I remember how excited my parents were when I got my first job. I didn’t really understand it then, but now that I have a 16-year-old who is looking at colleges, I see the appeal. As a parent, you spend the majority of the first two decades of your child’s life preparing them to live and thrive in the world as an independent being. Their first job offer is like passing some final exam of self-sufficiency. Years pass, and then, as an adult, most of us feel like we need to continue to live up to expectations, whether our parents, our peers or our own.
I also remember when I started freelancing. People at networking events and parties would ask how long I had been out of work. There is always an implication that freelancing is something you do between “real” jobs. That it is not, somehow, a legitimate profession.
And, with that implication, comes peer pressure. You start questioning what you’re doing and wondering if freelancing is a legitimate pursuit. Like the ‘working mom versus stay-at-home mom’ debate, the ‘freelance versus employee’ debate is not a matter of legitimacy or, rather, right and wrong. It’s not about what other people think you should do, but about what makes the most sense for your and your family at this moment in time.
There’s a lot to love about working for yourself. The ability to do work you enjoy, to make your own hours, to work from home — all of these are great perks. But, there is a downside, too. Things that people who don’t freelance don’t understand: the pressure of finding clients and/or business; never ending networking; the feast or famine cycle of revenue; health insurance, taxes, and self-funding of benefits.
It’s one thing to know that 53 million people are freelancing (at least some of the time), but the number who freelance full time is much lower. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t have a “real” job. Sure, it’s great to be part of a trend, but most of the time those of us working for ourselves still feel like we are just a little weird.
Sooner or later, most freelancers talk themselves into thinking that the grass might be greener back in employment land. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a paycheck on a regular basis? All those juicy benefits like disability insurance, tuition reimbursement and an onsite gym start to look pretty good after a few years of paying for it all yourself.
Should you go back inside the house? Here are a few things to consider before you accept that job offer:
Work for Hire: While a steady paycheck sounds great, it often comes with golden handcuffs. If you are a content creator, be aware that as long as you are an employee, nearly everything you create (even on your own time) belongs to your employer. Read that employee agreement carefully so you don’t end up giving away your intellectual property for free.
Non-competes and Non-solicitations: In addition to owning your work, some employee agreements will specify that you can’t work for a competitor, or for clients of your employer. That may sound fine when you take the job, but if and when you decide to leave, it can make it tough to find your next opportunity.
Limited Flexibility: It may seem like no big deal to go into an office every day. A small sacrifice that you make for the ability to spend less time doing business development and more time doing the work you love. But, when you realize you can’t pop out to the grocery store in the middle of the day, or get the laundry done during the work week, let alone get your hair cut, your car serviced, and all the other little chores you’ve gotten used to doing while others are in the office, you may find that the 9-to-5 grind wears on you more than you thought.
Most free agents have gone back inside the house at least once. Some will tell you they hated every minute and ran straight back to working independently. Others decide to stay inside. If you are feeling the pressure to get a job again, that’s totally normal. It’s all about making the right decision for you at this moment in your life.