Ten reasons you shouldn't take up freelance contracting (and three reasons you should)

Recently I had a bit of a back and forth with a recruitment consultant, he passed a junior, £150 a day, web front end position past me on the off chance I knew anyone who was suitable. The job was looking for CSS3, HTML5, PHP, Jquery & experience. Not so junior then. When I pointed out that paying peanuts is disrespectful and pointless (you only get monkeys) he said

Although £3,000 a month isn’t too bad for a Grad living at home with mum and dad!

Missing I feel some salient points - never one to turn down a free blog post, here's my reply.

I presume you mean £3,000 minus

  1. Accountancy Fees

    A professional accountant, the sort that will stop you paying too much but make sure you're paying enough will cost you around £1000 a year. This is money very well spent.

  2. Taxes

    Before you get your paws on any of the cash the government wants it's share. In the UK right now that's 21%, 21% of your profit, before you've even paid yourself (also taxed...)

  3. Unpaid training hours

    You're a freelancer, you're expensive, you'd better be damn good. That means spending at least 20% extra, unpaid time on research, reading the latest book, figuring out that cool bit of Jquery, just what changes happened in Jquery 1.8.2? Who built the Boston Globe site & how?

  4. Training budget (your pocket)

    Nobody pays for your training, nobody buys you books - except yourself. A typical print book might cost £30 and you should probably read 8-12 a year, that could be £400 you have to find. Ebooks make it cheaper and they are all tax deductible but they still come out of your pocket. Do you want to go to Dconstruct this year? Then you'll need £500 to cover the ticket, the day's pay you missed out on & all your travel and food expenses - still want to go?

  5. Time to find a new job

    You might change contracts as often as 6 times a year. The time you spend updating your CV, answering the phone to consultants, updating Linked In & searching Job Serve all adds up. You won't get every job you interview for and you'll need to go to a lot of interviews, all unpaid. You might spend 3 solid days, per contract, on admin around that role.

  6. Maintaining your personal brand

    This means keeping a blog & regularly writing useful posts (just like this one). You'll need to keep a stock of ideas and your reminders system had best ding once a week to remind you, no force you to write a post. You should probably have some sort of open source or pet project on the go you can talk about - I have HTML5 Boilerplate For Shopify, if nothing else it's helped me sound enthusiastic in interviews. You should contribute to mailing lists, go to meet ups, chat to other people who work in the same world as you - you want your name to be the one to come up when they have too much work or if they're asked for a recommendation.

  7. Holiday Pay

    Holidays? Well I remember them and sometimes my wife even forces me to go on one but there's always a bit of me that begrudges it. You see, I remember being paid to go on holiday, now if I spent £2,000 on a 2 week holiday to Greece I'd still be mentally recalculating it as costing me £2,000 + 10 days pay. Is it any wonder freelancers work so much?

  8. Sick Pay

    It's just like a holiday except you don't get to go on holiday and you're sick so you can't even write that blog post your reminder system just told you you're late writing. Freelance and sick? Tough luck, you either go into the office and make everyone else sick and nearly kill yourself by not resting or you stay in bed feeling guilty about the money you're not earning. You can call in sick as often as you want as a contractor, when you're not getting paid for it it's funny just how rarely you do.

  9. Job Security

    None. Contracts generally have a notice period, covered in get out clauses, work as if every day was your last. You'd best be good enough nobody wants to get rid of you but if they do you can pick up a job without thinking about it (see 3, and 6).

  10. Mortgages

    You can get one, generally only after 3 years of good quality books from your accountant *or* at hugely inflated prices. See a personal financial advisor to get this sort of thing sorted out.

Where's the light at the end of the tunnel? You promised me reasons to do all this!

  1. Freedom.

    Freedom, enough of the proverbial rope to hang yourself yes, but glorious, uninterrupted freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want with whoever you want. Bored of your contract designing widgets for Bank A? Give the 7 days notice and be on your way, want to learn how to write HTML5 local storage code for mobile? And then do it in your next job? Learn it, put it on your CV and mass email all the consultants you can find asking for a job. Want a holiday? Take one. Whenever you want. Sick? Don't worry that's your choice. Need a duvet day? Take one. Feel like telling your line manager he's got it wrong? Do it without fear of reprisal or damage to your career, you'll be gone in a few months, he'll still be there holding his company back.

  2. Cash.

    In exchange for all these issues, the work is well paid. At a rough estimate, unpaid hours not included, 3 to 4 times more lucrative than a permanent salaried job.

  3. Flexibility to spend time with your family and children.

    Want to spend Wednesdays at home with your family but quite fancy working Sunday afternoons until late? You can probably arrange that. Need to go part time for a bit because you have a toddler and a new born? There will propbably be some work out there to fit you.

I have never regretted becoming a freelancer, I love being my own boss, I love the responsibility. It made me a better worker, more involved in my career, more interested in the outcome of the effort I put in.

Do it, resign.