In-Person vs. Online Freelancing: Which One’s Better for You?


Freelancing is known for being a versatile profession, in that depending on your niche, you have the opportunity to work beyond the traditional office setting. If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you often have to make two choices. First, you need to determine the niche (or niches – I suggest focusing on three at the most) you want to specialize in. Second, consider your approach to those niches – would you prefer to complete most of your work in person, or primarily online? Whether you choose to focus on in-person or online freelancing, it’s important to understand the pluses and minuses of both.

Real-Life Networking

There’s no doubt that we live in a digitized age – in seconds, we can connect with people and content from around the world. It’d seem, then, that in-person freelancing would be more a thing of the past. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially if you freelance in the construction, art, and design industries – after all, those niches generally require working in physical locations at least some of the time! You might even have a real-life shop/store in addition to an online presence. That being said, the main downside of in-person freelancing is the additional costs that can be incurred for travel (even if it’s just for fuel), equipment, and rental spaces.

What, then, of two other popular freelancing niches, writing and editing? If you’re a writer and your focus is journalism, then local newspapers and print magazines will at some point require you to actually gather, in person, material for articles, etc. It can even be a great opportunity to travel! As an editor in the journalism field, much of your work can be done remotely, yet at the same time, you’d probably have to visit a company office to evaluate some aspects of the media you’re participating in.

So, the main benefit of in-person freelancing is the people you meet, because these people can become clients, or referrals to future clients. Yes, there really are some people in this world who prefer in-person meetings to online conference calls! Besides, for many sorts of consultations, brainstorming is an important part, and online consultations, no matter how well-meaning, still create that pervading impersonal atmosphere. No matter how far technology advances, it can’t replace the meaningfulness that is real-life networking. Speaking of technology…

Technology Is Both Terrific and Terrible

There are some freelancing niches (transcription specifically comes to mind) in which online freelancing is probably the best option. As has already been mentioned, there’s an immediacy to the online world that has an advantage over “real life.” Aside from Internet and software subscription costs, there’s generally less overhead in the long run because there’s little to no travel. However, at the same time, there can be communication misunderstandings/glitches, and it can be more difficult to discern legitimate opportunities from scammers. Plus, there’s a tendency to work more and for longer hours at lower pay rates.

Not Just for Newbies

I think it’s important to mention that even the most seasoned of freelancers sometimes decide to segue from in-person to online freelancing, or vice versa. After all, change is often what keeps us freelancers motivated to continue on this career path. It’s that discernment and versatility that can give us a competitive edge when it comes to employability, no matter the status of the economy.

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