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Freelance vs Full Time Software Developers: The Pros and Cons

11th October 2022

If you’ve always dreamed of becoming a software developer, or you’re already a software developer and deciding on that next step in your career, you’ve more than likely considered going freelance.

In the last two years, more and more people have searched for phrases such as “how to get freelance software development jobs” and Google saw a significant spike in the search term “freelancer”, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And this increase in searches isn’t surprising – after all, lockdown saw an uptake of people deciding to become their own boss and work for themselves. In tandem, the pandemic has also triggered accelerated digitalisation across a number of sectors, from education to automotive and more. Overnight, businesses were screaming out for software developers who could support their transition from offline to online and reach new audiences.

In the last decade, the technology industry has grown from £1.2bn to £11.3bn, and thanks to rapid digital adoption, this growth isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. As a result, we’re seeing more and more businesses looking to work with freelance software developers, agencies or hire them in-house. With so much to think about, we’ve looked at the pros and cons of both freelance and fulltime employment as a software developer.

Freedom of jobs

If you choose to go down the freelance avenue, you can have your pick of software development jobs. If the rate for a job is too low or you don’t think it will help you progress in your career, you can turn it down. You can also pick and choose the jobs you take on and work on a variety of projects, which will help strengthen your skillset. However, you may not have a team around you to bounce ideas off and learn from.

If you’re a full-time developer (whether in-house or agency), you’ll be expected to work on the jobs you’re given. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as you won’t need to find the work yourself, you may not have the luxury of turning down specific tasks. But, you may have a team to work alongside.

Job security and flexibility

Not every company can afford to take on full-time developers, so they’ll outsource and look for freelance software developers where possible. The market for freelance developers is vast and offers a lot of opportunities.

Freelancers can choose where and when they work. Whether it’s from the comfort of your own bed when inspiration strikes at two in the morning, or in a coffee shop on a Thursday afternoon, the world is your oyster. But it’s your sole responsibility to make sure your clients are serviced on time and satisfied.

For every day you don’t work as a freelancer, you won’t get paid. You don’t get paid annual leave or sick leave. You may also find that some months you’re at capacity and turning away jobs, and other months you’re struggling to find work.

Additionally, the introduction of IR35 tax legislation means that many freelance software developers are looking for full-time employment so they don’t have to pay additional tax.

Full-time developers have a level of job stability and security thanks to their employment contract and contracted working hours. They may also have access to a range of company benefits such as health insurance, gym memberships and more, depending on the business they work for. They also have a reliable income that will help them with budgeting, paid annual leave and company pension contributions.

With more and more businesses turning to hybrid working and flexible working hours, software developers in full-time employment can also work from home or in the evening, so they can go to the dentist or sort out life admin during the week.

Work-life balance

While work-life balance is down to the individual, some freelancers find they get more time to spend with their friends and family, in comparison to those in full-time roles, as they can decide when they work. However, the world of software development is often high pressure, stressful and intense, especially if you’re juggling a range of different clients and deadlines.

You may also find that you spend long periods of time on your own – if you’re an extrovert and enjoy social interaction, booking into a shared office space can help with this.

If you work for a company, you may find you work longer hours in the lead up to a launch date or deadline, making it difficult to find time to spend with friends and family. However, if you work for a business that values its employees, they will put procedures in place to help you maintain a work-life balance, such as time off in lieu.

If other people on your team are also facing looming deadlines, you’ll have that team spirit and solidarity that can make this work pressure quite enjoyable.

Training and progression

Software developers must keep abreast of the latest news, trends, technologies and developments in the industry if they want to succeed and this is often down to the individual.

If you’re a freelance developer, it is up to you to stay up to date with the latest industry insight. It may be worth joining LinkedIn groups, WhatsApp groups and Slack channels so that you can network online and learn from other professionals.

If you’re in full-time employment, you’ll likely have a personal development plan that’s aligned to your goals, and time set aside for training and learning. There’s a chance you’ll work with a team of people you can learn from and collaborate with.

Is going freelance right for me?

Only you can make the decision to go freelance or work full time for a company. Remember, there are many different software development roles out there – find out how much money you can make.

If you are motivated, determined and want to work for yourself, you might find a career as a freelance software developer to be wholly lucrative and rewarding.

For those who want freedom and flexibility but also value job security, you should consider looking for a company that shares these values, so that you don’t get stung by IR35.

At ECS Resource Group, we have over 30 years​ of experience in helping a wide variety of specialist IT, telecoms, development and engineering professionals find the right role for them. Upload your CV and one of our experts will be in touch.