Stable Job vs. High-Paying Freelance: Which Is a Better Career Choice?

December 5, 2023


Photo by Dmitry Kovalchuk from iStock

【The article wants you to know】
1. Evaluation methods for choosing between a stable low-paying full-time job and a high-paying unstable freelance gig
2. Apart from the unstable project sources, 2 key considerations behind taking on freelance projects
3. A new definition of "comfort zone"

This time, I’m going to answer a question from a reader, Xiao Jing (pseudonym). Her letter is as follows:


Dear Joe and Bryan,

Hello! Whenever I am lost and doubtful, I always habitually search for articles from "Darencademy" . I am also a loyal listener of "JB’s Small Talk", thank you for sharing beneficial things; I have genuinely gained a lot.

I have a doubt in my heart that I have been hesitating for a long time.I am an office worker and also a mother of two children. Because I have no professional skills, I have been engaged in administrative jobs for many years, receiving a fixed salary. My monthly salary is about NT$ 30,000 and overtime pay is calculated separately.

Last year, by chance, I started a freelance job. This job is very similar to tutoring, where customers are introduced through a platform, and I negotiate hours with customers and go to their homes to provide teaching and guidance. Since the pay is quite good, where I can actually receive NT$ 400 to 500 per hour, I have taken cases part-time on holidays. At present, I find it very interesting and fulfilling, and customer satisfaction is also high, with many customers booking the next teaching service.

However, I can only take cases on holidays, so the actual hours are not many. And usually, because I have a full-time job, I can only use the time outside of work to read books and improve the knowledge and abilities needed for freelance work. Therefore, I started to think about whether to quit my full-time job and devote myself to freelance work.

I have made a preliminary evaluation myself: I like the simplicity, regularity, and content of my full-time job, and I get along well with my colleagues, but the salary will not grow, and I cannot have enough time to accumulate freelance experience.

In terms of freelance work, I like its flexibility and high hourly pay, and I also have time to take care of my family. But if I devote myself to freelancing, I am very worried whether the income is stable enough to support family expenses, and whether my body can handle running around and teaching for a long time. Moreover, for such a job change, I also have to face the unpredictable risks after stepping out of my comfort zone.

I like both jobs very much, but each has its pros and cons, and I don’t know how to choose. Facing such a problem, how should I set evaluation criteria? Can both teachers give me some advice?

Xiao Jing


In response to Xiao Jing’s question, that is, "Should I give up a stable, low-paying job and engage in unstable but high hourly paid freelance work?"

As usual, I will not give a standard answer directly because my knowledge of some details in her life is limited. It’s difficult to directly suggest choosing A or B.

However, through this article, I want to provide some of my thought processes to give everyone facing similar issues some references.

First, before choosing between two jobs, the most fundamental thing is to consider the following two questions.

Question One: Do You Like This Job?

No matter which job is chosen, whether you like the job is a crucial prerequisite. Because if you don't like a job, even if it pays well, it will be hard for you to be fully invested and enjoy doing it well.

You might ask: "Can’t I do a job that I don’t like?"

Yes, you can, but there are only two situations where I think the job can still be done even if you don’t like it.

First, you might not like the job, but you are very good at it and can easily complete it. This way, at least you can get economic returns and a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, the economic returns of the job are incredibly high, for example, the job allows you to feel super worthwhile and forget the parts you don’t like.

Encountering these two situations, I think you should just go for it! After all, there can be significant returns in accomplishments and salary. However, for most people, there are actually few opportunities to encounter such situations. Therefore, I still recommend everyone to choose a job they like.

Question Two: What Exactly Are You Pursuing in Your Work?

Everyone has their own goals when going out to work. For instance, some people might not be after the salary but rather look to make friends, while some hope to achieve a balance between work and life. I think there is no right or wrong in these pursuits.

However, you need to delve deep into your heart. During the work process, what is the most important thing that you gain from investing a month or a day of your time? This can help clarify what goals you want to pursue in your work.

Whether you choose a stable, low-paying job or unstable, high hourly paid freelance work, or even when choosing any job, the above two questions are fundamental things we should consider to help understand what we want.

When you know what you are seeking, you can move on to the next stage of consideration, evaluating whether to give up a stable job to choose freelancing. In particular, although freelancing seems to offer a high hourly wage and flexible hours, I believe two things still need to be assessed:

First, the Long-Term Nature of the Work

Compared to regular full-time jobs, freelancing is generally more unstable. For example, you might initially think that due to inconsistent client sources, it cannot maintain stability for a long time. But I suggest you should think further ahead what is the long-term demand for this freelance job?

For instance, if you are tutoring, helping students with physics or math, and if there are no significant changes in the education system or curriculum, perhaps you can do this job for a long time.

However, if the knowledge you are teaching now is a short-term trend, like many people doing Podcasts in recent years, you might think you can teach people how to record programs, purchase equipment, etc. This year, there might be people wanting to learn, but next year or the year after, Podcasts might go out of fashion, and then nobody will want to take your class.

So, you still have to evaluate whether the content of this freelance job has long-term demand.

Second, Financial Considerations

Let's do a simple calculation. If your current full-time job pays NT$ 30,000, plus freelancing on holidays, you can earn NT$ 40,000 a month.

However, suppose you fully commit to freelancing and earn an hourly wage of NT$ 500. Working 80 hours will give you NT$ 40,000. Eighty hours are equivalent to 10 working days. If your freelancing is stable and legitimate, then in about 20 working days a month, you could earn NT$ 80,000.

However, many freelancing jobs, despite seeming to offer a high hourly wage, might still involve many hidden costs. For example, commuting costs might be incurred when you travel to different tutoring students' homes. Moreover, some tutoring platforms might also take a commission from your earnings, among other considerations. These are all crucial factors because they imply that even if you work full-time, there will be an upper limit to the hours you can freelance.

Next, the stability of your clientele is, of course, a critical consideration in deciding whether or not to switch to full-time freelancing.

So, if financial factors are crucial in your consideration, I would suggest you test it gradually.

Wait until the freelancing work is stable, and the financial aspect is comparable to your full-time job or at a level you can accept before considering committing full-time to freelancing.

Lastly, I would like to discuss a concern mentioned at the end of Xiao Jing's letter, which is "stepping out of the comfort zone might encounter unpredictable risks." Let’s reconsider the concept of the "comfort zone."

Many people might feel that working in a company for 20 years, with familiar supervisors, colleagues, and mastering the job, is their comfort zone. But I don't think so.

I believe the "comfort zone" refers to an environment that you can fully grasp and control.

However, there is actually no permanent comfort zone in life; instead, you should continually strive to expand the boundaries of your comfort zone.

What does this mean?

Think about it. You are currently engaged in an administrative position, which seems stable, but suppose one day your boss wants to replace you with someone younger and lower-salaried, you are forced to leave the position, and it's no longer your comfort zone. Especially, the replaceability in administrative jobs is high; you can’t fully assure everlasting security in this position.

If you suddenly consider freelancing when forced out without preparation, it implies instability in your situation. But if you start preparing now, embracing it with a part-time mentality, building a reputation, optimizing processes, and considering how to gain a more stable clientele, then over one or two years, as you gain more control over the freelancing work, it becomes your next comfort zone. When the comfort zone of your full-time job crumbles, you’ll still have another comfort zone to turn to.

Moreover, sometimes what you consider a comfort zone is not genuinely "comfortable."

For instance, in your original family home, you may be accustomed to your room, bed, etc., and unwilling to leave. However, without autonomy, where parents might storm into your room in anger, it’s not truly comfortable; it's just that you are used to it.

I've always believed that "autonomy" is crucial within a comfort zone.

Imagine moving out and living independently as you grow older. Although initially, there are adjustments and numerous matters to handle yourself, once you step out, the new home becomes your new comfort zone where no one can disturb you. You can play video games until midnight or do whatever you want, extending your autonomy and controlling the situation. That’s true comfort.

When you continuously expand your comfort zone while maintaining autonomy, that’s when you can genuinely thrive for the long term!

You can also accompany this article with our Podcast show "JB's Small Talk".


Narrator/Joe Chang ;Editor/Amanda Chiu

(This article is translated by the Digital Nomad editor group.)

This content is protected by copyright. Please respect the author's work and do not copy or distribute without permission.

張國洋 Joe Chang

張國洋 Joe Chang

Joe is the founder of"Digital Nomad," "DarenCademy," and "PROJECT UP."Additionally, he leads Fast Track Project Management Services and works as a management lecturer and project consultant for various listed companies in Taiwan.His articles employ rational thinking and logical analysis, covering topics such as career planning, personal growth, and business management. Popular online courses offered by Joe include "Managing Your Life with Business Thinking" and "Systematic Selling of Professional Services."