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Should tech workers go full-time or freelance?

It’s an age-old debate in the technology industry. Whether to take a full-time permanent position (either at an agency or in-house) or to brave the big wide world and go freelance is a question that many tech workers in an increasingly precarious economy find themselves asking – and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons.

Full-time: secure, but stifling?

In a world where the bills need to be paid, full-time work can give a long-term security that freelancing simply can’t. A regular wage packet is much more important than freedom for many – and with average tech sector salaries in the UK currently sat at over £60,000, it’s clear to see why it’s so appealing. A lot of tech professionals, meanwhile, feel like they’re part of their firm’s larger social or cultural mission, such as increasing access to a certain commodity or tackling some sort of injustice. If you work for a firm with a mission that aligns well with your own values, then it’s unlikely that you’ll want to leave it any time soon.

However, there are downsides to working in a full-time role. It can be somewhat stifling to return to the same workplace, people and tasks over and over. It’s also harder to leave a full-time role: you may well have to work a long notice period, and finding another increasingly scarce equivalent with the same number of hours can be tough.

Freelance: unsteady yet liberating

A clue into the main reason why people go freelance is in the name. Free from any shackles, freelancers are able to take on new work whenever they like. Personal development is easy to access for freelancers, as they can move from one role to another quite easily and try lots of different things: one day you might be writing Java, for example, while the next you may be writing Python.

However, you won’t be able to rely on pay coming in every month like you would in a full-time role, and there may be months where you don’t get any work. Going freelance also means that you’ll be responsible for paying your own tax. In a full-time job, someone in accounts will do all of this for you – but as a freelancer, you’ll need to make some arrangements to cover your legal obligations. However, which is best; umbrella or limited company? Ultimately, this will be down to you – although umbrella companies can often remove a lot of the stress from your shoulders and let you focus more clearly on your work.

When it comes down to it, it’s likely that the decision about whether to go freelance or still work full-time will be a personal one. While freelancing has its advantages, it can also cause significant insecurity. However, while working full-time means that the bills will always get paid, you have to trade off some freedom and flexibility in order to do it. With many organisations such as umbrella companies out there able to make switching between the two a bit easier, though, there’s no reason why you can’t move from one to the other further down the line if your priorities change.

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