It sounds like a dream -- but what is it REALLY like?
Today we’re digging into the pros and cons of working as a freelancer in yachting, and what you can expect - so you can know whether a freelancing career is right for you!
What Is It?
First, let’s take a look at what freelancing means in the yachting world. A freelance job can be anything from a few days, to a few months.
Yachts sometimes have gaps to fill. Maybe a normal crew member needs to take time off for a family event like a wedding. Perhaps a yacht is gearing up for a crossing and one of the crew members isn’t able to do the trip.
Guests may request a sushi chef for a week’s voyage, and the regular chef doesn’t have this skill. It could be a busy season with lots of charters with young families, and an extra deckhand is needed to support by working as a nanny.
There are many reasons why a yacht might want to hire a specific crew member for a short period of time - and this is where freelancers come in!
One key point is that while freelancing can be a useful way to gain experience with short-term jobs, captains often prefer to hire experienced crew for freelance positions.
A freelancer, even more than a regular crew member, is expected to be able to jump right in and just get the job done. The boat won’t be interested in spending time training someone who’s not there to stay.
So, you’ll likely be more successful landing a freelance job once you’ve got some industry experience. But sometimes, junior deckhands and interior crew are just needed for a super busy season, so don’t count yourself out!
What’s Great About Freelancing
Working as a freelancer can offer flexibility and balance in a way that a full-time yachting job just can’t. You’re able to choose your jobs, sign up for a fixed period of time, and then fly home again.
Freelance work is a great fit for people who want to have a life outside of yachting, but still enjoy working on yachts from time to time.
If you’ve got a partner who isn’t in the yacht industry, or want to own a home on land and focus more on that part of your life, freelance work is a great fit.
Freelancing is also a good financial move. You’re often given a higher daily rate than a permanent position, and you’ll benefit from the excellent pay in yachting without having to make the commitment that comes with a permanent position.
And, you’ll make a lot of new connections in the industry. By working on a wide range of yachts, you’ll expand your network quickly!
Another perk of working as a freelancer is you’re relatively immune from any crew politics or drama. You’re not there long enough to get pulled into any conflicts or issues, and you’re seen as a neutral party - just there to get a job done before you head out again.
Finally, like we mentioned before, working as freelance crew offers you the chance for balance. You’re not likely to deal with burnout from the intensity of a permanent position, but you can keep your career active for a longer period of time by taking jobs when you want them, and stepping away when you need a break.
So -- What’s The Catch?
Freelancing offers a bunch of perks, but it’s not perfect. You’ll miss out on many of the benefits that permanent crew enjoy, like medical insurance, paid vacations, annual bonuses, or paid training.
Also, it can feel unstable - you’re never sure when your next job will come, so if you’re depending on your yachting income for financial stability, it can be uncomfortable.
You’ll also have land-based living expenses for the times you’re not on a freelance job. Paying for rent or mortgage, maintaining a car, and other living expenses make it harder to save money from your freelance gigs. And, you’ll also be responsible for paying your own taxes as a self-employed/freelance contractor.
Finally, freelancing is intense. While you can choose when you work, you’ll be 100% on when you’re on the job. Yachts don’t usually hire freelancers when it’s a slow period, because they don’t need the extra hands. So when you’re at work, you’ll be going full speed the whole time!
And since you’re only on board for short stints, you won’t make the same lasting relationships that you would as a permanent crew. You may feel a bit socially isolated or left out of the crew’s tight-knit group.
Why do you want to freelance? Be sure it’s a clear, good reason you can communicate well.
Freelancing is a critical part of the yacht industry, and boats depend on freelancers to make everything run smoothly. But, it’s important to communicate why you want these short-term jobs and how you approach your work.
Sometimes freelance crew get the reputation of being flighty, or unable to make or keep commitments. Your resume will show a series of short positions. This isn’t bad, but you need to be able to explain why you’ve gone that way with your career.
Many freelance crew are valued for their expertise and solid work ethic, and being able to quickly adapt to any job on any boat. By communicating your skills, your reasons for freelancing, and how you can be of added value to any crew you join - no matter how long - you’ll be able to work your way into a successful career of freelance gigs!
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