FAQ | Freelance vs Full-Time 101: Pros, Cons, and How to Decide

Apr 3, 2023Dianne Eberhardt

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify,  Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.



Hello everyone. Welcome to Pixelated Perfect. I'm super excited to have you guys here. We are switching things up and we're changing how we record some of our episodes. We're still gonna have our times when we talk to people and interview people. But we're also starting this new FAQ where basically you guys have any questions that you would like to hear from me, from the t d P team. We're here and you can ask us those questions and then we're gonna kind of, I'm just gonna talk through and answer some of those questions. So the first question, and really what we're gonna focus on today in the podcast is freelance versus full-time.

What is freelance? What is the difference between freelance and full-time? Where would you fit? Where would you see yourself being?

So jumping in before we kind of talk about those differences we pulled some stats that I wanna share with you mostly around freelance because obviously we know if you're full-time then you are basically working at a company 40 hours a week doing that typical thing. But some stats about freelancing as it's more new and nuanced is the global lance market size and 2022 is estimated to be 4.43 billion. And it's growing. It's growing rapidly. By 2028, it's expected to be 12 billion on average. So this is interesting for all of you guys to know about pricing, which we'll talk about further down the line. On average freelancers bill an hourly rate of $28 an hour among freelancers. It is about a 50-50 split between men and women. A tiny bit more women, which is kind of interesting. And three and 10 Fortune 100 companies source freelance talent from Upwork.

So asking how to get freelance gigs, something like that, Upwork is an option. And I'll kind of talk about that a little bit later. So hopefully that kind of set the stage for you guys. Let's dive into the difference between full-time and freelance. Like I said, full-time, you're working at a company, you're getting a salary, you usually have a job description, you know what, what job you're taking on. So if we think about it in terms of product design for instance, you're usually taking on a product design position at a company. You're expected to work full-time or expected to be there, whether it's in the office remote and you have specific tasks and you work within a team, usually freelance. On the other hand, kind of the biggest differences are you're finding your own customers. So you are going out there finding clients, finding people to work with on your own.

So you're, you're kind of doing that sales and marketing piece as well. There is the benefit of working when you want, how much you want. So depending on what you're looking for as a freelancer, you could basically scale it up or down depending, cuz it's you, it's on you to decide what that looks like. You usually get paid by the project or hourly. So obviously you're not gonna be getting a salary, it's not gonna be this is how much you make every month. So that's one of the biggest differences and that's one of the biggest reasons why most people are nervous about the idea of moving to freelance because of the unpredictability. Let's talk about the pros of working freelance versus full-time. So full-time I think the biggest pro is that you have stability. That being said, especially in today's market and how all of us know how things are going is like stability is relative.

You do have a job but I mean as we know especially with the pandemic, like anything can happen, you could lose your job. So I guess in terms of stability, there is more stability cuz you do have that job and you do have this expectation of continuing on with that. But who really knows today, right? None of us can really figure that out. So freelance, I think the biggest pro of freelance is having flexibility. So you get to set your schedule, you get to decide when you wanna work, where you wanna work, what type of customers you wanna work with. And on that last point, so actually I think now's probably a good time to tell you a little bit about my experience and how I can really speak to you guys about this. I have done freelance and full-time contracting all of the things to the founder, right?

So for me, I took on a full-time position in my early career that's what I did. I worked my nine to five, I went to an office every day. And I made the decision to go full-time freelance because I wanted to, I think one of the biggest things I wanted was to be able to choose my clients and customers. So at the end of my full-time career I was working at an agency and I kind of like that idea of bouncing with a couple of different customers at once, but I wanted that freedom to choose the type of customers I worked with that are really aligned with my mission types of projects I wanna work on. So that was like a huge thing for me personally was that flexibility to be able to choose those customers that I wanted to work with.

Let's talk about working hours. Speaking of flexibility is full-time. Like we mentioned, you are kind of expected to work those 40 hours a week if it is full-time. Today's market, a lot of us work remotely these days. They're now kind of doing hybrid models where you can go into the office, things like that. And then freelance is kind of making your own schedule. I do think that what's important to know about freelance and making your own schedule and working hours is that at least for me it's super impactful and productive to be able to build a schedule for yourself. So it is almost like being at a company in the sense that you should in the back of your mind say, Hey, I'm gonna sit at work nine to five or whatever that looks like for you. You can obviously change it around.

Maybe it's early mornings, work better, maybe late at night, but having a schedule is definitely super important to be able to become that freelancer and not let things fall through the cracks. That organization and like time blocking and things like that are super important for being able to make your own hours. Productivity. So this is interesting. I think the big difference between full-time and freelance is working with the team versus working on your own. So when you're full-time, not necessarily if you're a product designer, you're gonna be working with a ton of product designers, especially if you work in a startup space, but you usually have other team members that you're working closely with. So whether it's project managers, whether it's the founders, whether it's other designers, whatever that looks like, you have a team and so you're usually working scheduling meetings throughout the day talking with those people, communicating and working closely with them.

And that is like a huge part of productivity is like when are you gonna work versus when are you gonna have meetings, things like that. And it's a couple of different schedules. Productivity for freelance is you're usually working on your own and you're working with your customers so you're working with those stakeholders. So a lot of your day is sitting at your desk kind of doing your work, you're not necessarily working in a team with other people and that is a huge difference and that is actually a really big reason why a lot of designers that are freelancing are looking to make the transition to full-time because they have a working freelance and there's the benefits of it but they miss having a team and they miss having people to collaborate with and ideas to spark brainstorming. And so a lot of freelancers realize when they're freelancing that they want that full-time setting because they do want team members and want people to work closely with.

So that's an interesting thing to think about if you're kind of weighing those options. Money, let's talk about money. So we had that start at the beginning that freelancers the average rate is $28 an hour. But let's talk about things like salary versus budgeting for projects. So in freelance I think the best thing to do if you're thinking of going freelance and understanding what that looks like because a lot of people are really nervous to make that jump, like I said earlier, because they don't have this salary, you don't have this like monthly income that's coming in. So what do you do about that? The biggest thing you can do is plan. So figure out what you are making full-time or what are your expectations for the year? Like what is the minimum amount you need to be making, what's your ideal amount you need to be making?

And by having that number in your head that's really gonna help you be able to budget. So what does that look like? How much do you need to make a month? How much do you need to make a quarter to be able to hit all your bills? And knowing that however you decide to set up your projects. So whether it's ongoing work, maybe you wanna do retainer style, maybe it's project based. So if you do project based, maybe you take 50% at the beginning and 50% at the end. And so you really need to spend that time understanding the minimum you need to make, what you need to be making in a month, how you wanna be billing, how you wanna be charging so that you set that self stuff up so that when you actually start freelancing you have these numbers and expectations and you're like okay, I need to get a new customer this month, next month it looks like I'm not gonna be hitting that, what can I do?

So you can plan ahead and that's super powerful and super, super important and that's gonna let you feel more at ease. Another big thing I suggest is having that net to fall back on, how much can you put away? How much can you be making so that you're saving some money so that you have something to fall back on if say your biggest client leaves unexpectedly, how much do you need to have in the bank? Is it three months, six months? It kind of depends on you. There's a bunch of factors, but having that money put away, which I know is way easier said than done, will make you feel way more comfortable going into freelancing, knowing that if something does happen you do have like a net to fall back on and you have some money in your pocket so you can continue to get customers and not feel overwhelmed by that piece because obviously budget is a huge factor in going freelance and that's why a lot of people are really scared to make that jump. So I think it's all about planning and understanding exactly what numbers you need to reach. Let's talk about questions to decide if you should be full-time or freelance. I think there's a couple of like yes no questions for you to understand. Like which option is the best if you're trying to make this decision. I think the first question is a good one. Do you like having a set schedule?

If you really like having a set schedule, I think there's actually <laugh>, this is gonna be funny. There's actually, you could go both ways and it's dependent on what kind of set schedule. If you like someone that's planning, organizing, coordinating your schedule, if you like seeing that there's meetings on your calendar, if you like having that organization from top down and you're more down then going that corporate route and having that schedule where you work nine to five, you know what your days look like, everything like that. I think that's a great choice. If you're more like, oh I really like to have a set schedule but I wanna make it myself, I wanna be the one to say I wanna have meetings on Tuesdays. Or you're organizing the sense that you wanna choose when you're talking to your customers or the chunks of hours that you're working and you're organizing your schedule.

I think that's freelance. So do you like having a set schedule? If it's like overall yes and an easy set schedule. I think that full-time is the way to go. But if you're like yes, and I like the idea of planning it myself, I think freelance is a great option. Do you like to work with a team of people? So I talked about this already. If you do like to work with a team of people and you are the kind of person that likes to bounce ideas off of someone full-time is definitely the way to go. You are not going to be getting that same level if you are a freelancer. The next question, do you want to be your own boss? What does that look like? What is your long-term goal? Do you like the idea of managing your own schedule? Do you like the idea of you being in charge of everything?

So do you like the idea of finding clients, finding customers? Do you like the idea of managing your budget, organizing and paying all of your bills and your figma accounts and everything like that? If that's you, you like the idea of being your own boss and everything that goes along with it. Freelance is definitely, definitely for you. Do you want more control over your work life balance? So in this instance, I think that the answer is if you do want more control, then freelance is the way to go. Freelance is gonna offer you the ability to completely choose your schedule, do whatever makes sense and be able to live wherever you want, work whenever you want, all of those things. That being said, I have an interesting story about when I went full-time freelance, I also decided to travel. So while I was traveling I was freelancing and it's very hard to balance both.

So I think there are a lot of people out there that have this vision of, oh, when I go freelance I'll be able to pick my own schedule, I'll be able to get my work done. But what I found is that while I was traveling, I was so wrapped up in planning and scheduling the travel side of things that sometimes work fell off the wayside. And so moving around, moving to different places, being in places that you're not always comfortable in or keep shifting, it's really hard to like to focus and have that time for work. And so if you do like that idea of making your own schedule, I think it's really important to kind of, like I mentioned at the beginning is like if you're a er, you do need to be able to balance and you need to be able to like timebox and say, Hey, I need to work here.

I need to work at this time. Because if you don't have that strict mindset, you most likely are going to struggle with everything else that you could be doing if you don't have these tasks that are assigned to you from someone else, like if you were full-time. So I think that's an interesting note. And p for people to think about. Do you prefer stability? We've already talked about this one a lot full-time. If you feel like not getting a salary or not knowing when your next project is coming down the pipeline or not knowing, knowing you need to get more customers and that's very stressful for you and that's not a direction you wanna go, then you should definitely be full-time. So another few things about freelancing that I think are important to note, that if you do go Lance and you're not full-time benefits, you most likely will not be getting benefits most like you will not be getting benefits <laugh> you'll have to sacrifice health insurance, paid vacations, all of that.

So is it worth it for the freedom that depends on you. I think the other big thing which you've talked a lot about is this instability. I still just, I wanna bring it up again. You don't, if you don't know when your next project is. If this idea of not knowing what's coming next is something that makes you anxious and nervous. Just thinking about freelance is not for you. How do you make these decisions? How do you decide where you wanna go, what you wanna do? I think it's about thinking of the big picture. So I love the exercise of life, and think of it as like a new beginning. Think of it as like a new year. Like if you're really trying to consider this, you really need to weigh your pros and cons. You need to spend the time to decide where you see yourself in five years, in 10 years.

What is your ultimate goal? What is your mission statement? You personally, what are your values? What do you care most about putting together something like this is going to help you make those decisions by breaking it down into these chunks of where do you see yourself, what do you wanna do? I know this is hard and it's a lot of deep thinking and it takes a lot of work, but if you don't have those answers and you don't feel confident, whatever direction you choose, you're gonna feel like you're left thinking about what if I chose the other option? If you go in and you're like, I have this mission, I have this drive, this is what my goal is, this is what I wanna achieve, that's really going to help you be able to say with confidence, I wanna be full-time or I wanna be freelance.

Do you have to stick to that? No, we ebb and flow, we change, right? So check in with yourself in six months, in a year. Like is that still your goal? Is that still your mission? Has it shifted? Has it changed? That's totally fine, but as long as you have this guiding light and this mission that's really gonna help you continue to think about what, what comes next? And are you on the right path? And if you're not, what's next? What do you wanna do differently? How do you wanna change it? So I think that's kind of like big picture things. I think the last thing I'll, I'll kind of leave you with is this note about freelance versus full-time with, when you're working with a full-time job, you are, you can only go so far and it's not a bad thing. As in like you can continue to grow, you can become manager, you can become vp, you can become senior, whatever that looks like, you're gonna go there and then you're gonna cap, you're gonna have a cap point.

If you are going to be at a company, there's gonna be a certain salary that you're gonna reach that you can't really expand. There's gonna be a certain level, right? And so I think that's interesting and that's definitely something that a lot of people like, they're like, oh, this is my goal. I wanna be a senior manager, whatever. And you achieve that freelance, basically the sky's the limit as in you start as a product designer, maybe you shift to project manager, maybe you become a founder. I don't know. You can continue to change and evolve as a freelancer. And salary-wise, money-wise, money-wise, there is no cap. If you build your own company, the money can keep coming. And so I think that's interesting to think about is like, how do you see your future? Do you want that freedom? Do you wanna be, the sky's the limit?

Do you wanna like all these unknowns then freelance might be for you. Salary-Wise, do you like, where do you see yourself? Do you wanna continue to grow endlessly in salary freelance? So I think that that's kind of my overall thoughts and feelings on full-time versus freelance. Thanks for listening to me. Please let me know what you think of this podcast and if you guys have any questions, anything that you would love to ask other product designers, me, the TDP team, anything about product design, about graphic design, about design, about ai, whatever. Send us your questions. Instagram is a great way. You can reach us. We'll put it, we'll make sure to put it in this conversation and you can, you can chat with us there. Tell us you love the podcast. This is a question you'd like to hear because we wanna continue to do these segments. Thank you guys so much. Have a great day and we'll chat with you next time.

Dianne Eberhardt

Dianne Eberhardt

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