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Office (Full Time) or Freelance?

Advantages and peculiar features of office and freelance work. My personal experience is described below.

 

Some History

My career as a designer started round 2000, when I was a schoolboy. In those days I did not even know what I was doing. There were no concepts of UX/UI Design or Digital/Graphic Design. The concept of Web Design was in its embryonic state at that time. But nobody worried about it. Everyone just tried to do something on the Internet and write HTML codes. I had no idea what I was doing or what it was called, I just liked it. I liked to create some kind of interface buttons and look how others do it.

I had a large monitor by Philips and a similar large base unit. Parents were always sure that I should be able to work on the computer, despite the fact that nobody had any idea how to do it. So, they thought I was playing games. And what else can a child do on the computer? Play games. So, it was until I bought my first bike GT Avalanche that cost about $400 for my own money earned by design activities.

I immediately got into this stride of Internet technologies and web design. When I graduated from the university, I was hired by the office owned by my fellow students, who were engaged in web development. Then I changed jobs and joined a stronger company, a year later – another one, then again and again. As a result, I worked as a full time employee for about 3 years. But at the same time I always was a freelancer during and after my usual working hours. As a result, I gained experience, collected my own customer base and stroke out on my own.

I know that there are fans of office work, who do not recognize freelance, but there are also thousands of freelancers who work for themselves and believe that office work is slavery or something like that. Let’s get an insight in these two areas. I will provide a description of these activities based on my personal experience.

 

Office (Full Time)

I never say “NO”. For some unknown reason I almost always undertake different activities and get different experiences. I worked as a designer at several completely different companies.

Photo from the stock, so it was not boring to read. My own photos are not present =)
Photo from the stock, so it was not boring to read. My own photos are not present =)

 

1. Web Design Studios

I was engaged in conveyor development of websites at one web studio. I could get a tremendous experience in fast design development. It could take me five days to create home page design before being hired by this studio. The result was something very weak and crooked. In the studio I also learned to create a dozen of internal large layouts with different texts, tables, etc. (now it is called UI Kit) to develop a universal style for each specific website. The time required to design the main page reduced to two days. In the end I learned to work fast enough and a lot, create websites as a member of a team and learned a lot how web design studios are arranged. It was a great experience!

 

2. Product Companies

When I worked in such a company, I had no idea how it was called, it was a long time ago. Now it is called by a vogue word – Product Design. We developed a social network. The developers had plentiful ambitions, and everyone wanted to create a Facebook killer. But, of course, it did not happen. And only now I understand why. In this startup I learned to delve into project details at all levels. When you design the only one project for several months, it allows you to look at many things, I mean web products development, in terms of the quality, traffic, analysis and demand. It is necessary to delve deeper into the essence of each button and its interaction with the user. With product companies you focus on what is called UX Design. Work in such a company teaches such things, which you will never know if you work in a studio. However, it seems that you are engaged in interface design in both of them.

 

3. Brand Creation

I do not know what good winds brought me to a B2B company that started wholesale supplies of jewellery from China to Russia, but it happened. Being the art director, I created everything there. I worked on the website, was engaged in object photography of goods, created 3D models of retail stores, created all printed products, went to the customs house to get acquainted with new lots of goods, etc. At the moment I understand that it was the best experience for a person who works in the area of UX/UI Design. I saw and knew the entire process of the company’s operation: suppliers, logistics, warehousing, visual elements and graphics, interaction with customers, traffic, sales, marketing, negotiations, communication, attitude, etc. My wife and I even opened our own retail online jewellery store on unrealistically beneficial terms for us. With no need to invest any money. And we earned about $300 within the first week. At the moment I understand perfectly what is really important when creating a brand and how companies are created from the ground up.

 

Advantages and Peculiar Features of Office Work

I described the most important experience that I received when worked in different companies. I cannot describe all pros and cons, there are a lot of them, and they are different for different persons. I developed a list of my personal remarks, which I liked and which ones are worth paying attention to.

 

Benefits

  • “Working atmosphere” helps you set your mind on tasks execution. Your child or other family members do not disturb you. You do not have to do household chores during business hours. You keep your mind on work tasks execution.
  • Fixed work hours. You work only during your business hours. For example, from 9 am to 5 pm. And the rest of the time, outside the office, there are no thoughts about work tasks. You can completely switch off and devote yourself to your family, personal affairs or relaxation.
  • There is the only one employer. As a freelancer you may have 50 employers! I will write about it a bit later. Well, you have the only one employer in the office. Of course, I think it is one of the most significant advantages.
  • Experience in team work. Development by a cohesive team is more efficient as compared to development by a single person. This is out of question. You can always come to your colleagues and quickly get information. Unlike freelance, when you sometimes have to wait for the answer from a person from the other side of the planet for hours or days.
  • Free goodies: social packages, medical insurance, lunches, discounts for employees, etc. Not all companies offer such pleasures, but very many of them offer such things to attract experienced specialists.
  • You do not have to pay taxes and get involved with public systems. All this is done by the employer.
  • If you have an experience of working in a large and well-known company, it will always be an advantage, even if you are a freelancer.
  • Personal acquaintance with different people, which in the future can be of great benefit. Managers, directors, secretaries, developers, marketers – all move from company to company and personal recommendations always play a big role.
  • You will receive your salary regardless of the amount of work you did. This aspect is relevant, of course, if there was not much work.
  • Perhaps, for many office workers there is another very important aspect – stability. Unfortunately, in my practice there was no stability in the office. Salaries were often not paid. And in all the companies where I worked my work was either not paid or they tried not to pay for it. Surprisingly, in terms of stability freelance has been the most stable option for me throughout recent years, I will write about it below.

 

Peculiar Features

  • If you are late for work, you can get reprimanded, lose money or, at least, get an evil look on the part of your manager. It can be very stressful if there is an understanding that the duration of tasks execution does not depend on the time, and each specific task requires a concentration of efforts (it can take more or less time to perform the same task), and it relates, for example, UX/UI Design.
  • You take vacation only once or twice a year. I very much doubt whether it is enough for most people working in offices. In my opinion, it is a significant disadvantage.
  • Control and restrictions. Many companies install microphones and cameras and monitor their employees. Your boss can hear and see your every sneeze, breathe in and breathe out.
  • All of the above can be stressful and associated with a kind of slavery. I’m sure that many people would like to work as freelancers because of these office restrictions.
  • An employee carries out much work in the office and is asked to finish something at home or even on weekends, but his salary does not increase. It’s a significant disadvantage. And in my case, they pointed out on being late and cut my salary, and nobody remembered that I worked overtime.
  • A company can get ruined or do some downsizing. This factor is my personal dig at the stability of office work. Of course, it is more profitable to work for yourself and have your own customer base in such moments.
  • Dependence on company employees. If the company employs irresponsible colleagues, you can wait for the execution of some documents or funds transfer for a long time. You have to constantly kick the required people to make them move. But this factor refers to any kind of activity, since we all work with people and depend on each other.
  • Imposition of corporate life. Some bosses, after listening to “smart” business and career coaches, try too hard to rally the team and impose certain office game terms on all of team members. Gifts, trips, corporate parties – personally, it always pleased me a little and distracted from really important things. I always put my family first but not little-known people. I believe that it is possible to have rest only with friends and family, and working time should be working time, and it is very effective to spend it with colleagues to bring maximum benefit to the company’s customers. And customers, in turn, will bring maximum funds to the company.

 

Freelance

I’d like to mention that I will write more articles on freelance. I’ve been in this area since 2000 and I have something to share with you without any artifice and rose-colored glasses. 90% of all articles on the Internet are written for robots to make money. And everything I personally read has little to do with the actual state of things. I write only the truth based on my own experience straight from the shoulder, as I understand that time in our life is the only resource that we all have.

In this article I describe basic niceties of freelancing in the area of UX/UI Design. It also applies to a greater or lesser extent to other types of freelance activities (music, copywriting, diving, surfing, etc.). If you work for yourself as an entrepreneur, you have a common structure of activities.

Since 2010 I have maintained my family only by means of freelance. And I would like to share with you some changes in my life that happened when I left for freelance.

  • I learned to be responsible. It took some time, but I learned. To meet deadlines and uphold my promises. It is one of the main aspects for a freelancer. If you look below the surface, it is attitude to customers.
  • The speed and quality of work boosted in contrast to work in the office. As I wrote above, it took me two days to design the main page of a website. Now it takes me two hours, and the quality is much higher. And the time required for the design of simple pages can be up to 30 minutes, complex ones – up to 5 hours.
  • I have personal record – 48 (!) parallel projects. Not small banners, but real and complex websites and interfaces. This aspect is related to the ability to manage time.
  • I strongly believe that you should not think about money. First of all, you need to focus on the quality of the tasks execution for customers, and you will enjoy everything else. But nevertheless I will write about money. During my first year of work I was able to pay all debts and even buy a car. And over the past few years we have been able to buy a new apartment and live in different countries travelling around the globe.

I also made a list of my personal comments relating to freelance that should be considered.

Winter in Vietnam 2016/2017
Winter in Vietnam 2016/2017

 

Advantages and Peculiar Features of Freelance Work

I wrote about office work above. I mentioned that everyone has their own pros and cons of such an activity. As for freelance, it’s even more urgent.

 

Benefits

  • Flexible hours. Being a freelancer, you plan your time as you want. You can work 2 or 12 hours a day. You can take a weekend in the middle of the week and go on vacation. You are your own boss.
  • If you have a family, you can spend all your time with your relatives. You can play with children at lunchtime or several times a day. Some parents leave early for work and come home late. Most of their lives they communicate with unfamiliar people to sometimes spend time with their families. In this case, it turns out on the contrary – freelancers communicate mainly with their families and some time is spent to communicate with unfamiliar customers.
  • Skills development: responsibility, management, financial management, strategic planning, time management, etc.
  • Speed ​​and quality of work. A freelancer is more enthusiastic to enhance these aspects, there are a lot of competitors, and you should always be on trend and at an adequate level.
  • A possibility not just to travel more, but to live anywhere and as much as you wish. So, I and my family have lived in different countries since 2012. In Europe, Asia and America. And this is not just an opportunity to satisfy the need for impressions, my children see the mentality of people in different countries, they communicate with very different people every day.
  • Income depends solely on the freelancer. On freelancer’s knowledge, skills and abilities. My income fluctuates greatly. But even in the worst financial months my income is 3-4 times higher than the income I had in the Russian office.
  • Stability. If a freelancer has and develops all the necessary skills and gains knowledge, his income is always stable.
  • No one monitors the freelancer, no listening devices, he can work in his underwear all day long and listen to loud music.
  • No one can dismiss a freelancer, since he is not hired.
  • You can allocate time and energy for the development of your own projects. If there is a strong desire, then you can establish your own company or become an investor. There is time for the development of all necessary skills.
  • A freelancer “grows his own tree”: customer base, projects, experience. The earlier he starts to do it, the earlier “fruit” will grow on this tree.

 

Peculiar Features

  • A freelancer is hired by more than one employer. Every customer is an employer, as everyone needs enough time for negotiations, adjustments and paperwork. So, a freelancer can have 10 or 20 or 50 employers.
  • In addition to your ongoing projects, there are a hundred of household chores, especially with children who constantly distract you. I know it’s hard for many freelancers. It’s impossible to focus on something. But I’m used to it and practice Zen. And I personally know people whose Zen is even higher.
  • Deadlines. It is one of the most important moments in the freelancer’s profession. It is impossible to achieve excellent results, if the freelancer has problems with meeting deadlines (with responsibility). Unfortunately, this affects most freelancers with whom I worked.
  • Dependence on customers. Any customer is a living person like any freelancer. And I can write with certainty that most customers are as irresponsible as freelancers. It is possible to turn this aspect to an advantage by collecting only regular and only responsible customers.
  • It is difficult to find reliable information about freelance. I read many articles on this topic and most of them are written, apparently, by copywriters for money. This activity is individual. All the information often comes down to how it’s cool to work on a sunny beach with a laptop. You saw such pictures on the Internet, I’m sure. But the reality is that a freelancer will be sunstruck and get sunburn in an hour, and sand will get into the laptop. For example, in hot Asian countries it’s possible to work only in an air-conditioned house.
  • Working hours of a professional last 24 hours a day. If you read somewhere about a 4-hour work week and an income of $10k, then it’s a fairy tale. Any professional works very hard, and his time planning is always complex.
  • If a freelancer is registered as an entrepreneur and pays taxes, he begins to study accounting niceties, insurance and tax tasks or hires the right people.
  • Feast today and fast tomorrow. I call it clots. This month you may have 5 projects and next month there will 30 projects. What is better – much work or little work? It’s not the same with everybody, but it is very difficult to find the balance in this regard.
  • A freelancer must understand all the subtleties of his promotion. Where to take traffic, orders, how to find your niche, etc. – all by yourself. You are a marketer, a product manager, an accountant, a manufacturer, etc. for yourself. Someone can consider it difficult and it is necessary to understand it.

 

Balance

So, what is better – full time office work or free floating as a freelancer? I adhere to an integrated approach, and I believe that everything must be balanced. Any work experience is an experience first of all.

I personally worked with people in the office who believed that all freelancers were scammers, and one should never work with them. They said that freelancers are dangerous.

I personally know people who believe that it’s better to work for yourself, not work from 9 am to 5 pm in the office. Such people launch businesses related to training to freelance or creation of their own projects. They tell that it is bad to work in the office and it’s better to work as a freelancer or create your own products.

These two examples represent categoricalness and narrow thinking.
The truth is that people who work for themselves receive orders from people who work in the office. And office employees give work to freelancers. Everything is interconnected and affects each other. There’s no alternate arrangement.

 

The balance is in multifacetedness and interrelations, but not in categoricalness.

 

Each person has something of his own and so should be to maintain a common balance.

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