Infographic: Why do people become freelancers?

Why do people become freelancers
[click to make larger]

Share this article
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn
  • Adrian Crook

    So… I am a videogame designer/strategist who started freelancing for more control over my own schedule (I have four kids). I love the lifestyle and wouldn’t go back to full time work unless I absolutely had to, but here are the caveats:

    – I work more, and harder, than I ever did as an employee. Merely “showing up” isn’t an option. I’ve never written more documents than I have to as a consultant.
    – While I don’t commute, I travel far more often than ever before. I spend about 25-30% of the year on the road (i.e. hundreds or thousands of miles away from home).
    – The “no chance of layoffs” comment is a bit of a misnomer. As a freelancer, I have an equal chance of being cut, but I spread that risk across multiple clients.

    Provided you experience even a modicum of success, being a freelancer is a trap. Due to tax deductions, you have to earn less (gross) to net the same or even better than you would working full time. And once you get used to being paid (reasonably well) for every hour you work, it seems preposterous to go back to a salary that gives Company X complete control over your time.

    The other exceptional benefit to being freelance is multiple projects, multiple clients gives you multiple opportunities to learn and hone your skillset. Full time employment can be very insular: in core game development at least, you focus on the project you’re making for 1-2 years, to the exclusion of everything else. So you (largely) ignore broader industry trends and better career opportunities in favor of a laser focus on your game’s genre and how to improve your product. Then, 2 years later, you poke your head up, see how the landscape has changed and try to remember what you did 2 years ago to kick off that project and how you’d do it differently. It’s a fool’s errand. Many people I talk to in core game development are light years behind the broader tech industry as a result.

    I have lots more I could say about consulting, but while it has its ups and downs, it’s enabled me to live a far more engaging life than if I were chained to a desk.

  • owrange

    kind of disagree re ‘being my own boss’ — the clients are the new boss. =)

  • Amanda Rappak

    Adrian — what a heartfelt response. Love what you wrote about how you stay connected to industry trends better and have greater opportunities to master certain skills as a freelancer than if you were part of a larger organization.
    Thank you for your insights!
    Amanda (@ FreshBooks)

  • nico

    looks like you forgot an “f” in “shared office” on the workspace section

  • Dan Vun Kannon

    I work for an umbrella company that helps independent consultants and we found this info-graphic very insightful!

    Our consultants sought our services because they wanted to feel more ‘secure’, just as your article showed. Many benefits which makes them feel secure in their position are only available to traditional full time employees. However with our services they have access to group rate health care, professional insurances just in case something happens, and unemployment compensation if they don’t have a project for awhile. Also we cover all of the pay rolling and invoicing which normally takes a lot of time out of a contractors day. Highly recommend that any freelancer find a good and knowledgeable employer of record to save tons of your time which you can spend with family, friends, or even working on more projects.

  • Jenni

    How come so many people earn less freelancing than they did for an employer, but say that they have a higher income? Surely commutes don’t cost that much?

  • Saeed

    I do programming but havent registered yet with any freelancing networks . How could I get work or where can I prove that am able to take the task . Please help . Thanks in advance

  • Simone

    A reason of becoming freelance in Italy is:
    I became freelance because it’s the only option since company prefer to make long term contract for freelance than to hire people

  • Cisdevry

    Excellent infographic. It was very interesting. Do we know the source of the data?

    I do agree with Jennifer and owrange.

  • Aprill Allen

    I must say, I do love the lifestyle of being able to freelance at the hours that suit me. I have children at home a couple of days a week, so being able to work around school hours and other commitments is very liberating.

    But, working for myself, I feel more vulnerable. I have to be awesome all the time. If I slack off, it directly affects my client and my reputation. It’s less obvious as one employee in a Big Company. Anyway, I guess it’s a love/hate relationship.

  • dxtr

    Earning money while spending quality time with my family is one of my reasons why I choose to become a full time freelancer.

  • paul

    how can i become a free lancer

  • Martin Coffee

    Paul–I have been doing freelance work through They are by far the best freelancing site I have come across to date. Nearly $400 million has changed hands to date on this site. What is your area of expertise? I am an editor and proofreader, but Elance also features jobs for computer programmers, web designers, accountants…you name it. I urge you to check it out. It took me some time to grow my business, but right now I am ranked 1st out of roughly 70,000+ Editing Professionals on the site. Best of luck!

  • Martin Coffee

    To all who are looking to get into freelancing, the first step is to check out Best site by far. It takes a while to build your business and clientele, so don’t become discouraged. There are tests you can take on the site to qualify your expertise. Additionally, you can pay to have your credentials verified. To anyone that has questions, please feel free to contact me at: Put “Elance” in the subject heading so I know to read and respond to your message. I have never been happier (both personally and professionally) since I have begun freelancing. I unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone.

  • Usman Shahid

    I am a freelancer too and I love what I do from the comfort of my home.

  • Roshan

    having own schedule is the best part of being a freelancer. i would also liked to have seen the results for “has your view on freelancing changed over the years?” and “down part of being freelancer” from the veteran freelancers.

  • Adam

    I love the content, but — and I’m not hating on Mashable, though they of all people should know how to do this better — why are web infographics so unappealing? Mashable, why are you trying (or bothering) to fit a beautiful infographic in a blog template?

  • Nick

    How does your infographics?

  • Ash

    Hey thanks for the information, I have been thinking about starting out as a freelance writer for a while now. I like these stats and may just give it a go.

  • Hira Malik

    Like a dream came true since I started Freelancing, my life entirely changed, I AM TOTALLY changed. I LOVE being a FreeLancer!

  • VoTri

    Great infographic. I found myself! Thanks!

  • Lukas

    I am freelancer, and the graphic displays and fits.

  • Jeannette

    I’ve been freelancing for nearly 10 years. While I love it, there are times when I absolutely hate it. Yes, freelancing gives you a bit of freedom, but no one talks about how employers actually look down on freelancers. Despite my 10 years successfully freelancing, when I decided to go back to work at a 9-5 I was told that my 10 years of experience was worthless. No one talks about the crappy clients who want to pay pennies for work that costs a lot more. No one talks about how freelancers are in general treated like crap.

    Yes, Freelancing changed my life. It allowed me to stay home and raise my children myself instead of sticking them in a daycare. However, it has basically turned me into a shut-in who does nothing but work constantly to keep my head above water. Unfortunately, in this current economy, to continue working in my field and actually bring in some money to my household, freelancing is my only option.

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi Jeanette, thank you so much for sharing your story so candidly, and showing the good side of freelancing, along with the many challenges. Because more and more people are going freelance every day, the hope is that the rest of the economy and the business world will support freelancers in the way they deserve. So hopefully your next 10 years as a freelancer are more rewarding and appreciated than the previous 10. Wishing you the best success.