In Defence Of The 9-5: The Unappreciated Perks Of A Steady Job

Another day, another freelance humblebrag update on Twitter. They’re now so de rigueur, they appear to have overtaken engagement announcements, new babies and even ‘We’re buying a house!’ posts. If there were an adult equivalent of ‘I’m doing a gap year’, this would almost certainly be it.
Going freelance – whether that’s writing, illustrating or producing – may seem like a dream career move, trading difficult bosses and negative office politics for the freedom to make your own schedule (even if said schedule includes popping out for a gelato and stretching it out for two hours…).
Advertisement
But while others dream of sacking off the 9-5 for sunnier climes (or even the prized seat in your local coffee shop), I’m definitely in the minority when I say I feel most comfortable working a full-time job. There was a 43% increase in freelancers in the UK between 2008-16, with the current total standing at an estimated 2 million. With reports suggesting that half of us will be self-employed by 2020, it’s not hard to see why millennials are rewriting the rule book in an era where a ‘job for life’ seems positively quaint. After all, taking a career break in your 20s or upping sticks to Italy is infinitely more attractive than being stuck on the Central line on a stuffy day.
I don't understand when it became so passé (or even uncool) to admit that I’m in my element working 9-5 for someone else. While I don't begrudge anyone the chance to work for themselves, admitting you have no desire to forgo the 9-5 has almost become akin to failure. As if freelancing is the real marker of adulting, or solid proof that you are so developed in your field that you don’t need a brand or a company behind you to ride solo.

Admitting you have no desire to forgo the 9-5 has almost become akin to failure – as if freelancing is the real marker of adulting.

But while I get the occasional pang of envy when I see my freelance friends post Instagrams of their boozy midweek brunch when I’m jostling for a seat on the Tube, I’m keenly aware that I’ve never been one of those people that can eschew office life to sit solitarily tapping away in a room (or having to pay for a skinny Frappuccino to justify using up the Wi-Fi in Starbucks). If anything, I thrive in a busy, buzzing office where camaraderie is the backbone of my working day. It’s such a crucial component of my professional life that I’ve ended up rejecting second interviews and job offers if I don’t get a good vibe from the people. The office Christmas party, Secret Santa and all the charades that go along with it is something that I actually relish, not dread. My working life is peppered with lunches with colleagues, after-work drinks and witty emails traded back and forth and I truly believe it has made me more successful at my job. I recently won a major industry award and have been nominated for several others and I’m convinced that wouldn’t have happened as a freelancer, as I would be too busy down an Instagram rabbit hole, staving off loneliness, to focus on the task at hand.
Sue Clarke, life, career and business coach at www.inthehotseat.co.uk agrees. She says that while most freelancers may escape many of the stresses of working for an employer and saying goodbye to the rat race, freelancing can bring its own stresses: "If you’re the sort of person who thrives in company, with a supportive team about you, colleagues to bounce ideas off and encourage you, it’s important to ensure you find ways to replicate this. Otherwise you can rapidly feel isolated and lonely, start ruminating, and with only your own voice for company, lose perspective or fall into negativity or low moods."
Advertisement
And not unlike other young professionals, it’s hard not to link your self-worth to your career successes. So the prospect of freelancing, where your self-esteem is entirely dependent on the amount of work you’ve been commissioned, is something for which I could never trade a seemingly unending workload. I much prefer to work towards a shared goal – in my case, that’s hitting deadlines before magazines go to print – and office culture (or at least mine) is geared towards a team effort. Contrarily, freelancing can at times appear to be a cut-throat world. Christine*, 29, a London-based freelance copywriter agrees: "When you see someone else doing something great, it’s hard not to think 'Why didn’t I do that when we have the same hours?' You can get so caught up in your weaknesses rather than your strengths." This constant self-doubt is something I know I wouldn’t be able to handle. When Addison Lee, eBay and a change.org petition are the only emails to drop into your inbox rather than an exciting commission from an editor, it’s enough to make even the most secure person question whether they’re in the right field.
The joy I get from the 9-5 probably sounds even odder considering that my twin sister is a successful freelancer who savours making her own schedule. But while she thrives off embracing uncertainty – from not knowing what commission is going to land in her inbox to which event she's going to cover – I much prefer coming into the office in the morning, having prepped my to-do list the previous afternoon before leaving work.

My working life is peppered with lunches with colleagues, after-work drinks and witty emails traded back and forth; I truly believe it has made me more successful at my job.

And just like I enjoy the familiarity of knowing what deadline I have to meet that day, similarly do I relish knowing how much money is going to come in at the end of the month. I still have recurring nightmares of my uni days, where packet noodles were my idea of a good meal, and while I’m sure they wouldn’t be the mainstay of my diet were I to go fully freelance, I wouldn’t swap the Pret lunchtime pilgrimage for constantly having to watch the pennies. And while getting a mortgage isn’t a priority right now, it’s something I can easily do. It’s so much trickier to get a mortgage while self-employed; would I also give up paid sick leave and annual leave?
In an era of constant self-improvement, where having one job or trade alone isn’t enough, my 9-5 affords me chances to constantly grow in my career. While clients wouldn’t consider paying freelancers to attend courses when they can find another freelancer with an existing skill set, contrarily, in a job, self-growth is constantly encouraged and opportunities are aplenty. Sue Clarke concurs, saying time in a role offers you the chance of "training to stay up to date with the latest developments in your field, seek out promotion and climb a ‘career ladder’."
This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy both – we always perceive going freelance as the ultimate opportunity to do what you want to do, but it is possible to gain the benefits of freelance while doing a 9-5! There’s this prevailing image of inflexible bosses but it doesn’t have to be so restrictive. Bosses can be more accommodating than you might initially assume – one friend only accepted a job on the condition that she could freelance on the side, while another negotiated a four-day week so she had the perks of a steady income while having three days a week to pursue freelance work. So it’s entirely possible to make the 9-5 (and occasional freelance world) work for you.
I wish you all the best of luck with your freelance career. Meanwhile, I’ll be clocking off at five (with a round paid for by the boss)…
Advertisement