Career Growth

Freelance or In-House? Here’s How Content Marketers Decide

Sam Lauron
March 21, 2022

Freelancing has been the topic of many career conversations lately, and for a good reason. For folks looking to work for themselves—or perhaps searching for an alternative to an in-house career trajectory— freelancing is an increasingly attractive path. And according to Superpath's Content Marketing Salary Report, freelancer writers are doing quite well. The average freelance content marketer makes $105,787, compared to $91,502 for in-house content folks.

But does that mean freelancing is necessarily the right career path for content marketers? With the content marketing industry seeing so much growth, what are the benefits of full-time roles?

The overall content marketing landscape has changed significantly over the last two years, and it's led to a significant shift not only in the way people work but the way companies source content. The demand for content has been high, which means there's plenty of work for freelancers and in-house marketers.

To better understand what leads people to choose freelance vs. in-house—or even job hop between the two—we conducted a quick survey and spoke to a few folks about their experiences. (You can see the survey questions here.)

Key Takeaways

  • People choose to transition from a 9-5 to freelance because of the type of work, while the primary reason people decide to go into a full-time role is for money (more explanations below).
  • Having experience with freelance and in-house roles can help inform what you're looking for in your next role.
  • Nothing is set in stone. There are always opportunities to move into one role and back to the other. Often, timing or external situations are factors (e.g., pandemic-related layoffs, major life changes, etc.).

In-House ➡️ Freelance

Freelancing has been picking up steam lately. 82.6% of survey respondents said they have transitioned from a full-time job to freelance at some point in their career. The main reason for this transition was the "type of work" (77.8%). As a freelancer, everything from the projects you take on to the clients you work with is entirely in your control. This autonomy, combined with the ability to focus on what you like to do, is a significant factor in many people's decision to freelance.

Here are some detailed responses to the reasons:

  • "I wanted to choose my projects and control the process and outcome of my work."
  • "Due to covid, I was laid off. I didn't want to look for another FT role right away, so I started freelancing while I figured out my long-term plan. Turns out freelancing IS my long-term plan—I love the freedom, make more money, and am way happier."
  • "Freelance work allows me to work on my different interests in the industries I am interested in. Also, the work schedule is more flexible, and I can get work done when I'm more productive."

Claire Beveridge, a self-employed content marketing consultant who works with companies on content strategy, content writing, and editing, took the leap into full-time freelancing in September 2021 after 11 years of moonlighting.

"I had previously held a position where I was chronically undervalued," says Claire. "As a result, my professional self-esteem was at an all-time career low, but that only propelled something deep inside to want to get out of that rut and prove to myself that I'm exceptional at what I do and rebuild my worth."

After taking the leap into full-time freelancing, Claire has doubled her income and works 20% fewer hours. However, she credits her breadth of experience both in-house and freelance with helping her build a well-rounded career.

"I think that having the experience of working in-house, freelance, remote (pre-pandemic), and at agencies has helped give me a holistic view on the world of business, and every experience I've had has helped me get to where I am today."

Freelance ➡️ In-House

We hear a lot about full-time content marketing folks leaving their roles to go freelance. But what about the other way around? Even when it feels like much of the workforce is shifting towards going solo, the stability and structure of an in-house role can offer undeniable long-term benefits at every stage of your career.

52.2% of survey respondents say they have transitioned from freelancing to an in-house role at some point in their careers. The primary reason for this was "money" (90.9%). While freelancing can be a lucrative path, in-house roles tend to offer more stable salaries, not to mention benefits which can be very expensive for freelancers. Plus, in-house roles provide a clear career path and pay increases for content folks as they gain experience. Case in point: the Superpath salary report found that those with 8+ years of experience make $116,973 on average.

Here are a few more elaborated responses:

  • "I wanted a more stable income and a more reliable schedule. I also needed better/cheaper health insurance!"
  • "After 5 years on my own, I discovered I was really lousy at the myriad details that go into running a business."
  • "The main reasons I'm looking to go back are that I want more financial stability (I'm recently engaged and have been thinking more about that/future needs), I miss the social aspect of it (working from home gets lonely), and I like the structured growth/career potential that comes from a corporate position (I want a place where I can develop my skills, be mentored, and move up)."

For Kat Ambrose, Content Marketer at Shogun, freelancing left her with little room to collaborate and grow within the industry.

"Trying to balance running a freelance business, doing client work, prospecting, etc., left me little energy to learn more about content marketing and hone my skills," says Kat. "Not to mention it bled into my personal life."

After freelancing for 3.5 years, Kat chose to take on an in-house role at Shogun. Her advice for anyone considering moving from a solo freelance role to an in-house position is to do your research, especially regarding who you might be working with. "Don't forget: You're in the driver's seat," says Kat. "Only apply for roles at companies that light you up."

While Kat doesn't currently see herself pursuing freelancing in the near future, she knows it's an option for her career.

"I really love being full-time and being part of a team, so I can't say I have a desire to go back at this point. But it's nice to know freelancing is there in case my career ever takes me down that path again!"

Job-Hopping: The New Career Path

It's not uncommon for full-time content marketers to take on freelance work on the side. Of the survey respondents currently in a 9-5 role, 80% said they could see themselves pursuing freelance on the side in the future. And according to the salary report, 32% of content folks currently have an in-house role and freelance on the side.

However, some people aren't married to one or the other and choose to bounce between freelancing and in-house, essentially "job hopping" throughout their careers. For those currently freelancing, 31.3% said they could see themselves going into a full-time role in the future.

Several survey respondents reported going from freelance to full-time and back to freelance. Here are some of their reasons:

  • "I'd been freelancing for a long time (over a decade) but hit a ceiling both in terms of the money I was able to make and the type of assignments I was able to get. I took a full-time job (with an existing client) and stayed for about a year -- it was a great learning experience, and being on the other side of things I was able to see where else I could grow that would help me as a freelancer. Once I started freelancing again, I was able to apply that knowledge to my freelance business."
  • "Going full-time after freelancing for the first part of my career was a smart decision and taught me a lot — but ultimately, I came back to freelancing since it provided me with much more of what I'm looking for out of work."

For Amanda Cross, a freelance content writer for HR technology companies, the pandemic prompted her initial move from freelance to full-time. After freelancing from 2017 to 2020, Amanda decided to take a job in-house as the state of her niche, HR tech, was in limbo at that time.

"Back in 2020, when I decided to go in-house, so much about the pandemic was a mystery," says Amanda. "I went in-house with one of my clients because they were looking for a marketing coordinator, and I was looking for more stability in my career."

After about a year working in-house, Amanda decided to go back to freelancing. The reason was two-fold: "The biggest [reason] was the FOMO I felt when I had to turn away awesome freelance clients due to competition or not having enough time to devote to freelancing," says Amanda. "The second reason was money. I felt capped in my potential in-house, and I knew that I could make more money if I were on my own."

Though she's currently freelancing, Amanda believes she will continue to flip back and forth between freelance and full-time as each role offers many growth opportunities.

"Being in-house gave me more empathy for in-house marketers," says Amanda. "If you are a freelancer and thinking of going back in-house, it's important to remember that you aren't solo anymore. There are people everywhere who will drop what they are doing to support you. You just need to let them!"

How to Choose Between Freelance and In-House

Content marketers have many paths to explore and don't have to feel tied to either one. According to these survey responses, many choose one over the other to accelerate their career, accommodate life changes and/or follow their passion.

Choosing between freelance and in-house, or opting to balance both, is largely subjective and really depends on your current goals. Want to work for yourself and develop your business skills? Try freelancing. Seeking more mentorship or a clear career path? Go in-house. Do you want to dip your toes into freelancing without leaving behind the stability of a 9-5? Consider moonlighting.

Each of these career paths can be rewarding (naturally), but with the state of the content marketing industry looking pretty bright, it's safe to say that either option is worth exploring.

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