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