in two lists

What’s the point of freelancing in 2024?

Remote work isn't hard to find anymore

By Shea Lord |
May 27th, 2024
in two lists

What’s the point of freelancing in 2024?

Remote work isn't hard to find anymore

By Shea Lord |
May 27th, 2024

When you’re ready to quit, remember why you started. And then decide if it’s still worth continuing.

The #1 reason I started freelancing was to have location independence. In 2016, that was hard to find.

  • But 2020 changed that. And even while many companies are now trying to claw back their COVID-era policies, it’s still reasonably easy to find a full-time remote position in motion design.


Our earliest written evidence for ‘freelance’ comes from Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, in which a lord refers to his paid army of ‘free lances’. When freelance first came into the English language in the early 1800s, it was used to refer to a medieval mercenary who would fight for whichever nation or person paid them the most.

List 1: The benefits of full-time

  • PTO + Sick leave
  • Maternity/Paternity leave
  • Inclusion in company perks
  • Work friends AFK* / office culture
  • Company contributions to 401k, HSA
  • Bonuses & other incentives, stock options
  • Over-the-shoulder learning from peers/superiors
  • No cost to you for equipment, software, plugins, etc.
  • Having the office option, office amenities (gym, cafe, etc)

N.B. Is health insurance really a benefit? (USA)

  • Even if a company covers 100% of your insurance (rare) it’s still coming out of your salary offer.
  • Companies essentially get “bulk rates” on health insurance, so that discount gets passed on to the employee.
  • But my experience has been that freelancing allows me to make more than enough money to compensate for the difference, and then some.

List 2: The benefits (and caveats) of freelancing

  • Location independence
    • Unless the studio wants you on-site
  • Make your own schedule
    • But it has to fit into your client’s schedule
  • Say no to work you don’t like
    • Unless you need the money
  • Set your own rates
    • Enjoy the game of negotiating money
  • Flexibility to structure your business any way you like
    • Just make sure it supports your clients’ structure
  • No ceiling on how much money you can make
    • Assuming you can find the work and budgets and get it done
  • Answer to no boss
    • But risk never getting called back if you are inconsiderate

Freelancing puts the weight of each responsibility squarely on you. I had to ask myself if it was really worth it now that remote and hybrid work are commonplace.

Are you a freelancer, or just overemployed?

Most small businesses (<$40 million annual revenue) survive thanks to their regulars. I’m no different.

  • In 2023 I made $309k. 46% was from 1 client. 
  • I was basically an employee for two different companies. Plus taking on more sporadic work from several other sources.
  • And I’m willing to bet most studios break down similarly
    • If freelancers are pseudo-employees, studios are treated like some kind of extracorporeal IT department.

Client POV: 

  • It’s more convenient for companies/agencies/studios to avoid bulky headcount by keeping a roster of regular freelancers.
  • These gigs can be cut at any time without consequence
  • Reliable freelancers are difficult to find, but so are reliable employees.

Freelance POV:

  • Regular, reliable income is the foundation of stability and scale
  • But you end up being treated as an employee, without the benefits
  • Your gig could be cut at any moment, so you have to diversify your clients

The catch: That second highest number, the 26.4% client? 

  • That team was let go without notice and the gig cut in half earlier this year. 
  • At the top of the year, I lost a client (layoffs, changeover) who had accounted for 35% of my income in 2022.
  • And who’s to say how long that 46% golden goose will last?

So, what’s the point of freelancing in 2024?

It’s tough out there. 

  • Inflation is high
  • Budgets are stringent
  • Motion work is rapidly commoditizing
  • Video and motion are ubiquitous, therefore necessary but also less effective than it used to be for our clients

My thought bubble: Freelancing doesn’t always mean more freedom— unless money isn’t a priority.

But in the current climate of frequent mass-layoffs, having diverse sources of income (freelancing) is a much safer bet in the long term.