For years, I’ve enjoyed the freelance lifestyle.
But in September 2016, I shocked everyone I knew: I scaled back my freelancing clients and accepted a full-time position with Student Loan Hero.
In a lot of ways, I still enjoy the freelance lifestyle. My job is remote, so I still work from home (yes, sometimes in my pajamas). There is a great deal of flexibility, so I am still available for my son and involved in my community.
I’m not the only freelancer to look for a little more pay stability. I know a few freelancers who have taken full-time jobs with companies in the last few months, as well.
If you’re on the fence about continuing to freelance, think about what’s important for you in a job and consider the following.
Office job vs. remote work
I chose to stick with remote work for my W-2 job. It leaves space for freedom and flexibility while offering a steady paycheck and benefits.
Flexibility in my day is the most important consideration for me, and remote work offers that flexibility.
Not everyone has the same priorities, though. Kelly Whalen recently returned to the office after freelancing for nine years. Rather than worrying about flexibility, Whalen is more interested in new challenges since her family moved.
“Moving to a new area and taking a break for a few months to do so left me feeling like I wanted to try something new,” Whalen says. “Since my kids are now all older, I thought it would be a good time to try and make the transition.”
Whalen also points out that after a while, freelancers can get burned out or lose motivation. Working in an office can help you get over that feeling. You kickstart something different, begin a new routine, and it forces you to get the work done. No laying around in bed trying to find the motivation to start your remote assignments.
Plus, as a newcomer to the area, she thought working in an office could help her meet new people and settle in a little better.
“I felt it would be good for me to see and be around people in the office because we’re so new to the area,” Whalen says. Face time matters when you want to put down roots in a new community or simply get more involved in your current neighborhood.
Giving up flexibility for stability
Whenever you give up some of your freelancing work for a “real” job, expect to give up some degree of flexibility. While there’s still a lot of flexibility in my workday as a remote employee, I don’t have total autonomy.
I agreed to attend online video meetings when I took this job, so there are times each week when I’ve got to show up for meetings. It took some getting used to; I have to block out those times and shift some of my other activities to accommodate the meeting schedule.
Whalen also agrees that one of the toughest things about leaving freelancing behind is her inability to set her own schedule. “I do miss the flexibility of being able to work around appointments, errands, and homework sessions,” she says.
But the stability can be worth what you give up in flexibility. Knowing that I’ll receive a paycheck twice a month makes a big difference. I know exactly how much I’ll earn and I don’t have to chase down clients who don’t pay. That makes planning my spending a little easier — and that’s worth attending a handful of meetings each week.
In many cases, working full time doesn’t mean that you have to give up freelancing completely. I still have a couple of clients that provide me with extra income on top of my full-time job.
Leaving your work behind
Burnout is a major challenge of freelancing.
One of the reasons I turned to a steady, full-time job was the mounting burnout. When you freelance, you never leave your work behind. It follows you everywhere — even when you’re on vacation.
“I love being able to leave my work at work,” says Whalen. “That never happened when I worked from home.”
When Whalen clocks out at the end of the day, she’s done until she clocks back in the next day. She doesn’t feel like there’s one more project to tinker with and there isn’t a computer in the next room calling to her.
If you feel like you can’t ever get a break from the work you have to do, taking a full-time job can make sense. Even working remotely can provide this benefit. When I get through my task list, I feel comfortable taking a break.
One of the hazards of freelancing is becoming a social hermit. I’m an introvert, so it’s not a huge deal for me to spend a lot of time by myself. But I still like to see people sometimes. Working at a coffee shop or co-working space isn’t the same as having colleagues who share your work experience.
Whalen also likes the in-person contact that comes with working in an office. “I really like being around people,” she says. “Collaborating and talking things out in person is really helpful.”
If you feel isolated as a freelancer, becoming a full-time employee can help. Corporate events like happy hours, holiday parties, or even weekend retreats all help workers feel included and part of a team.
Back to the 9-to-5
There’s nothing wrong with heading back into the workforce after you’ve done a stint of freelancing. What matters is that you look at your goals and priorities — and do what makes you happy.
Figure out what matters most to you and decide if working full time can help you achieve those goals more efficiently than freelancing. Whether it’s stability, benefits, or the desire to connect with new people, you can get perks with a real job that you can’t get with freelancing.
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