4 min read

Navigating the Crossroads: From Freelancing to the Next Chapter

I often ask myself: "what could be the next step after freelancing?". Should I step back to a full-time job, or scale up freelance to an agency?
Navigating the Crossroads: From Freelancing to the Next Chapter
Photo by Justin Luebke / Unsplash

I feel very good about my progress over the last 3 years. Every next a year I've been doing better than the previous one and all this looks very promising.

However, when I try to plan long term, it turns out to be a hard question.

Do I need to continue freelancing or maybe I should switch to something else? What could be the next step after freelancing? If I go on freelance how do I plan to scale? What do I expect to do in 5 years?

For now I'm thinking over several future opportunities, each with its pros and cons.

Switch to a Full-Time On-site Job and Relocate

For the last years I've managed to obtain a lot of experience. Now it probably makes sense to leverage it for finding an on-site job in a well developed country, then use it for relocation purposes.

That's my least favourite option although that's exactly what clever people do.

I'm not a big fan of the idea because it implies a full-time employment while I like independent contractor format of work: being paid for getting things done.

Secondly, when company is ready to relocate it typically means on-site processes, while I more like remote.

Is it all worth relocation? Maybe yes.
Will it make me happier? Most likely not.

However, in the longest term it seems like the most proper choice. Definitely uncomfortable but eventually rewarding.

Switch From Freelance to a Full-Time Remote Job

Indeed, when you are an independent contractor and contracts are long-term it's very hard to distinguish it from a full-time remote job. In many ways it's just a question of attitude.

However, full-time job implies a little bit more of a stability and lower stress level. It also brings opportunities of advancing career within a given company which is hardly  available for freelancers.

Definitely an option that is worth consideration.

Advance as a Freelancer

I believe I still have a lot of room for growth in that direction. More challenging projects, higher quality, more responsibility. I love the craftsman mindset and the endless process of mastering the skill.

I haven't got bored with software engineering and it still drives me. I'm also getting more T-shaped, trying to boost skills in areas related to iOS development. Such as backend development and UI/UX design.

That's 1000x more engaging process like playing any MMORPG.

The steps I make are the building the blocks for further opportunities for scaling my freelance career and higher earnings.

All these steps may open opportunities for increasing my $ rate and higher earnings.

Freelance often feels like a fixed-gear bicycle that you can't coast and it also lacks some typical career advancement options within a company.

However, I don't feel like working in same company for decades. I just love changes and dopamine.

Scale Up Freelance to an Agency

Scaling up from a freelancer to an agency feels like the most proper way from the capitalist's point of view.

On the one hand, it removes the fixed gear from a freelancer's bicycle cash flow.

On the other hand, it means dropping the engineer craftsman role that I love and becoming a manager which I personally don't like. I'm a sort of control freak and it's terribly hard for me to rely on other people.

I'm not sure if it will make me at least marginally happier. TBH, I'm sure it won't.

It also makes an "Switch to a Full-Time On-site Job and Relocate" opportunity hardly possible because relocation as a manager is much harder that relocation as an engineer.

Scale Up By Building My Own Projects

Last but not least option is to bootstrap my own side projects into profitable startups.
Probably a thing that every second software engineer dreams about, including me.

In my opinion that is a very compelling way of all possible career advancements. Potentially the most interesting and rewarding but also the most risky.

To be honest, I blame myself a lot for thinking a lot about it, talking about it, but not doing anything about it.

Let's switch to the next paragraph now.

Let's Learn From Other People's Experience

They say: "let's learn from other people's experience". Ok, let's see.
You know what?

I've managed to gather a full house of all possible cases above among my mates.
It looks like all options above are more or less equally good. Each one with its pros and cons but without an ultimate winner.

That's exactly why it's hard to make a choice.

What Does My Heart Say?

I feel like advancing as a freelancer is the most suitable option for me personally.
First of all, I'm already there. So for me it's not about starting a freelance career which is damn hard.

Secondly, it's the most versatile option. I can tune it a little bit towards full-time if I want to. Otherwise I can go part-time and easily combine it with side projects. If I get too old and tired I scale up to an agency.

Freelance business to an agency transition is very natural. As for relocation options. Well it's still possible to relocate as a freelancer to a number of countries. Hard but doable.