THE JUGGLE IS REAL

Written for Creative Review’s piece – FUTURE OF WORK: FREELANCE VS FULL-TIME: www.creativereview.co.uk/future-of-work-freelance-vs-full-time/

Stick with that full-time role, or go freelance? Even in a pretty progressive industry, it’s a decision that still feels dangerous. Working for yourself isn’t a big, brave move though, it’s a no brainer. 

I’ve been a fully-fledged freelancer for six months now (so far, so good). But the hefty cons list I wrote while wrought with terror nearly denied me the best next step I could have taken.

The panic in my parents’ voices when I told them I was going solo was everything I used to subscribe to. As many of us do, I thought freelancers were chancers. The advertising equivalent of would-be actresses who wound up waitressing. Having a permanent role always held this holy grail status. Then when I started questioning if there might be other paths worth walking, full time lost a little of its shine.

So what are the headlines from the pro-freelance side of the list? 

Firstly, there’s the hustle. For a new wave of ambitious creatives, this is no small perk. Instead of having work land on your desk, or given to you simply because yours was the free schedule that week, everything you earn, everything you do, is your win. You’re the boss. It’s very rare to be in a position to say no to work within an agency. Out here in the wild, you can take on projects on your terms. And yeah, you might have to do some unsexy work to pay the bills, but it’s your signature on the sale of your soul. 

The other main attraction is obviously the flexibility. Sure you can work remotely in your joggers if that’s your MO, but it’s the more significant freedoms turning heads – like more time to travel (without a tip-off to a manager), or more agile approaches to childcare.

Then, the biggie for me, is getting exposed to a whole host of different working styles, disciplines and ways in. We’re seeing more of us trade a career ladder that leads to managing people, for one built on meeting them. Something that feels palpable in the industry is the idea that ‘going freelance’ is some kind of permanent transformation you can’t go back on. It’s not a sex change, you can always switch back if you want. And if you choose to seek a salary again, how better to have figured out where you fit than learning about different agencies and building connections on the job?

Now, don’t get a girl wrong. Independence ain’t easy. Freelancing means all the cushty things about being at an agency are now on your shoulders. The juggle is real. 

It isn’t better full stop, it’s horses for courses, of course. Now though, being freelance is a career choice to aspire to, not be scared of. It’s satisfying creative individuals and businesses. With the rise of in-house creative teams, freelance-recruiters-turned-studios, and a general relaxing of traditional client-agency relationships, how we’re producing the work and who we bring on board to create it has changed. While the industry craves more diverse skills, agencies can plug gaps with the talent it needs, respecting them for the role they can play. 

Freelance is having its Matrix moment right now. The wool’s been pulled from our eyes and suddenly ‘freelance’ isn’t a fear-filled word anymore. The fear of the unknown, of being denied a mortgage or of living off beans has shifted. Freelancing can be a seriously sweet deal. From my full-time side of the fence, anyone contemplating it would worry what they’d be missing, all those doors they’d be closing. Looking back on my pros and cons list, it was never a case of freelance freedom winning over salary servitude, but the freelance world isn’t short of open doors.