Being a full-time freelancer means you control your own destiny, have no boss, and in, most cases, rarely have to go to an office. It also means you don't always know where the next check is coming from, you can't always take time off when you need or want to, and in some ways, you can never stop working.
Yes, there are some major perks -- like being able to work wherever and whenever you want to. In many cases, though, those don't outweigh the lack of structure and certainty that goes hand in hand with the full-time freelance life. Here's a look at how and why three Motley Fool contract writers became full-time freelancers.
I became a freelancer because I had to
Selena Maranjian: I never set out to become a full-time freelancer -- it just sort of happened. I've been writing for The Motley Fool for eons -- specifically, since 1996.
After being a full-time employee working out of headquarters for many years, I wanted to move back to New England to be closer to my family. I still wanted to write for the Fool, though, so my options were limited. I ended up working for the Fool as a freelance contractor, and it has proved to be a reasonable compromise for me, offering pluses and minuses.
I miss being an employee and all the benefits that go along with such a status, such as health insurance, 401(k) matching funds, guest speakers, and company outings, among other things. I miss working in an office full of smart and interesting people.
I don't love that my taxes are now more complicated and I have to pay twice as much in Social Security and Medicare taxes, as I'm my own employer. I miss being able to take a sick or vacation day with pay.
On the other hand, there's a lot to like about being a freelancer. I'm not expected to be in my office during any certain hours. My time is flexible, and though I generally still work from morning to evening, I can take time off in the middle of the day to do my supermarket shopping, see a doctor, or attend a niece's field hockey game. With this flexibility comes a need for great discipline, though, as it can be easy to mismanage your time and not get your work done -- or even to work too much.
A better work-life balance
Maurie Backman: Americans are notorious for being workaholics. I should know -- I used to be one of them and still am, to an extent. In fact, a big reason I opted to become a full-time freelancer was that I needed a better work-life balance.
Though I enjoyed many aspects of the last job I had before taking the plunge into full-fledged freelancer mode, the schedule was destroying me. Not only was my role demanding, often requiring far more than 40 hours a week, but I was commuting roughly two hours each way to New York City from my town in New Jersey. That meant that between actual work and transit time, I was often putting in 16-hour days, and I reached a point where I just couldn't do it anymore.
While my decision to become a full-time freelancer was largely borne from a desire to dedicate the bulk of my working hours to writing, my need to eliminate that daily commute and adopt a more flexible schedule were huge drivers, as well. And thankfully, freelancing has thus far allowed me to strike a more ideal work-life balance.
These days, I'm home more often, and more available to my family. Just as importantly, I'm able to carve out more time for myself, which, at this point in my life, I need for sanity's sake.
I didn't like being tied down
Daniel B. Kline: Before I became a full-time freelancer, I had spent most of the previous few years working at newspapers. I enjoyed the days I had a reason to be out in the field, but grew bored on the days I was required to be at my desk. I also bemoaned my lack of ability to travel, and that I was generally tied to normal business hours -- and then some.
When the opportunity to be a full-time freelancer came, I actually worked out of an office with some friends. I liked having the ability to go there, but was never required to. Some days, I went in early. Other days,I went in late. And on some days, I didn't go in at all.
Now I've moved from Connecticut to West Palm Beach, Florida, and my days are equally nomadic. I work from coffee shops, my couch, and sometimes a shared work space. I travel frequently and have days where I work on planes and in airports.
I work a lot of hours, and generally work seven days a week. In exchange for that, though, I'm never tied down, and get to swim on most days. I've spent over 20 days in theme parks since January and have flown on 15 separate trips. Yes, it's not always easy to be motivated, and there are days when it's a lonely lifestyle, but not having to go to work makes up for that.