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Andrew Baisden
Andrew Baisden

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Freelancer vs. Company Employee

One of the most important talking points for programmers is which path they want to go down. Do you want to be a freelancer or an employee that works for a company. Let's compare the two and see what the difference is between both of them. They both have their pros and cons however there is nothing stopping you from alternating between the two throughout your developer career.

Freelancers

Freelancers are the type of people who are self employed. They often work with multiple clients as they are not tied down to a company structure where they would be expected to work on a few or less projects at a time. One of the defining qualities of a freelancer is having the freedom to do what ever you want and follow your own set of rules. Being your own boss comes with countless advantages as you are solely responsible for all the work that you do. You create and live to your own personal standards.

A significant difference between Freelancers and Employees is that Freelancers don't usually have a team of people that they work with. I suppose it could be compared to that of a lone wolf going off on their own and finding their own feet in the world. Freedom does lead to an increase in creativity though and with it comes many benefits such as remote working and setting your own work hours.

However with it comes downsides. For one Freelancers have to pay their own taxes and it is not quite as fun when you have to spend a long time sorting through all of your paperwork to make sure that you are getting paid the correct amount and dealing with all of the numbers. Company employees don't need to worry about any of this finance stuff as they have accounting and payroll departments that do all this stuff for them. All they have to do is work and they get paid weekly or monthly depending on what company they work for and the structure there.

Another drawback of being a Freelancer is that you don't get any company perks like bonuses, healthcare, company car or stocks... It is also a little bit more difficult to have protection and union rights like companies do. This was a problem recently because of the coronavirus when furloughed workers were still getting paid whereas self employed were left out to begin with.

Company Employees

Company employees are permanent workers who get paid a fixed salary. Unlike Freelancers they have permanent employment where their income is guaranteed each month so long as they work for the company. In contrast Freelancers income is dependent on the work they get. If there is no work then they can go weeks or even months with no stable income.

Employees also have scheduled work hours for the week where they are expected to either be in the office or remote working from home during those hours. Freelancers can work as much or as little as they want any day of the week including weekends. Company employees normally work week days only for office work although weekends can be an option too if overtime is required or if the job dictates that you should be available for weekends too. Like in the retail and restaurant industries.

When you are working as an employee at a company you will usually be working alongside other people in a team based atmosphere. Working in a team is a really great way to make new friends and collaborate on the projects that you work on. This is an area where Freelancers miss out because the job itself is for one person unless they outsource some of the work to others. But as a plus Freelancers are not required to work overtime whereas employees might have to do so and without extra pay because they don't have an hourly rate.

Perks and bonuses can be included within the contract itself and you have a team based learning environment where you can get help from your colleagues if you find yourself stuck on a problem. The ability to have more than one brain trying to solve a problem makes it far easier to troubleshot issues. Compare that with a Freelancer who could often be stuck on a problem for hours that could have been solved within minutes with help from a team member.

Conclusion

Whichever path you choose to go down know that you are going to learn something new either way. If you want to have as much flexibility and freedom as possible then go down the freelancer route. However if you need stability in your life and colleagues that have your back then working for a company is a safe bet.

Final Thoughts

I really hope that you enjoyed reading this article and learned something from it. As a content creator and technical writer I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and helping other people reach their goals. Let's connect across social media you can find all of my social media profiles and blogs on linktree.

Peace ✌️

Discussion (4)

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mccurcio profile image
Matt C • Edited on

Hi Andrew,
You covered the basics pretty well, thanks. How long have you been Freelance? Were you a 'paid-employee' before you went solo?

That touches on something that hits upon my situation now. I think(? not sure yet, lol) I would like to be Freelance but I believe I don't have the appropriate skill set right now. Any comments?

So far, my career has included working for start-ups and for big companies but not free-lance. One of the biggest differences that I see between free-vs-solo or big-vs-little company is infra-structure. How do you reconcile that? To me that is the heart of the issue.

Not everyone can be good at everything and that is where working with a team can be helpful. My background is in biotech so I have worked in start-ups and big behemoth companies and know that there are benefits both ways. In small orgs, I loved being the 'star' point person, frankly bc there was no one else, haha. But on the flip side, it did get tough when I had to get the mop and bucket and spend 30 minutes cleaning up my own mess.

I look at many people on these forums (for example) and some seem to do tremendous self-promotion. Not that it is bad, it is really advertising too. But sometimes I was glad to have a marketing dept. to help with that part.

But there are ALWAYS two sides of the coin. N'est ce-pa?

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden Author

Hey Matt I have been freelance for about 1 year now. Yes I have been in full time permanent work too before so I can relate to both areas. Well that would depend on your skillset and how many years you have been programming. If I was in your situation I would try to build my network and reputation first before looking for freelance gigs. And also make sure that you actually have the skills to back up your profile.

You have worked for companies before so you have experience. Infrastructure meaning the way that the company is set up? You just adapt to the new situation and come up with a plan on how you are going to be a good worker. The role might be different but so long as you know what you are doing you can transition.

Self-promotion is all part of being a content creator. When I started I just wanted to be active in the community and I was making content that I could use for my own reference. Then I started to grow an audience and it made me take it more seriously. I went from a simple blogger to a Technical Writer.

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mccurcio profile image
Matt C • Edited on

How long were you working on programming before you went solo?
So hold it, are you are Techincal Writer as well. Do you have gigs where you are writing manuals for users, etc?

I think that the landscape of web-dev/data science and programming is sufficiently different from my past 'incarnations' to warrant working with a company at first.

We should chat some time. ;)

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden Author

About 2 years I guess. I have switched between the two so it has not been consistent. Well yes I have done a few guides and tutorials. It is always changing that's why it's important to stay up to date on all the latest trends. Sure why not.