Too Freelance or not to Freelance?


macrumors 65816
Original poster
Apr 18, 2007
As the topic states, is it possible to have livable income by freelancing? I am proficient in XHTML, CSS, MySQL, PHP, and some Flash. I was wondering if being a freelance web developer could make me a good living? Right now, I'm a Junior in Highschool so I don't have any payments. So I would assume this would be a good time to get the ball rolling if I'm going to be doing freelance by learning about how the whole thing works, building a portfolio(already have a few sites in my portfolio), contracts, etc. The way I see it, if I don't get a part time job and just work on web design now, I would have a good customer base as well as built up a portfolio for the future when I need to rely on it as my primary income.

I've seen people on the internet who freelance for a living. But other people tell me that the income isn't steady and you might have a hard time finding jobs enough to support yourself. Which is it?


May 24, 2003
Obviously you're not a golfer.
the tricky part of freelance is not cash, but cashflow. over the course of a year you may make $X, but you will probably not make 1/12th of X every month. you may make 50% of your annual income in one month, and the rest on 2 other months, and not make a dime the other 9 months. being able to accommodate that and prepare for it is a key element of freelancing. i can tell you from experience it makes for many restless nights: will that client pay? will i be able to eat next week? etc.. a smart person in that situation spreads work out thru a few clients so someone always have an invoice due.

having said that, over time you will (should) build up a cushion of income to float you through the dry spells. i have found working for myself to be feast or famine: too much work or not enough. rarely is it "just right."

if you are self motivated to work, have a good network of people who have given you work and will tell their business associates, are able to do projects that keep you interested as well as projects that are more "bread and butter," are able to manage not only the actual work, but income, taxes, expenses, property insurance, health insurance (a BIG one!), self-branding/awareness, etc.. its worth a try. i have run my own show in one form or another for a few years, its been great but has had ups and downs. one thing that keeps me doing it is the schedule allows me to teach pretty much whenever i want. i work in print and some motion stuff, not web, but the work principles are the same. i DO need to reorganize myself in terms of paperwork, invoicing and taxes; right now its just some indesign documents and a bunch of Excel spreadsheets. i need to buckle down and look at some real software to do it all at some point.

for the record, i make much more than a "livable" income from freelance - IF i did not have to pay back student loans, which take a very large chunk of my income as i am trying to get risd of them ASAP.

and i know this is kind of silly but i don't really like the term freelance, to me it implies someone doing work on the side of something else. i think the term you are looking for is "self-employed" or possibly an "independent consultant."

when people ask me what i do for a living i say i "own my own design studio."

something else, everytime i start sweating i always remind myself that i can always just get a job. so why not try it?


macrumors 68000
Feb 27, 2004
You might consider getting some experience working for an established web design/development firm before jumping into freelancing full time. You can do some freelance work in your spare time - while getting some valuable business experience.

Even if you're not doing it directly, you can learn a lot from your bosses/co-workers on things like: determining client needs, making contracts, getting them to actually pay you (sometimes even jobs for large companies can be a collections nightmare :rolleyes:)

I'm not opposed to freelancing - I've heard of some people doing quite well with it (financially speaking). I just think you might want to get your feet wet before jumping into the water. ;)


macrumors 65816
Apr 6, 2007
I started freelancing in highschool - sort of. For financial reasons benefitcial to my employer, I was never taken on as a full time employee, although I worked full time in the summer and part time during the school year. I had to pay my own social security and income taxes. I got health insurance under my parents' coverage.

The advantage of starting now in high school, if you can swing it is you get to build up your portfolio on your own time.

I'd recommend instead of trying to freelance on your own, try to get a freelance contract with one group or firm. I find that it lets you go and managing one job is much easier than managing several.

I've stopped doing web stuff for the most part and moved onto other things. But freelancing was a valuable experience for me. And if you're in high school you don't really need an income anyway, at least not one you need to depend on. So just do it, have fun and make sure you still work hard in school.


macrumors regular
I definitely freelance/contracted for a while. Personally, it wasnt that great for me..... Then again, I dont have that much experience under my belt...

I'd say get some more experience working for an established company first, then look into going freelance. Pretty much... what shecky has said is pretty accurate.


macrumors 6502a
Aug 5, 2005
Manchester UK
If you are in high school then the financial pressure won't be on you so much at the moment (no rent to pay etc.) so you should take on a few manageable contracts if you can find them. You don't want to take on too much work to mess with your studies though. If you make some money then that's brilliant, if not it's not such a biggie and you got some experience.

I think that before you try to go into it full time you will want to get some work experience by working for someone else full time. This will help you build up valuable business skills and you can save up some money to get you through the dry spells that others have mentioned. You can also build up contacts and a support network this way. Hopefully your freelance experience to date will help you get a good job too!

From there you can go properly freelance if you still want to, you will have some more skills and experience to tout to your clients and a bit more cash to cushion you starting out.

I am a consultant but I think that I prefer working full time for someone else. It takes away a lot of the problems that you are going to face. I don't have to worry about collecting money, I have a steady salary (and it pays very well), I can tap into a pool of clients, I can use my colleagues experience where mine falls short etc. I don't think freelance is for me, but if you like the sound of it then you should go for it. Good luck!
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