When I was a freelance writer, I really enjoyed the flexibility I had. Sure, I wasn't a millionaire by any means, but I was pretty happy with the way things were.
Then something unexpected happened: I got an offer for a full-time job with a really awesome company. My newfound freelancing career just got a whole lot more complicated. On one hand, this new position sounded amazing—and something I would've leapt at just a year ago. On the other hand, I'd adjusted quite well to working from my couch.
So what did I do? Long story short: I took the full-time offer. But not before thinking long and hard about my choices.
The most challenging part of the whole process? Simply figuring out what to consider when making this decision ended up being really hard. So learn from me—here are a few things to think about when you're faced with similar options.
1. Can You Afford to Continue Freelancing?
Most freelancers will tell you that at some point, you'll occasionally have to take projects you're not super thrilled about because you have to pay your health insurance bill. And sometimes, you'll apply for 200 full-time jobs because your banking app shows you that your next bagel will put you over the edge. However, unless you're in the middle of a dire financial situation, ask yourself if the only thing you like about the full-time offer is the potential raise.
I'm not here to tell you that more money equals more problems. Of course you deserve the extra cash that full-time gig is offering (and those sweet, sweet health insurance benefits). But, if you generally have everything you need—and like the majority of your current freelance projects—make sure the full-time gig also meets all the other criteria you have for your dream job. If it doesn't, don't let the money be the only thing that convinces you to accept.
Oh, and keep in mind that while you might be making more money (and making it consistently), you'll also have to spend it on commuting, lunches, clothing, dry-cleaning, and whatever else is involved in going into an office every day.
2. What Are You Really Looking for in Your Next Gig?
It's easy to forget what you'd consider an ideal full-time working situation when you've been working from your bedroom. Because let's be honest, getting paid to do something you like while wearing pajamas is pretty great sometimes. So, when a full-time offer pops into your inbox, it's time to think about what you really want in a gig that would require you to wear real pants every day.
The funny thing is that you're no different than a traditional passive candidate in this scenario. Even with its ups and downs, your freelance life isn't a bad fallback if you decide there's something amiss about that full-time offer in front of you. So, you're allowed to nitpick a little bit. Or a lot.
If the job's moving you further away from your ideal career, or requires you to take on responsibilities you're not too keen on, or has a long commute, or involves several departmental meetings a week, it's perfectly fine to consider those cons and say "thanks, but no thanks" until that ideal gig does come along.
3. Are You Ready to Give Up Your Freedom in Exchange for Stability?
Nobody is ever surprised when a freelancer talks about how awesome it is to have the ability to work from anywhere. And to take 3 PM shopping breaks. And to go for a lunchtime run if he or she wants to. And, well, you get the idea. However, all of these freelance perks can cloud the fact that ultimately, there's a really amazing full-time offer on the table offering you up stability.
This was definitely the case for me. At first, I couldn't fathom the idea of waking up at the same time every day. And being at a desk again. And having to commute. However, after I gave myself 15 minutes to be really sad about leaving those benefits behind, I realized something—the job was everything I wanted for about a year. And it would be nice to get paid time off again.
On top of that, there were really awesome perks that made the gig even sweeter. Such as the super-fancy espresso machine in the café (not the only reason I took the job, of course, but still an awesome perk). It didn't take long to realize that I was so desperate to keep my "flexibility" as a freelancer, I couldn't see that I'd still be able to do all the things I enjoyed on the side as a full-time employee—I'd just have to reorganize a few things. Ultimately, it would have been a huge mistake to pass on my current job, especially if my only reason was to be able to keep doing midday P90X.
4. Why Did You Go Full-Time Freelance in the First Place?
Sometimes people have no choice but to freelance for a while. In some cases, people get laid off—which is a huge bummer, but it happens. And I know from personal experience what that's like. In other cases, people do it because they need to "pay their dues" before a full-time gig doing something they love comes along. If you fall into the category of freelancers who sort of fell into it, accepting an office position is sort of a no-brainer, especially if it involves doing something you really enjoy.
However, I know plenty of people who just can't stand getting up at the same time every morning and sitting behind a desk. And the idea of having an actual boss is just something they can't reconcile. So, if you fall into this category of freelancers, don't rush into anything. Of course, if that offer involves work that you really love, think through the other questions we've posed here. However, if you're really, truly doing your work from the comfort of your couch, maybe it's for the best that you stay put.
Freelancing can be awesome at times. However, even after you've built up a few regular clients, make sure you don't completely rule out an amazing offer before you really consider why you're hesitant to take it. Of course there will be times when it's clear you should stick with your current situation. But, when an awesome position presents itself, you owe it to yourself to take the leap, put on real pants, and really think about it. And remember, if you end up hating it, you now know you can always go back to freelancing.