Making the decision to be self-employed is a very personal choice. Freelance life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but if you want a lot of freedom, and are willing to work hard, it can be a great life-changing career move. 

I’ve done both, and have worked as a self-employed freelancer for more than 10 years. On the plus side, you can do the work you love, working your way, and not having a boss. On the negative, the security of a weekly wage is gone, and you need to learn to budget and market yourself all the time, with no guarantee of success. 

We wanted to help you consider all the pros and cons of freelancing before deciding whether being a self-employed freelancer is the path you want to take.

Are you a “freelancer“?

According to Merriam-Webster, the earliest written evidence for the term ‘freelance’ comes from Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘Ivanhoe’ published in 1820, in which a lord refers to his paid army assembled of hired soldiers as ‘free lances’.

Today the term ‘freelancer’ refers to anyone who is self-employed, does any type of work on one’s own terms, and without any long-term commitment to any employer. 

Freelance vs. self-employed: what should you call yourself?

When you work for yourself, you may struggle to define what you are to the world. Are you a freelancer? A self-employed?  Something else?

Many self-employed people now describe themselves as small business owners, consultants, independent contractors, service providers, freelancers, side-hustlers, solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and more. The lines between the terms are really blurry and depend on the nature of each job, as well as on the arrangements with each client. However, being self-employed has a much broader meaning than being a freelancer. 

As a self-employed person, you might run a business with employees, or use freelancers. Self-employed people can be selling both products and services, whereas freelancers sell services only.  Whilst freelancers are self-employed, a self-employed person might not be a freelancer. 

  • Freelancing is a lot of time doing working from home
  • It is usually a form of work where the self-employed worker and the client have no long term relationship, committing to each only for the duration of the current gig, task, project, or assignment. 
  • Freelancer can work for other clients
  • Being self-employed, freelancer also generally controls when they work, where they work, and how they work
  • When a business grows large enough to have employees, the owner is then described as a small business owner rather than a self-employed or a freelancer.

In short, if you have just started running solo, you may choose to call yourself a freelancer. If, however, you have been long enough in the game, and want to be known as the ‘go-to expert’ in a particular skill or service, it pays off for you to refer to yourself as a business owner.

Pros of freelancing and being self-employed

  • Freedom and flexibility, when it comes to working hours and location;
  • Work your way and charge your way ;
  • You can do the work you love;
  • Zero commute, you can work from home;
  • Can choose clients you want to work with;
  • Unlimited earning potential;
  • No office politics;
  • Running every business aspect ( marketing, invoicing, legal, contracts, tech, tax, banking, admin, more);

Cons of freelancing and being self-employed

  • Need to hustle 24/7 to get more work and new clients;
  • Steep learning curve;
  • Unstable income and cash flow – can cause lots of stress;
  • It can feel isolated and lonely, especially if you live alone and during the pandemic lockdown;
  • Juggling multiple clients;
  • No company-sponsored health and holiday benefits ;
  • No backup;
  • Running every business aspect ( marketing, invoicing, legals, contracts, tech, tax, banking, admin, more) can also be overwhelming.

Pandemic impact on self-employed

In the coronavirus outbreak, with the forced closures of borders, cancellation of trips, nights out, and large gatherings, economic damage has hit the on-demand economy the hardest. The pandemic has exposed the fragile instability of the gig economy, with millions of self-employed freelancers being out of work.

Classified as freelancers and not full-time employees, Uber drivers, Deliveroo couriers, the Upwork and task platform workers have few protections when it comes to guaranteed wages and sick leave With the spread of coronavirus, the earnings of self-employed, gig workers and freelancers have plummeted making them extremely vulnerable to losing their income completely.

Innovative ways to earn extra cash

With the disappearing jobs and income, it pays off to get creative and look for new ways to make extra cash. There are several ways people can make extra money, even without leaving home. From renting out spare spaces, fixing homes, looking after pets, or doing online tutoring.  Some options can also create a passive stream of income.

Put  your skills to work

If you happen to have a skill that can be done online – think copywriting, editing, proofreading, photography, research, graphic design, social media, web design, even yoga, and personal training – then this would be the time to set yourself up as a self-employed, freelancer or a small business operator, and promote it online.

If your skills are a little more hands-on or practical nature, there’s plenty of work for you – whether helping people move house, renovate, fix stuff around the house, do some gardening, paint, and more.

You can also add some passive income to your other side hustles, by selling your photos as stock photography.

Online teaching or tutoring

With more and more parents working from home, they are looking for online tutors to help juggle work and kids’ learning. You can offer tutoring services in a number of different subjects, without having to worry about having teaching qualifications.

Tutoring and teaching can cover a very broad range of areas – from mental health and wellness (personal training, yoga, nutrition) to creative arts (think craft, art, music, dance, life drawing) and business coaching.  

The best part about this is how easy it is to run: you can do Live Streams or jump on Zoom and offer sessions by donation or at a reduced price.

Rent your space and assets

Take advantage of the opportunity to rent a room in your flat, your parking space, garage, or even your driveway – chances are people are looking for some shared space.

Final Thoughts  

It’s all about who knows you…

Starting your own business and growing your brand, your audience and customer base is a lot of hard work and it takes time. A lot of time. You’re constantly posting, liking, commenting, following, until you reach a sizable audience. 

But…There’s a smarter way to grow and that’s with ZippyCrowd, the word-of-mouth recommendation tool online that brings your friends and trusted service providers all in one place, connecting you to the right people, and helping you grow your business fast.  

It pays to be talked about with word of mouth.