Office Escape Routes

5 Freelance Careers

Many careers can be parlayed into self-employed ventures.  In fact, on some level just about anything can. In a previous entry I discussed how Graphic Designers can just as easily be self-employed (well, maybe not AS easily) as office slaves. For your entertainment here is a fun list I concocted of some of these careers. Enjoy!

Graphic Designer

Average Employed Earnings: $37,000/year (after 5 years)

Average Self-Employed Earnings: Unknown, but probably over $50,000 /year

laptopblueWhy It’s better to work for yourself: Graphic Design is one of those fields that can be very customized. If you put together a good portfolio, start a web-site showcasing your work, and have a good ability to promote your skills, you can pick up freelance jobs. 3 out of 10 designers are self-employed, (25% in 2008) so it isn’t like you’d be treading dangerous, uncharted waters (even though this might appeal to you too!) As with anything else, the ceiling for earnings is much higher if you work for yourself in this field. Some companies pay a tidy sum to designers for certain projects. After doing this for awhile and making contacts, you can do all your work from home whenever you’d like as long as you meet deadlines. With this career, you’ll always be working for your clients in the end, but you choose what projects to take on, who to work with, when you work, and how you work.

Side note: I knew a girl who was in graphic design. She went to a for-profit institution to learn the ropes, paid over $20,000 a year while in school and has worked for a few companies now for five years. She is barely getting by, is still repaying her loans, and doesn’t save a dime. Some of this might be because of her shopping addiction and divorce, but, what can you do? Don’t do what she did.


Average Employed Earnings: About $52,000/year

Average Self-employed Earnings: Varies widely. Some make more, some less.

Why it’s better to work for yourself: A large majority of editors work for one company, but there are a handful of people with a good eye for the written word who take on editing assignments for large companies on their own free time. In sense, like with Graphic Design, a freelance editor works for his or her clients, but can also choose what assignments to take on. There are a number of small businesses out there which dedicated editors have begun with the intention of being able to pick and choose these assignments. Here is one such example. One advantage of this system is the editor’s ability to work with a larger variety of material. This can enhance their experience in the field and make them more marketable. This sure beats looking over the same types of documents over and over and never really seeing anything new. The other advantage is that (like other self-employed ventures) the ceiling for income is generally higher. But, don’t kid yourself. Earnings can also be much lower, especially once you start out.

Financial Planner/Analyst

Average Employed Earnings: About $57,000 per year, but less at first

Average Self-Employed Earnings: A whole truckload more. Over $100,000 per year

moneycoinWhy it’s better to work for yourself: Namely, the income. The advantage of running your own practice and cutting off the hand that feeds you at a large firm is that you can really bring in the dough. If you are a money-oriented person in this line of work (and chances are good that in this field, you are) you will not be disappointed if you decide to take the plunge and go into business for yourself here. Many self-employed Financial Analysts will work for well-off individuals and companies. This is where the greatest sources of income can be made. But be wary of this career path if you are adverse to hard work. It takes a lot to get to the point where you can run your own practice.

Note: (12/21/2008) Since writing this article in 2007 I have come to realize that financial planners are struggling greatly with the market the way it is right now.  Tread lightly.


Average Employed Salary: Varies depending on experience and schooling. Entry-level counselors make peanuts (like less than $30,000/year.) Doctoral level psychologists make $70,000/year or so.

Average Self-employed Salary: Much higher. Probably over $120,000/year

Why it’s better to work for yourself: You can make more, and you also run the show as far as hours go. Psychologists who open their own practices are able to select the hours they wish to work, what types of patients they will see, and hire who they wish to hire for help. There is a much greater amount of flexibility. It takes a lot of work to get here, but if you are the kind of person who loves to help others and you can maintain a cheery, optimistic attitude after a day of dealing with people’s issues, this career might not be a bad one for the aspiring entrepreneur.

Tour/Travel Guide

Average Employed Earnings: $8-$12/hour, sometimes more

Average Self-Employed Earnings: Much more, especially if the guide has connections

machupicuWhy it’s better to work for yourself: This is an exciting and wonderful field. Imagine taking a group of people who are on vacation (and are probably in a good mood as a result) to a bunch of exotic locations, getting discounted or even free places to stay, enjoying the local scenery, and making new friends. There are many adventure guides who have connections or roots in a country where they know people and places well. It’s possible to start a business and arrange airfare, hotel stays, and meals for tourists and make quite a profit. The upside here is the experience, though. It’s been said that because of the aging population of baby-boomers there will be a large demand in the near future for senior travel tours. The market might be expanding.



  • Jenny August 27, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Any references on these numbers? Particularly those you state as “more” or “a whole truckload more”?


  • Annette August 27, 2007 at 10:27 am

    I agree with Jenny – how do we know these individuals make more than their counterparts? In addition, what of hidden costs? For example, a freelance individual that must pay for health insurance when a company would have offered it to them.


  • Wendy August 27, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    On working as a freelance editor — it really helps to know people! Most of the business, especially the really lucrative jobs, comes from who you know and who refers you to whom! Testimonials are important, too. Work begets work. Oh, by the way, I love your site, Mike!


  • Mike August 27, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    The problem with assigning average earnings to specific careers when it comes to freelance/self-employment is that the range is enormous. Most businesses go through start-up phases that last for a period of time where earnings are very meager.

    It’s important to realize that these careers cannot guarantee certain levels of income once a person is self-employed. That’s the whole notion of self-employment – that you are in charge of your earings (and a whole lot more.) I could cite multiple references, but there are different “averages” given dependent on length of time in practice, type of practice within the field, and size of firm (number of employees.) Health insurance is also a cost (if you want some in this country.) Too bad the US has such a shoddy system in place.

    Overall, once you make the leap from employee to entrepreneur, you must learn to forsake averages and make the plunge into the unknown. It’s not about an unchanging number anymore (salary.)


  • Scott Jackson August 28, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    I would guess some of those averages are really skewed, if you looked at their distribution, like graphic designer.


  • Mike August 28, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    This is true. An “average” is probably very different in meaning from one career to another. 90% of Graphic Designers might make below $40,000 per year, but the small percent who make $100,000 or more mess up the averages. I don’t know if this is true for the particular careers I have chosen, but I’ll explore this further.


  • Scott Jackson August 29, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Also psychologist is a little different as that requires a PHD for counseling and usually you want to get some other credentials, like ABPP.


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