Zero commute, working in your PJs, doing your laundry during the workday — freelancing sure sounds appealing, doesn’t it?
But then you think about happy hour with colleagues, learning from incredibly smart, experienced colleagues, and working with big, national brands. And then agency life sounds pretty sweet, too.
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It’s an age-old debate: agency or freelance? Freedom vs stability? Autonomy vs relationships?
Freelance vs Agency: Which One Is Better?
There’s no right answer, but here are some pros and cons of each:
Freelancing: The Good
- Let’s start with arguably the biggest benefit of freelancing: flexibility. You can work where you want, when you want. If you want to take a nap at 2pm, there will be no one to stop you. You can take as much vacation time as you want, wake up when you want, and squeeze in your personal chores and errands during the workday.
- You get to choose the projects you take on and you can be as picky as you’d like. If you aren’t interested in the company or if you sense a problem client, you are free to reject them. No one will force you to do something you don’t want to do.
- As a freelancer, you’re your own boss. If you have a brilliant idea and want to create a mockup to show your client, you don’t need to ask anyone for permission. Decisions are made much faster and you have full autonomy to do whatever you think is best.
Freelancing: The Ugly
- As wonderful as it is to wear your PJs or yoga pants around the house everyday, there isn’t anyone there to wear them with you. Freelancing can be very isolating and lonely. Most of your communication occurs via email or phone, and you don’t have the chance to collaborate or brainstorm with colleagues.
- As a freelancer, your workload will naturally ebb and flow. There will be some months where you’ll be incredibly busy, and others where you’re twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the next project. You’ll also have to make sure to devote enough time to get out there and network to land those future clients (time that you aren’t getting paid for).
Agency Life: The Good
- You have a much bigger sense of security in an agency than when you’re freelancing. You always know when you’ll paid and how much your paycheck will be. And, because you don’t have to land new clients, you’ll save a ton of time that you can devote to doing what you love.
- It’s inspiring to be surrounded by creative, smart people. You’ll learn from your colleagues, develop relationships, and spark your creativity in group brainstorming sessions. It’s a powerful thing to work around leaders in your field.
- Agencies give you the opportunity to work with a diverse client portfolio and work on different projects. With freelancing, you can sometimes get stuck working with clients in the same industry or doing the same kind of projects. In an agency, you are more likely to work with clients in different fields and have the opportunity to learn new skills or take on different tasks.
Agency Life: The Ugly
- You don’t have as much freedom about the type of projects you work on. This isn’t true for all agencies however, and if you find the right agency, you should be able to have a say in what you do and don’t want to do.
- The bigger the agency, the more corporate hurdles you’ll have to put up with. You’ll have to deal with bureaucracy, review cycles, and approvals before you want to start any new project. And, if the agency isn’t that big, you’ll likely still have to navigate the cliquey office environment
Just like with any job, there are perks and perils to both freelancing and agency life. The one that is “best” for you may change over time. Perhaps you want to spend more time with your family, so you go with freelancing. Or, you want to develop your skills and you decide to go with an agency. It’s all about identifying your priorities and seeing which working style fits that the best.
And, if you still can’t decide? Get the best of both worlds. Work full-time at an agency and freelance on the side.
And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t wear your PJs to the office.