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Freelance vs. a Traditional Job: What's The Big Difference?

By Daniel B. Kline – Dec 12, 2018 at 5:30PM

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What to know before deciding which employment situation is best for you.

For many people, not reporting to a boss and not punching a clock represents the ultimate dream.

But it takes a certain type of mentality to be successful as a freelancer. You should prize autonomy over stability, and flexibility over predictability. There's a certain romance to not holding a job that requires going somewhere five days a week for many hours. The freelance route offers a tremendous amount of freedom, but you must be a self-starter. Should you end up playing Xbox all day, there's noone there to stop you, but there's also noone there to pay you, a major drawback. That's true in the aforementioned goofing off scenario, but it holds true if you come down with the flu or experience a family emergency.

Opting for a freelance life comes with both benefits and sacrifices. It's also generally less lucrative then opting for a traditional job but more likely to be satisfying, according to a new study by Porch.com.

A woman yawns in front of her computer at work.

Nearly 70% of office workers have considered going freelance. Image source: Getty Images.

Freelance vs. office life

Porch surveyed 495 people who make their living as freelancers and 470 who hold traditional office jobs. The survey found that freelancers, in a broad sense, made less money but were more likely to be happy with their work.

"Compared to office employees, full-time freelancers were much less likely to earn $50,000 or more annually from their work" according to the report. "In contrast to the more than 1 in 10 office workers earning between $75,000 and $99,999 or $100,000 or more, less than 4 percent of full-time freelancers managed to pull in six-figure incomes."

In fact, nearly 20% of freelancers reported making less than $15,000 a year while another 17.1% makes less than $25,000. Only 5% of office workers fell into the less than $15,000 category while only 9.4% reported their income being between $15,001 and $25,000. Almost half (49.8%) of all office workers said they make at least $50,000 year. Only 29.9% of freelancers can say the same but freelancers are more likely to be satisfied with their job.

Nearly three-quarters of freelancers (73.2%) reported being satisfied while 19.4% were indifferent, and only 7.4% said they were unsatisfied. Conversely, 16.4% of freelancers said they were unsatisfied while 66.4% reported the opposite, and 17.2% said they were neither satisfied nor unsatisfied.

Know what you're getting into

The majority (69%) of office workers have considered moving to freelance. It's easy to see why. Not having to go into work every weekday can be awfully tempting.

But the reality is, is that freedom comes with a price. It's harder to make the same amount of money and that does not even factor in the fact that freelancers do not get benefits afforded to regular employees. Paying for your own insurance outside of a group plan can be an additional financial challenge.

Clearly, the sacrifice is worth it for many freelancers and it is possible, albeit less likely, to do well financially. There's a tremendous value to being able to set your own hours and call your own shots. As a worker, before making the decision to leave the traditional office landscape, you must decide what matters most: Do you want a stable paycheck, sick days, and other benefits? Or, are you willing to give those up for a better chance at happiness and satisfaction?

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