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Would You Be Better Off Working as a Freelancer?


Campaign magazine recently asked Sarah Ellis Jones in our London office to answer a UX designer's dilemma over whether or not to go freelance.

Thanks to the folks over at Campaign for letting us repost it!

Question: "I feel underpaid in my role as a UX designer. What should I expect to earn and would I be better off going freelance?"

Sarah: UX designers are in high demand for both permanent and freelance positions, so you should be able to command a competitive salary or daily rate either way. As far as daily rates go, you can normally earn more undertaking freelance work than you would in a permanent role. However, you need to be aware of the peaks and troughs involved in freelance work, so you should consider that you may not earn more over the course of a year unless you have regular work coming in.

If you feel underpaid, the first step is to benchmark your salary against the rest of the industry. I recently placed a UX graduate in a permanent role for £36k ($51K US), she was earning £300 ($433 US) per day as a freelancer. This should give you some idea, but do have a look at Glassdoor and job sites like Brand Republic Jobs to see what UX roles are paying in your region. If your research shows that you are indeed underpaid, then try arranging a meeting with your boss to ask for pay rise, drawing upon your evidence to support your case.

On the other hand, if you’re considering going freelance, you need to weigh the pros and cons beyond just the pay packet. When I talk to aspiring freelancers, I ask them to assess where they are and where they want to take their career. If you have reached a solid level in your career and aren’t interested in progressing to more senior positions, freelancing offers a wider variety of projects. On the downside, you are unlikely to have full client exposure, nor get any investment in training, so it will be up to you to continue learning and developing on your own time, at your own expense.

To be a successful freelancer, you need to be just as dedicated as a permanent employee. In fact, you need to wow your employer even more. In order to set yourself apart from other freelancers, you need to be a strong communicator and a good project manager. You should constantly think like your own business: Will I get a referral? Will I be asked back? Make sure you have an evidence-based portfolio of work that gives confidence to a freelance employer that you are capable of doing the job. Freelancing can also be a great way to audition for your next permanent job, in fact, many people flip between freelance and permanent roles, which is something you might want to consider.

So when deciding whether to go freelance, ask yourself whether it suits your lifestyle right now. Do you have the right characteristics to be a successful freelancer? Are you able to keep a grip on your own finances, that is do you have a financial cushion whereby if you don’t work for a few weeks, it won’t impact on your ability to pay your rent or mortgage? And are you willing to work for 6-9 months without a break? Some people don’t like this lack of security, whereas others thrive on it. The question you should ask yourself is, would you?

Have a question about salaries or the current state of the freelance market? Connect with an agent at Vitamin T, they’d love to talk to you about it!

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