When you’re deciding on who is going to be helping you write your animal articles, you might be wondering whether it’s better to get a freelancer or hire an employee. There are pros and cons to both options, but hopefully this article will help you decide whether a freelance pet writer or a new staff member is the best choice for your business.

Freelance writers vs employees – what’s the difference?

Firstly, what’s the difference between a freelance writer and an employee? Well, freelance writers are self-employed – they’re liable for their own tax, holiday pay, securities, insurance, equipment, and other costs. They’ll usually invoice you, and you’ll pay the invoice as a business expense.

More information about self-employment in the US and in the UK.

Employees, on the other hand, have certain rights – while these depend slightly on your country, they may include a paid holiday entitlement, national insurance contributions, and a pension. You may also have to pay tax as an employer, as well as deal with their tax if it’s taken at source (PAYE). You’ll usually pay a weekly or monthly salary to an employee through payroll.

More information about employing people in the US and in the UK.

Is it cheaper to hire a freelancer or an employee?

Freelancers generally charge more per hour than you would pay your employee, so at first glance they look more expensive. But because an employee comes with extra costs like paid holiday, the employee can cost more in the long run.

Which is better depends a lot on how many hours work you need doing – if it’s close to full time, you might be better off hiring an employee. But if you can’t fill their days with plenty of tasks, you’re probably going to be better off with a freelancer.

Conclusion: Freelancers may look more expensive, but it depends on your situation

Freelance writer vs employee: what happens when there’s no work?

Another difference between a self-employed freelance pet writer and an employee is what happens when there’s no work for them to do. You don’t have any obligation to send work to the freelancer. No work, no invoice, no costs to your business. On the other hand, you’ll usually be paying your employee regardless of what work you actually give them to do day-to-day. If business isn’t going well, it can be frustrating paying your employees to have done nothing – although of course, good management can make sure they’re always kept busy.

If your business starts to struggle, it’s easy to tell your freelancers they are no longer required with very little notice – usually none, as long as they aren’t currently working on a project. But with employees, you have to give them legal notice and may even find it very hard to legally let an employee ‘go’.

Conclusion: If the work is sporadic or uncertain, you might be better off with a freelance writer rather than an employee.

Working hours for freelance writers vs employees

Freelancers, like other self-employed people, set their own hours. They might only work a couple of hours a day, or may work weekends, or nights. They may also take holidays whenever they like. Although you can politely request they give you plenty of notice, you can’t make them, and you don’t get any say in when that holiday is. In fact, ability to set your schedule is one of the hallmarks of a self-employed person – once you start demanding they request holiday in advance or work certain days, they’re getting dangerously close to being an employee. (And if you are treating them like an employee but aren’t paying them as such this can get you in a lot of trouble with the tax authorities in your country!).

On the other hand, you can set your employee’s hours and holiday rules. You may want to offer flexi working in order to attract a range of candidates, but you don’t have to. You’ll get to approve their holiday and get plenty of warning of impending maternity leave.

Conclusion: If when the work is done is going to be essential to you, you might want to consider an employee instead of a freelance writer.

(Note – if the last-minute holiday request/maternity leave thing is a worry, one of the advantages of using The Veterinary Content Company is that we have other vet writers to take over if one leaves. More on that later!)

Taking priority

Freelancers generally have many clients/customers at a time, so may not be able to take short-notice or priority work if they’re already busy. While most are happy to try to flex things around, you’ll often find they simply can’t take on a project with a short deadline. Or they may charge a premium and work late into the night to get your work done.

When you have an employee, you’re in control of how they spend their work time to a far greater extent. You can change their projects at a moment’s notice, meaning they are sometimes more flexible to take short-deadline pieces.

Conclusion: If you’re going to change your mind at the last minute or require urgent turnaround work, you’ll either need an employee or a very understanding freelancer!

Control over finished product

With an employee, most contracts stipulate that anything they create when working for you belongs to you. With a freelancer, how much of the finished product is yours will depend on your contract with them. Freelance pet writers might ‘sell’ you the whole finished article, but they may also sell you it on a limited basis. Make sure you’re clear about what you’re getting before you buy.

You’ll also usually have more control over what you want the finished content to look like and how you want it produced if you use an employee rather than a freelancer. Freelancers are just that – free – and while you can usually nudge them in a direction or ask for something specific in the final product, they generally reserve the right to produce the content in their own way. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – freelance pet writers can bring interesting new ideas to the table when given a bit of space! Plenty of freelancers are also happy to use the tools you suggest, but you do give up a little bit of control when hiring a freelancer.

Conclusion: If the exact method and tools used are essential, hiring an employee might be a better bet.

No legal obligations to freelancer – they are responsible for organising their own pensions, holiday leave, sick leave etcLegal employer obligations such as a minimum wage, pensions, holiday leave, sick leave, social/national security etc depending on country
Usually more expensive per hour (but sometimes less expensive overall)Usually less expensive per hour (but more expensive overall)
Can stop hiring with no repercussions in most casesHave to be paid even when business is doing badly
Set their own hoursDo the hours you hire them to do (although this can be flexible)
Freelancer has complete control over holiday and leaveYou can approve or refuse holiday and leave requests or ask staff to take holiday at certain times
Have other clients, so you may not take priority and urgent requests may be refusedWork just for you, so you can set urgent tasks with an expectation they’ll be done (in working hours)
You have less control over process, tools, and finished productYou have complete control over process, tools, and finished product

What’s different when I hire a freelance pet writer through The Veterinary Content Company?

As you’ve probably seen, there are a lot of grey areas between self-employment and employment, and a lot of pros and cons of each. Just to confuse things, The Veterinary Content Company sits somewhere in the middle of the two. We’ve organised ourselves to give you all the benefits of using a freelancer, while reducing some of the niggling issues that come from using a self-employed person.

  • Having so many vet writers means holidays/maternity leave/sickness are managed with no drop in output for you
  • Having so many vet writers means urgent requests can be fulfilled in most cases
  • Flexible process – we are happy to use the process and tools you require

Final thoughts

In many cases, it’s going to be easier to hire a freelancer than an employee, especially at the start of a new venture. Freelancers provide a company a lot of flexibility, as you can send more or less work as circumstances dictate. However, because freelancers set their own rates and have to take into account their holiday pay, the upfront cost can be a bit offputting.

There are some disadvantages to using a freelance pet writer though – mostly that they can take or leave work as they wish, which can leave you needing to find another freelancer. We’ve developed our services at The Veterinary Content Company to try to remove some of these blockers and let you use freelancers without worrying about them becoming unavailable at short notice. If this sounds like a good idea to you, feel free to get in touch or find out more about the pet content we can help with.

Joanna Woodnutt

Joanna Woodnutt

Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS is a qualified vet, freelance writer, and editor at The Veterinary Content Company. She lives in the Channel Islands with her husband and daughter, as well as their naughty but loveable terrier, Pixie.