Advice, news, debate
and discussion
all in one place

Take Control of Your Career – Freelance vs Permanent

As someone who places both freelance and permanent UX Designers/Reseachers, I’m often asked “Which career path is best for me, Perm or Freelance?”

Now, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here and it’s often a matter of personality and personal preference but if asked my answer will ultimately hinge on the person’s current experience and aspirations.

Below, I’ve outlined some key considerations that I believe should be taken into account when deciding which way to go…

Career Development

Career Development is perhaps the most important point to consider (depending on where you’re at in your career of course) and I usually advise more junior people that they should cut their teeth in a permanent role.

For a freelancer, clients require them to showcase a track record of delivering a similar project or skill-set and as such if you enjoy working on a particular range of projects or platforms and want to keep doing so, then freelancing can be a great way to deepen that specialism. Effectively learning on the job.

If, however, you’d like to change direction and wish to explore working on new platforms or exciting projects you’ve not touched before, then you’ll have to do a bit of work to build up some experience to make the jump (unless you are one of the very few very experienced/well rounded “unicorns”). Hiring freelancers is a more pragmatic decision than a permanent hire so don’t expect a client to hire you on your potential alone.

In terms of progressing in seniority it’s worth noting that you’ll have to battle to do that if you move to freelancing too early in your career. You’re less likely to be given lead positions, if you haven’t lead before and you’ll often find you might need to go back to a permanent position to gain that progression – making that move back though is always tricky as the sums don’t always add up!

In my experience, you tend to see the majority of leadership opportunities go to the permanent staff as businesses want consistency in the interaction between them and their clients or internal stakeholders.

Training is rarely given to freelancers so for those of you earlier yon in your career i’d recommend that permanent roles might be the best way to go.

Money, money, money

The obvious reason many are attracted the leap into freelancing are the big day rates that are on offer, particularly when you’re currently a permanent member of staff working alongside a freelance UX Consultant on a project.

As you’ll see in our Salary Survey on paper the pay gap between perm and freelancers at the same level is quite considerable…However, making a direct comparison is misleading.

Out of that day rate freelancers have to set aside cash for tax, training courses, accountancy fees and on top of that they don’t get paid for time off for holidays or sick leave – all of which is easily taken for granted.

So, make sure you do your maths and work out whether those day rates will add up to make the jump worth your while.

Stability & Accountability

As a permanent member staff, you will have been interviewed not only for your skill set but also your culture fit and potential to grow; as such employers have a vested interest in you in both financially and emotionally making your role more stable. For those of you with families and mortgages to consider this can be comforting.

Due to the very nature of a freelance contract, clients are afforded flexibility to scale teams up and down depending on project demand quickly. Something that can work favourably but also against a freelancer.

If a freelancer were to sign a 6-month contract with say a 2 week notice period for example – the length of the contract can be unpredictable, which means you must budget for time spent looking for your next gig and even if you have full visibility on your end date it’s not easy to interview when you’re knee deep in a project.

We find that 99% of our clients will look for a freelancer to start within a couple of weeks of the ideal start date. This means that for someone in a permanent job you will normally need to hand in your notice before securing a freelance position.

If you do make the jump it’s worth noting that it’s not advisable to start looking for your first contract in August or over Christmas, as these are quieter periods.

So which way will you go?

Both paths can work out brilliantly and you should consider your career/financial goals

Freelancers tend to earn quite a lot more than their permanent counterparts – but they face more stress and regular change.

Permanent candidates in my opinion tend to hold the majority of the Lead and Head roles and have access to better development and training.

If you have any questions and are looking for either a freelance or perm position I’d love to help so please get in touch.

Leave a reply

Leave a Reply

Latest views

Landed an interview? Great! Are you excited? Nervous? Whatever you are feeling, the company clearly saw something they like in your application and want to meet you. All you need to do now is nail the interview with the help of our tried and tested top tips.   1.      Do Your Research First things first – […]

Image Source So, you have decided that transitioning to a flexible working schedule would be a good fit for you. Maybe this is because your family circumstances have changed, and you need time in the morning to drop off your kids at school. Or perhaps your optimum hours of inspiration and productivity don’t coincide with your current […]

Remote working used to be an option offered only by a minority of workplaces. However, ever since the pandemic changed the way businesses must operate, pivoting to a remote working model has become a necessary adaption for companies across industries to attract and retain talent. In changing to a hybrid or completely remote working model, […]

Image source As you are probably aware, several changes to IR35 legislation came into effect in April this year (2021) that impacted the private and public sectors. These changes for many contractors placed the responsibility of deciding if contracts were inside IR35 on the shoulders of the end client, rather than the contractor themselves. Consequently, […]

Maybe this is your first UX interview ever, or you haven’t interviewed in a few years and you want to get a better idea of what to expect…

If you want the best UXers then provide the best CX (Customer Experience) within your hiring process, else you risk ending up with who’s leftover rather than the best person for the job. Not to mention damaging your brand presence within the market. UX as we all know, has boomed and with that boom has […]

As an ex-freelance art director, that moved into freelance (and permanent) creative recruitment, I like to think I have a good understanding of how ad agencies, design agencies and production houses recruit for creative freelance positions, but (unfortunately) I made many mistakes along the way. Based on my experience both as a freelance creative and […]

So it’s time… You’ve decided it’s your time to move on which can be both daunting and liberating, I know. This process, however subjective to your situation, if dealt with properly can make a huge impact to not only your exit but the businesses and ex-colleagues perception of you afterwards. Below I’ve put together some simple […]