This isn't a code question, but rather one about money. Just looking for opinions: is it better to be a freelance web designer, or try to find employment with a company? I'm thinking about transitioning into this field, and I wanted to see if I can get the pros and cons of both the alternatives.
Having done both I can tell you freelancing comes with a reasonable set of problems, the worst of which are:
locating new clients/winning new work
uneven income stream
dealing with clients (billing, disputes, etc)
loneliness (don't knock it, this one is important)
But the pros are:
being your own boss and working your own hours
better lifestyle in general (money issues aside)
I loved being able to code for a couple of hours in the morning, take most of the day off (gym, take dogs for a run, that kind of stuff) if there were no clients to meet, and then work again at night (I'm more productive then).
But the wobbly cash flow and stress were definite downsides as was the social exclusion. You don't realise how much chatting to people with similar passions/intellects matters until you're going solo.
It's freedom vs safety really. Pick the one you want more.
hmm, most freelancers I've come across sit in an office in some customer's building 10+ hours a day, working harder than anyone else, for less pay than the employees, billing 8 hours at most, and just hoping that their contract will be extended...
Extreme stress, little reward.
I've done a bit of freelance and without doubt it is not as romantic as you might think....
Sitting in a coffee shop or at home, paying yourself and being free to work when you want, with a nice profit.
^^The above is a complete fantasy. Freelance is difficult, winning the work is the hardest part and to guarantee a consistent income every month/week is stressful. Think about how you are going to win work, are you going to put adverts online, adverts in your local supermarket? Once you've feigned interest winning and securing the contract is the next big hurdle. It may take two to three visits, and of those meetings depending on how good you are -your conversion rates to win the contract will be low. 40% conversion success and you're doing extremely well.
You see you need to have qualities of a good salesman to win work and normally these two traits are just not in sync with someone who is into web design/programming. Finding these two qualities in one person is rare.
Not too mention the web development arena is saturated, and with the likes of wordpress now becoming a standard 'go to' for themes with ecommerce plugins, a lot of non techies can simply buy a domain with webhosting and upload their theme to get going, so work is getting thin. Supply > demand, which is not good.
Then you have to do your own tax forms, so you have to legally declare what you are earning, almost like being your own accountant, but to be fair it isn't that difficult.
The type of freelancing that is most valuable are probably the ones you'll find in your local job section that require you to locate to another city and work for a few months for a certain company. The pay their is extremely good. You could probably rent a place in that city (expensive) or risk having to commute from where you live (which could be very far)
My advice would be to think about it very carefully, a normal job will offer peace of mind with a stable income.
@Hericles there's little practical difference between the two. Freelancers tend to do contract work, same stuff as people working for contracting firms and placed with a customer but with the added stress of wondering where the next pay check is coming from if the contract ends before there's a new one lined up.