IT freelancing seems like a dream. You sleep until you’re not tired anymore, you get up and make a leisurely breakfast, and then you take your laptop outside and sit in the sun on your patio and get down to business. Another day, you meet your friend for a long lunch and don’t have to worry about getting back to the office in an hour or less. You set your own hours and go on vacation whenever you want.
But what is freelancing as an IT professional really like?
Pros of Freelancing in IT
There are some really great things about IT freelancing that make it worth considering. For one thing, you can avoid a long commute into the city, giving you more hours each day to spend with your family or pursue other interests. You can also save a significant amount of money on commuting costs, childcare, and a professional wardrobe when you work at home.
Freelance jobs almost always offer flexibility, meaning that it doesn’t matter when you get your work done as long as you meet your deadlines and your clients’ expectations. Another advantage of freelancing is that you can often choose projects that interest you or meet your goals and objectives. If you want to take time off and you can afford it, there won’t be any limits to vacation time when you freelance. And theoretically, you could even work while you travel anywhere you want to go if your equipment is portable enough.
Cons of Freelancing in IT
While there are plenty of benefits to IT freelancing, there are also some drawbacks to consider. Work-life balance can be harder to maintain when you work at home. With young children underfoot, what usually takes an hour in the office can take much longer, which can mean less pay or unhappy clients. The stress level can also be higher when combining childcare and work.
There can also be clutter and mess that results from working in your home on a freelance basis, particularly if you don’t have a home office. One drawback that freelancers often mention is that they feel they can never get away from work because it’s right there in their home.
If you don’t have sufficient boundaries between work and life, freelancing can lead to constant work that interferes with enjoying life. And while theoretically, you can choose your clients, many freelancers end up doing unfulfilling work because it’s all they can get, and they need to pay the bills. It can also be isolating for those who enjoy and seek out friendships in the workplace.
What About Pay?
In many cases, freelance rates will be higher on an hourly basis than a full-time job would pay. The higher pay isn’t always as great as it looks at first, though. That’s because freelancers are responsible for their own Social Security and Medicare taxes, and they don’t get benefits that a full-time employee often would, like 401K matching, health insurance, and paid time off.
It’s important to be realistic about your tax burden and how much more benefits will cost you as you set your freelance rates to be sure that you are fairly paid for your time and expertise. You may take lower pay to gain experience, but after a short period, you should be able to make a good living on a freelance income if you set your rates correctly.
Getting help from an accountant on your taxes can be the difference between paying through the nose and taking advantage of many deductions related to freelancing, as well. You may be able to deduct the cost of equipment, phone and internet service, your health insurance premiums, and even a percentage of your mortgage costs if you have a dedicated home office space.
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