In Back to the Future, the 1985 film classic (!), there is one question that main character Marty McFly cannot stand: 'Are you chicken?' The idea that he would be too afraid to try something gets under his skin time and time again. It's a way that the director allows us as viewers to identify with Marty, because it's an understandable emotion.
What if the challenge that awaits you is not related to time travel, but to the choice you have to make as a web designer: to be a freelancer or to work as an employee.
Even then, it seems like this choice is often seen as a matter of having the courage to become a freelancer. As if the aspiring freelance web designer is asking themselves: 'Are you chicken?' The real question is whether this choice is actually about courage.
At first glance, it may seem that way in our society. If you are brave enough, you can become a freelancer. If you can't handle the uncertainty, then work as a web designer as an employee.
However, I believe it's not so black and white. Both paths have their own advantages and pitfalls. It's a choice that you can't make simply by asking yourself whether you have the courage for it. It requires careful consideration.
Let's explore how you can make this choice.
The advantages of freelancing
Let's begin with the cowboys of the web design world; the solo fighters who fight for their right to be a digital designer. Why would you take the leap of faith?
The most important thing for many people is the flexibility that comes with being a freelancer. Honestly, it's what still draws me to this way of life. Being able to decide when you work, where you work, and with whom you work. It's no wonder that many digital nomads choose a career in web design so they can work from anywhere in the world. Personally, I like having a fixed location and working in the Netherlands, but being able to choose whether I snooze for a while longer is not only nice – it also benefits my creativity and the quality of my work.
Freedom of choice
When you work as an employee, others often determine what you work on. You have little control over your next project, or even the type of projects that suit you. As a freelance web designer, you have the freedom to make your own choices. Do you only want to work for bookstores? Go for it. Even if you want to work on a different type of project every week, you're free to do so. Your only limit is your own creativity and the projects that come your way.
As a freelancer, your income is directly linked to the hours you make available. For me, the beauty of freelancing is that I don't have to work around the clock and have time for other passions. Others love to work full speed ahead all week and become true billing machines. To each his own – how much you earn as a freelancer is completely up to you. You set your hourly rate and how many hours you want to work.
Advantages of being a web designer as an employee
Okay, if the choice between freelancing or working as an employee is not just about courage, then working as a web designer for a company must have its benefits, right? Yes, it does. Although it may not sound as appealing as the free-spirited life of a freelancer, working as an employee also has its benefits.
It's not for everyone to drift through life like a leaf in the wind. Some people thrive on structure and stability. Knowing what is expected of you, from the products you deliver to the hours you work, can provide incredible peace of mind. It gives you the opportunity to build a structure around your days on which you can build. As they say: 'you can color within the lines'. If it works for coloring books, it must work for our lives too, right?
In a single-story building, you quickly reach the top. As a freelancer, you can never grow in function, but suppose you want to have a group of talented people under you one day? Then working for a company is the way to go. Only in an organization can you grow from a junior designer to ultimately become, let's say, an executive creative director. Giving up the freedom of freelancing doesn't make you boring, but means you're looking for a different kind of challenge.
A fixed income – yes, please. Even for freelancers, it's not easy to scrape together the money every month. Choosing to work as a web designer as an employee to get a fixed monthly amount deposited into your bank account is a logical choice. Security brings peace of mind, at least for many people.
How to make the choice
Now that we've heard the advantages of both sides of the story, you may wonder where the disadvantages are. There are none. Well, there are, but not in this article. What one person sees as an advantage, another person may see as a disadvantage. Simply put, you can make the choice by looking at one of these two options and thinking, 'that doesn't sound like an advantage to me!'
If you read that working as an employee provides a lot of stability, but you think, 'Oh dear, as if I'm being put in chains!' Then you're one step closer to making a choice: freelancing suits you better.
What if you're not sure yet what suits you best?
Your own personality
The most important thing is to look at your personality. Look in the mirror: who are you and what suits you? Be as honest with yourself as you can be. Working as a freelancer is often highly valued in our society, and you may think that you want it too. But what if you already feel anxious at the thought of not having any security? It's okay to take your own path.
Follow your own personality and make the choice for yourself, not for others.
Your work style
There are people, strange people, who want to do everything themselves. From a young age, they would take everything out of their parents' hands and declare angrily: 'I can do it myself!' Nowadays, they might be freelancers. As a freelance designer, it's up to you to come up with all the solutions. Do you feel overwhelmed at the thought that everything rests on your shoulders, and were your parents happy to help you open the double Dutch pudding? Then maybe you prefer to work as an employee, where you can learn a lot from your colleagues and ask for help when you need it.
Work in the way that works best for you: alone or together.
Choices aren't chains
Saying you'll become a freelancer today doesn't mean you'll still be one in five years. In fact, give yourself the opportunity to experiment and the freedom to make mistakes. If you start today as a freelancer with the demand that you'll still be one in twenty years, it'll be an uphill battle. Starting as a freelancer and feeling successful when you get one assignment? That makes it all a lot easier.
Make the choice and forgive yourself if it's the wrong one.
Do you have big dreams – really big, scary, impossible dreams? Great! Then today is the day to start making them come true. It doesn't have to be in one big step. In fact, that's impossible. Every goal is achieved in lots of small steps. If your big goal can only be achieved by working as an employee, because you want to become a senior web designer for one of the world's best design agencies, then start working for a company that can help you learn a lot, and eventually fulfill that function as well as possible.
Start today on your dreams of tomorrow.
Whatever you choose, freelancing or working, make your choice because you want it. Not because someone is asking you: 'Are you chicken'? That's only for movies.