A decision that many UX professionals must make is whether it makes more sense to work in house, focusing on the needs of one company, or to work across multiple companies as a consultant. But consulting itself involves yet another important decision: Should you continue to work as an employee of another company at an agency or go out on your own and hang up your own shingle as an independent consultant?
Let’s break this question down a bit: What are the pros and cons of working for someone else versus working for yourself?
Working for Someone Else
First, let’s look at the pros and cons of working for a consulting firm.
- stability—You get a regular paycheck each pay period.
- safety—When a project ends, there’s the possibility that your company will keep you on the payroll, benching you for a bit while they look for more work for you, or they may try to find you some temporary work to do internally.
- benefits—You have easy access to various insurance benefits and other perks.
- colleagues—You most likely have peers at your company with whom you interact regularly and over the long term, not just during one project.
- office space—You likely work at an office where there’s a space to call your own.
- no sales—They probably won’t require you to sell your own services.
- no negotiating—Someone negotiates for you, discussing contract terms and rates. You can just show up and start doing the work!
- less money—You might get a good salary, but they hired you to make money for the business.
- predetermined benefits—While getting benefits is easy, they’re often standardized for all employees rather than specific to your individual needs.
- limited flexibility—You get a set number of days off, must follow certain parameters when taking days off, and may be required to work during specific hours of the day.
- required commute—Perhaps you have the flexibility to work at home when you want to, but maybe not.
- limited control—You have a boss, and you may not have much control over what projects you get assigned to.
Working for Yourself
So, what are the pros and cons of working for yourself? We could simply invert the lists I’ve just outlined!
- money—The profit is yours—all yours.
- benefits—You have more flexibility in choosing what benefits you want. In some ways, this is the ultimate in cafeteria plans.
- flexibility—You can set your own hours, as long as you can make them work within your clients’ needs.
- commute—Your home office is usually your home—although it doesn’t have to be. There are often co-working spaces available, offering you some co-workers and forcing you to get dressed up, or at least dressed, to go to work. And you can choose a co-working space at a location close to home.
- control—You are your own boss. You can try to win projects that you will enjoy and also have the option to turn down any projects that don’t interest you.
- satisfaction—Achieving success in your own business can be emotionally rewarding.
- lack of stability—Your workload may ebb and flow over time, meaning your income won’t be regular.
- no safety net—You have to create your own safety net, disciplining yourself to save up enough of your profits during busy times, so you’ll still be able to pay your bills when work slows.
- obtain your own benefits—While it’s easier to get individual insurance than in the past—particularly health insurance—you still need to do the legwork to find your own coverage. And benefits are expensive.
- less water-cooler talk—You might have colleagues on a project, but not necessarily over the long term and not as often.
- no office space—You need to carve out a dedicated space for work at home or find a co-working space in a convenient location.
- sales—If you don’t constantly sell your services, you might not always be working.
- negotiating—You’re responsible for all discussions about your rate, your hours, and your deliverables.