It's never easy to take the first step towards freelancing but the flexibility it allows means people can find meaningful work no matter how limited the hours they have to offer.

It's easy to think the grass is greener on the other side when it comes to the way you work. But when you're considering whether a freelance or contract role is better than an in-house position, you're not really considering apple with apples.

For example, one offers security, social connection and a regular salary, whereas the other offers flexibility, freedom and sometimes a higher rate of pay than a regular job.

Or, more pessimistically — one may offer co-workers who drive you mad, working conditions over which you have little control and the need to haggle for time off for personal appointments. The other may offer feast or famine workloads, pay that comes in irregularly and a blurring of work/life balance.


As a freelancer for more than 10 years, I've found the best things have been the variety of work, the better pay and the ability to be more connected to my family life. But working in a traditional full-time office job did offer the financial freedom not to worry so much, as well as the benefit of paid holidays.

The choice to freelance is, however, often forced upon us because of limited time availability and for those with busy home lives, whether it's looking after young children or ageing parents, freelancing offers a great way to fit everything in.

As a new mum, PR consultant Lindsay Stanley's main concern when she went freelancing eight months ago was how to generate enough work compared to a "normal" job with guaranteed pay.

"I have been pleasantly surprised by how many opportunities there are," Stanley says. "You just need to go out and talk to people."

As a mum of a two-year-old, she's found the best thing is the flexibility working for yourself provides.

"As most of my work tends to be from home, I no longer have to sit in the busy Auckland traffic, which is a big win for me."

The worst thing Stanley's found about freelancing is that she can't forward-plan as much — never really knowing what the future holds in terms of the volume of work.

"Until now, I have been fortunate enough to have a continuous amount of work coming in, as one project ends another opportunity presents itself," she says.


She does admit to missing out on chatting to colleagues because she is working from home, but when she feels the need to be around others, she books herself into a co-working space, such as Bizdojo in Takapuna, to help her feel more social.

"Before taking the plunge, I would suggest talking to as many people as you can that are already out there freelancing," Stanley says.

"See what advice they can give you to make sure it's the right decision for you."

She also suggests thinking about your strategy for getting work. For example, do you want to work with other agencies, get your own clients or join a networking agency?

"I also found it really useful to talk everything through with my partner and family, as they can offer really great advice," Stanley says. "I'm happy because I get to spend more quality time with my son and I no longer have to waste hours in traffic."

The flexibility to swap things around, she says, is also a bonus.


"If I need to finish work early to pick up my son, I can swap my day around and work in the evening — it's no longer about the traditional 9 to 5," says Stanley, whose clients have included other PR agencies, small start-up businesses and big international organisations.

"I now get to choose whom I work with, which is a great position to be in, as it means I can truly work with businesses [and people] I believe in," Stanley says. "As well as helping PR agencies, I also use my skills to help big businesses refine their PR strategies and help small businesses starting up to tell their story."

If you're not sure that going it alone is right for you, dip your toes in first. Freelancing is something you can do on the side of your regular work, because no one needs to know you're doing the work late at night rather than in the normal work day.

When you do take the step into freelancing, make sure you hand out holidays, sign up for superannuation, keep your skills up by investing in yourself and give yourself the afternoon off every now and then you'll be the best boss you've ever had.