8 Differences Between Working Freelance vs. Salary in the Entertainment Industry

by Dachary Carey

In the entertainment industry, there is a good deal of both freelance and salaried work. For people getting started in their careers, there are some hidden costs and benefits to each. Things to consider:

  1. Taxes. If you are a good citizen and report your income, you pay a higher tax rate. As a salary employee, your employer pays some social security tax for you. As a freelance, you are supposed to contribute to social security at a higher rate. Additionally, as a freelance employee you do not get money withheld from your paycheck, meaning you need to come out of pocket at tax time, which is always more difficult…even though from an economic standpoint, it is beneficial to have the money in pocket. Also note, you may be liable for taxes on small businesses from city government if you are freelance, because technically, you are running your own business with yourself as the only employee.
  2. Vacation and Holiday. You don’t think about it much when you’re on salary, but paid vacation is sweet. Especially in the entertainment industry which is linked up closely with the school year and movie release schedule – there ends up being a lot more “vacation” than a typical job. Working freelance, vacation and holiday time is costly because if you’re not working, you’re not getting paid.
  3. Medical Insurance. Most salaried jobs offer some type of health insurance. Right out of grad school, I started paying out of pocket. I was young, healthy, and didn’t get a “Cadillac” plan. It still cost $175 a month. Benefits are worth a lot in the long run.
  4. Screw ups. Making mistakes is part of work. They are inevitable. If you make a mistake as a freelance and end up wasting a lot time, it can be your responsibility to fix it without any additional compensation. As a salary employee, you make a mistake, you’re still going to be paid to fix that mistake. Depending on where you are in your career, this matters. If you are first starting out, the likelihood of making mistakes is high and should be factored in. As you are more established, it may not matter as much.
  5. Overtime. A lot of salaried people don’t get overtime pay in entertainment. But if you work at an entertainment company owned by a mega-corporation, chance are, they pay it. Overtime in the entertainment industry can be difficult to compute because of the work/social overlap and enormous amount of reading one required in some jobs. But, big corporations are risk-adverse and pay out overtime. If you are lucky and can get a job with steady overtime, time and a half adds up. I’ve even heard of people who get paid for their weekend read time, but this is rare.
  6. Being Forgotten. Sometimes, things slow down and the world forgets about you. It just happens. When you’re on salary, no big deal, you still get paid. Your boss is out of town. Good, you have a more relaxing week. When you’re freelance, being forgotten means not working and pounding the pavement even harder to find work. Which leads us to . . .
  7. The Cost of Looking. Looking for work is a lot of work. A freelancer must spend a good deal of time looking for work. You don’t get paid for this.
  8. Getting Paid. Freelance can be a bitch to get paid. It can come late when you need it and even not at all if someone is sketchy. Without leverage, there isn’t much you can do.

Salary clearly has a lot more benefits than freelance . . . almost anyone would agree. But the reason people do freelance are twofold: the work and flexibility. Typically, freelance work is going to require a higher skill level and you’re going to be doing more interesting work – perhaps work you can use for a reel or as a sample to get other work. And also, the flexibility – you don’t need to work. As a salary employee, the one major requirement is showing up.

Guest post provided by Dachary Carey of Found Value, a work from home resource and telecommuting opportunity reviews web site.