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Small Business Tips \ MAY 12th 2011

Should You Work for a Company Before Starting Freelancing?


A common debate among freelances is whether you should work for an employer prior to freelancing. We presented the issue to our panel of Wix Pros: a group of freelance designers with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Most of agreed that gaining some corporate experience first can really do you good:

“Working for an employer first gives you a big advantage experience wise. It enables you to make contacts, gain a reputation and create a portfolio” ~ organihealth

“Having experience is a huge help [when going solo], however, with the vast info the net has to offer on establishing yourself as a freelancer today it all depends on how much can you handle on your own. Time management and marketing yourself are HUGE!” ~ RHDarian

“Do I wish I could have worked for somebody before starting freelancing? Yes, I do. Lots of the insecurities I had could have been prevented if I had first worked with someone experienced, who knew their market” ~ HappyFoxDesign

However, a poll at Freelance Switch discovered that a significant number of people started out their careers as freelancers without ever having worked for an employer!

This might be another symptom of the disintegration of the “old job market” and the steady rise of job market 2.0. Thanks to the internet, people are no longer location-bound and social networks allow you to reinvent yourself online, create and advertise your professional persona for absolutely free.

Freelancing @WixLounge

Freelancing @WixLounge

The poll did highlight a few of the beneficial aspects of transitioning from employment to freelancing, as opposed to jumping straight in. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

  • People who have worked in employment can command, on average, a higher rate per hour than people who have gone straight into freelancing. A background in employment shows that you have a solid grounding and that you have learned from people who are more experienced than you in their field.
  • Employed workers are more likely to be “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their income (well, they would be if they are earning more!)
  • Are more likely to have access to health insurance and retirement plans. This is interesting – while, of course, if they are earning more money they have more ability to invest in these necessities, it also suggests that these people see themselves as running a business, as opposed to simply making money. To be a successful freelancer you need to be a business, and that includes planning for your future!

Remember, while going solo shows off your determination and drive, a background in employment can demonstrate your ability to work as part of a team. It’s a good balance to have. If you’re thinking of making the switch, make the most of your employment background first – it’s a selling point. Be proud of it!

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