While Japanese society has traditionally tended to favor permanent employees, companies have been gradually opening up to different types of employment, including contract work with freelancers. Especially in Japan’s tech industry, where a labor shortage has created strong demand for talent, experienced IT professionals can take advantage of numerous freelance opportunities.
Previously, we looked at some of the cons to working as a freelance software engineer in Japan. Now in this article, we will examine some of the many pros to this workstyle.
Work Anywhere, Anytime
One of the greatest advantages to working as a freelance software engineer is the ability to take your work anywhere. Perhaps coding at home in your pajamas is far more comfortable than being in an office. Or maybe you prefer to work in a coffee shop, surrounded by white noise to help you concentrate. As long as you have the resources you need (particularly good Internet access and a power outlet!) there is virtually no limit to where you choose to get the job done.
Naturally, this opens up a host of benefits. Want to ditch the expensive urban areas of places like Tokyo and Osaka? Save on living expenses by relocating to a more suburban place. You could also take your work with you on trips around Japan, or even on a trip abroad.
Once you become your own boss, you get to choose your own working hours as well. Not a morning person? No worries. Try working later in the day or whenever you find you’re most productive. Scrapping the 5-day workweek to work less days (or more!) is also completely doable.
Greater Job Security
It may seem counterintuitive to say that a freelance workstyle offers greater job security than full-time employment, but your advantage lies in risk management – having multiple eggs (clients) in the proverbial basket. While it can be difficult to get started as a freelancer, once you’ve built up a sufficient client base, you don’t have to worry about losing a particular customer as you’ll have others to fall back on.
As a regular employee in Japan, you generally have a low chance of suddenly being fired or laid off from your company. Nevertheless, a more likely possibility is that you might want to change jobs for any number of reasons. As a freelancer, you’re under no obligation to continue doing work you dislike, so you don’t have to worry about life circumstances suddenly changing because you decided to change your job.
Choose Work On Your Terms
As an employee, you typically have to accept whatever work is assigned to you by your supervisor. However, as a freelancer, you now have the ability to turn down work if it does not suit your interest, skillset or rate, for example.
That part about rate is especially key. As a freelancer, it’s important to know your worth. You set your own rate, and if you’re confident in your abilities as a software engineer, you are free to charge whatever the market will bear. The more specialized your skillset, the more you can handle niche, specialist jobs that command more income.
Earn a Higher Income
As a freelance software engineer, you have a very good chance of earning more money than you would as a full-time employee. In negotiating directly with clients, you are effectively cutting out the middleman, allowing you to retain more of the guarantee for a project.
Compared to the hourly rate calculated from your full time salary, you’ll probably find that the pay for the amount of work you do as a freelancer is far superior. Rather than showing up to put in a day’s work, as a freelancer you’ll be done when the work is complete. Naturally, this system rewards fast, efficient workers, particularly those with specialized skills, given the high demand for software engineers in Japan.
Gain Broader Experience
Perhaps as an employee you were hired as a back end developer, focused on data, modeling, or other back end aspects of a website. Depending on the type of company at which you are working, it may not be easy to switch roles and instantly become, for example, a front end developer or a full stack developer.
Yet as a freelancer, you get to decide whichever roles you’d like to try, enabling a broader amount of experience. This makes freelancing ideal if you’re learning new skills, such as coding in CSS, and want to put them to use right away without having to seek the permission of a supervisor.
While it is true that certain aspects of your freelancer life may become more expensive, such as having to pay for your own commuting, housing, and computer, you will also have the benefit of being able to expense these items as part of the cost of operating your business.
Any sort of expenses or経費 (keihi) you incurred in doing your work is something that you can expense against income during Japan’s tax time (in February and March). Japan’s National Health Insurance or 国民健康保険 (kokumin kenko hoken), work-related train fare, apartment rent, utilities, and electronic equipment, etc. can all be considered business expenses (note that you may not be able to deduct 100% of the costs if personal use is also involved).
Greater Job Satisfaction
Last, but certainly not least, working freelance may give you greater job satisfaction than working as an employee. Working directly with clients enables you to witness firsthand how much you have helped them made their software run smoother, help their website operate as intended, or support the growth of their business. To many engineers, this is worth just as much (if not more) than the money they take home.
As we noted in our article about the cons of being a freelancer, making the decision to work for yourself is certainly not something to take lightly. Be sure to understand the pros and cons involved, and make an informed decision about what best suits your career goals and work style. But also be encouraged that every year more and more people are becoming freelance software engineers, and support for them is growing.
Jobs for Foreign Software Engineers
Japan’s IT Industry
- Characteristics of the Japanese IT Industry
- Japanese Language Levels for IT Industry Jobs
- The Benefits of Working at a Tech Company
- The Disadvantages of Working at a Tech Company