In case you haven’t heard, remote work and the gig economy are on the rise.

Many countries in the West, including the United States and the UK, are headed toward a workforce that’s made up of 50% freelancers and contractors. The traditional nine-to-five is going the way of the dinosaur as workers realize the benefits of going remote and businesses are taking notice by hiring more freelancers.

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Despite popular belief, however, there are some downsides to the freelance, digital nomad lifestyle which aren’t always advertised. While being your own boss on your own terms can indeed be awesome, those looking to take the plunge themselves should maintain realistic expectations before doing so.

So, what are some of the biggest benefits and potential drawbacks to joining the remote workforce?

Benefit: You Can Live Wherever You Want

The most obvious plus side of working remotely is that you can live just about anywhere you want, granted you can afford it. Whether that means seeking out an AirBNB in Europe for a week or Montreal apartments for a year in search of an entirely new environment, the ability to see the world on your own terms is nothing to scoff at.

Drawback: Your Income is Inconsistent

Truth be told, even the most skilled freelancers go through dry spells or at least periods where they don’t bring in as much money as they anticipated. After all, contracts end and some clients may completely go ghost on you without notice. As a result, freelancers must save and spend wisely in case of “what-if” scenarios and slow seasons.

Benefit: Your Income Doesn’t Have a Cap

When you’re a freelancer, time is money. If you have the bandwidth to take on new clients and business, the only thing holding you back is your schedule. Likewise, freelancers can raise their rates accordingly rather than be stuck with a stagnant salary and no room for growth.

Drawback: You’re Constantly Hustling

Even if your schedule is full, freelancers are expected to consistently prospect for new clients in case someone on their current roster falls through. This can lead to long, stressful days and feelings of burnout for those unaccustomed to having to hustle to put food on the table. Although most freelancers come to a point where clients start coming to them, those first few years can be rough.

Benefit: You’re Constantly

As a freelancer, there’s perhaps no better way to learn the ropes of marketing, technology and your industry at large when you’re living and breathing it day-in, day-out. By consistently learning about your industry, whether it be marketing or web design, your skill-set evolves accordingly and ultimately makes you more marketable to future clients.

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Drawback: Everything Can Change at a Moment’s Notice

From clients dropping you out of the blue to the ever-changing world of marketing, oftentimes our roles as freelancers can quickly diminish or disappear if we aren’t careful. Again, the need to consistently learn and prospect isn’t just an expectation of being a successful remote worker: it’s a requirement.

With all of this in mind, the rise of the freelance economy spells plenty of good news for freelancers. It’s important to maintain a sense of reality if you plan on going fully remote so you’re not hit with any surprises when you commit to the lifestyle.

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