Corporate Security Or Freelance Freedom?

Sandy writes in with the following dilemma regarding choosing a “real” job over continued freelancing:

Hi Frugal Dad,

I have a question that maybe your readers can help me with. I have been freelancing from home for over 10 years and have made a comfortable living at it. There have been bumps along the way, but for the most part when I lose a client, one seems to appear to fill the gap. I have been very blessed that way. It has also allowed me to stay at home with my kids, and I currently homeschool them as well. My husband works a full-time job with outstanding benefits, so we have that covered.

On a whim, I applied for a “real” job in another state which I didn’t expect would really play out, but surprise– it did. There is a very attractive salary offered, outstanding benefits, a ridiculous amount of vacation time,  and a pension (which I don’t currently have, though we do contribute heavily to my husband’s 401K). Part of the perks would be a free college education for my kids, who are currently in middle school. Even though they are currently homeschooled we had planned, and I know they want, to go back to “real” school next year.

So, what to do? Part of me likes the idea of job security — no more clients, no more constantly thinking about work. The other part of me is loathing the thought of giving up my my freedom of being self-employed. Housing in the other state is quite a bit more expensive than here, though we would stand to make a substantial gain on the sale of our current home.

To throw in another wrench, I was just awarded a very lucrative contract for my freelance business that would keep me solvent for the coming year. (I was getting a little nervous as work was seeming to dry up) After that, it would be up to me to find more work, though I do have a quite a few irons in the fire. Doing both would not be an option — there are only so many hours in a day, and I need to be a mommy to my kids too.

I have thought about just trying it out to see if it is a fit, but that would mean uprooting my kids and losing the contract as well.

What would you do? What other things should I consider that I haven’t?

Sandy, a few questions come to mind. What happens to your husband’s job if you relocate? Is his industry/expertise fairly transportable, meaning the likelihood of him finding a comparable job fairly high, even in this market?

I might be reading between the lines a bit here, but I don’t think you really want the new job. You have been a successful freelancer for a decade – not many people can say that. There is no shortage of people who start freelancing, but very few survive on their own for ten years.

On a related note, I would point out what is obvious to an unfortunate number of people these days – there is no such thing as “job security.” In fact, you may have more security, more stability, in hunting down work on your own using the experience and networking you already have in place as a freelancer. If you rejoin the corporate world, you are dependent on them to continue to find you work. If they fail, you will be unemployed, and will have given up a lucrative freelance contract.

The decision is yours and your family’s, as you recognize. But since you asked for my opinion, I’ll give it. If I was in your shoes, and my spouse had a stable job to cover benefits, and I had enough work to stay covered up for the next year, it would take a truckload of money to uproot my family and turn in that freedom for an employee badge. Whatever you decide, I wish you and your family well.

Ask the Readers: What would you do if you were in Sandy’s shoes?


  1. I agree, there is absolutely no such thing as job security. Get real – even her husband could lose his job! Personally, I think being a mother who is there for her children is much more important than the “greed” of money. And, as far as “excellent benefits” from an employer – guess again, that’s going to change as well.

  2. I would go.
    From a woman’s perspective, there are times in your life for everything. This may be a good time for a stable position with the good prospects of college being paid for. Your children sound like they are ready for you to let go a bit.
    If you have done free lance- you can always do it again. Building a good 401 for yourself is nothing to sneeze at. We put lots into my husband’s retirement as well- but there is nothing like the thought that you have one as well.
    Sounds like a great time to take a leap!

  3. I love being a freelancer. I love the freedom to set my own hours and be here for my son. I don’t homeschool, but I am here everyday when he gets home, and I volunteer at his school. I am also less stressed. And I have a Roth IRA that I contribute to. When my husband finishes his Ph.D. and gets a job (if he doesn’t decide to do his own consulting business), we’ll have another retirement. There’s no reason that you can’t have your own IRA (Roth, traditional or SEP) or a Solo 401(k) to make up the difference.

  4. I’d love to have the Freelancer’s Life, but it’s all laptop-at-Starbucks and sleeping-in when I’m on the outside looking in. I’ve been with a company for 11 years, and I find it repugnant that they get first say on how I spend my time.

  5. As a single Mom who couldn’t make it free lancing – I’d pass on the corp job. I miss free lancing so much.
    I’m working on a different degree now & I’m hoping to free lance again before my son is in high school… so I can be more present at home during those wonderful years 😉

  6. I agree with frugal dad. I recently went from a home office job with alot of flexibility to an 8-5 position in an office and I miss it dearly.

    1) You don’t realize how much more you get done working from a home office. Commuting costs, clothing costs, eating out, etc.

    It’s sad to say that one of the things I miss the most is being able to do laundry during the week. It takes very little time away from work to pop a load in during the week or run an errand or two. Now all the stuff piles up during the week sucks up about 1/2 my weekend.

    2) In the past I’ve turned down a similar “promotion” and wasn’t sure if I did the right thing. Said job ended up being offered to me on 2 other occasions.

    It was freeing to realize that most things aren’t a once in a lifetime opportunity. You can always pursue the corp life later and maybe something even better will come about when the economy recovers.

    3) A year contract is a sure thing. I’m sure your new job won’t guarantee employment for a year. Most companies offer 1 week severance for every year of service.

  7. Keep in mind that if the steady job doesn’t work out, going back to freelancing could be an option. The inverse isn’t necessarily true: job offer is good for a limited time only.

    Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer. The fact that the decision is difficult implies that both are attractive options.

  8. I recommend not relocating. We all go through seasons of life. Your primary responsibility as a mother in this season is to care for, nurture and develop your children. Once they are grown, you will never get that opportunity again. Job opportunities will come and go for those with talent and experience (as you seem to have). It makes no sense in leaving a very good situation (husband’s job, freelancing opportunities and network, home equity, etc) to move to another location and job which may or may not be better.

  9. Oh Sandy, how tempting the new job is…but I agree that you really don’t seem really interested (but it certainly is a boost to the ego to get the job). Now that you have, let it go. That job could be here today and gone tomorrow and then you would have moved your family and your husband to new work.

    Send the kids back to “real” school next year and spend more time on your at home business. You won’t be home that much more because of driving the kids here and there. Enjoy these years with the kids and allow them to go to high school with the friends they have now. You’ll all be happier for it.

    Create your own retirement plan.

    I enjoyed reading your post and responding.

  10. If you have to ask other people for their opinions to help you form your own decision, then you already know in your heart, you are not ready to make that leap. If you were, you would just do it, no hesitation.

    You are doing well for your family where you are; your children have a home there and friends; your husband has a very good job that is providing for you all quite well. Rather than uproot all of that on a whim, open your own retirement account (perhaps through sharebuilder) and take the contract. A full year of guaranteed work gives you alot of time to find future projects. Your kids can stay in the home they know, and your husband can keep his current job.

    There are so many drawbacks to working for someone else, that if you can keep going successfully as you have been, then think very strongly before you ever give it up! Because once your stuck playing by someone else’s rules for everything: dress codes; lunch and break times; approved sick and vacation time useage; specific work hours of the day…you will be longing for your freedom to come back!

  11. There is no such thing as corporate security. My advice would be to stick with your freelance gig. I wish I had the skills to do that. Not only do I hate my job, it makes me physically ill. Sorry to be so negative – but stick w/ your current gig. At least you can be happy.

  12. There are pros and cons to each option, as you’ve seen from the comments.

    If you don’t really really really want that job, because it’s a job you want to do, and not because of any implied “security” and the benefits, stick with freelancing. There is somebody else out there who not only can do the job, but who wants it, that job, and is already in the corporate world.

    Don’t take a job just because it’s offered, and certainly understand that unless the corporate job offers a contract (which I’m sure it does not), you could be out at any time (most people are hired “at will” meaning you can be let go for any reason at any time, in some cases, without the benefit of unemployment–and since you’ve been freelancing all these years, you’d have to work years in this or another corporate gig before you’d probably even qualify for unemployment.

    Yea, it’s tough being a freelancer, but spend your energy on keeping up your skills, developing new ones, being invaluable to current, past clients and allocating time each month just to get your name out there and see what’s happening in the marketplace. You have to be working on getting additional clients even when you’re under contract.

    Freelancing is about contacts, selling yourself and knowing where to even find work and potential clients. If you’ve done that well for 10 years, you should be able to continue unless you’re in a field that is dying out. Always think ahead to other services you could offer and NEVER have just one client. EVER. No matter how great. We and some of our colleagues thought we were doing great by working for a few clients with long-term contracts. But what happens is, you never really do any networking (your too busy working) and then, companies change–staff changes, product changes, project changes–and you can find yourself with no new opps no matter how good your work. The hardest thing about being on your own is finding work. Time-consuming, tough and ongoing. It’s why people like photographers and others (who can afford it) have agents! Would that we all could.

    Something else to keep in mind, in today’s environment, many people hiring are very leery of people who have been “freelancing.” Especially if you’ve done it long term. For whatever reason, many companies hold stereotypes of “independent contractors” and shy away from hiring them as staff. Many erroneous beliefs including that anyone who works for themselves can’t “get along” with others and be on a team. What a hoot. Most freelancers are so skilled at getting along with anyone and everyone at their various clients, that they put most staffers to shame because most staffers are too busy playing politics and games with each other than focusing on the work.

    So if you feel as if you really want to transition to a job in the corporate world, start thinking about current and future clients and see if you can ease in via them. You never know.

    And to those in the corporate world who think heaven would be the “freedom” of freelance work–know that most of you could not hack it because it’s constantly living with the unknown (will you get paid on time? Will a client leave the compay you’re working for–and end the project? And other equally bleak scenarios), tough to deal with all the business stuff (contracts, lawyers, etc.) AND doing the work.

    If you really want to work and you are working for a company that lets you do the job you were actually hired for, don’t worry about greener pastures. No matter where you are, there’s stuff.

  13. Dear Betty,
    Homeschooling is real school plus so much more. I have pulled my kids from “real” school because they were bored. Now they are learning all the time. Plus they are learning life skills. I have two boys who are 11 & 6. They can cook a few basic meals, do a simple budget, and can already do laundry and other household chores. They are becoming prepared for life, and learning to love to learn along the way. Also they get lots of exercise. Way more than kids in “real school.” My kids are also very bright and and do well in there studies.

    Now I am a single mom and sacrifice alot to be able to homeschool, but my boys are my career now. When they are grown I will focus on another career, but for now this is exactly where I feel God wants me.

    Homeschooling is not for everyone, but it certainly is not less than “real school.”

    That being said, Sandy you have to pray about God’s will for you. Also talk with your husband and a trusted elder in the church. But I think you answered your question when you said, when you lose freelance work, more seems to come your way. If God desires you to be home and homeschooling He will keep making a way for it to happen.
    This is proof positive in my life as He makes a way for me when it seems it just can’t happen.

    I hope all goes well.


  14. A win-win would be if you were able to do the out of state job from home. Perhaps telecommuting to work.

    Good luck, it sounds like it’s a great company with some great benefits.

  15. I agree with many of the others posters that Corporate America is not a sure thing. I know of many people who relocated only to loose the job within a year. CORPORATE AMERICA DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU. You are just a number on a financial statement.

    I am not a freelancer and this may be an ignorant statement but I would assume that it takes a while to build up enough clients to make a good living at it and that, if you drop it, it may not be so easy to get back into it.

    I have gone from doing my own thing, back to corporate america, to back to doing my own thing and back to Corporate America. The times in my life with the best memories are where I was free and independent.

  16. The fact that college tuition is a perk tells me that the job might be with a college or university. Unfortunately, the job security that in the past made up for relatively lower pay is now gone. You get the worst of both worlds in higher ed.