As a freelancer you have the flexibility of being your own boss which is clearly a significant advantage, you can also choose which projects to work on to improve your portfolio; however the down sides are the uncertainty of finding freelance work once a project has been completed.
In terms of going in-house this offers the job security not offered by freelance work and other benefits such as sick pay and a regular salary for example. Overall, which is the best option or does it depend on your own situation?
This is a great topic for discussion, and one that I think varies depending on a persons situation. I've been doing both for a few years now, working in-house, and then as a freelancer, and I have seen the pro's and con's of both sides. I'm not saying that one way is right or wrong, but this is what I have learned from my own personal experiences:
It can be really great being able to work and make your own hours, but sometimes it can be a challenge if you don't have a separate studio space and you need to force yourself to sit in your living space to do work. It's tough to have to force yourself to work in the same place you relax and kick back. Ideally, it's nice to have some place to go so there is separation between the two. There are also times when you may need to take projects even if you don't really want to do them because you need to pay bills and there are slow periods where nothing is really coming in. Even in these situations it is crucial to stay positive and energetic about a project, even if it's laying out a copy heavy annual report. This can definitely be frustrating and at times a bit discouraging, but there are other times when you will get a great project and you can take ownership of it working with your client - You don't have to share the glory with a team of designers or even worse, have somebody else take the credit for your hard work. This can sometimes happen when you are working in-house and you might have someone above you directing the project.
On the other side of the coin, working in-house in a full-time position does have some great benefits like a steady paycheck, separation between living space and creative space, and health benefits. You can also make some great contacts and learn from like minded individuals who you work with. It can be a really great way to learn more about the ins and outs of the business before venturing out on your own. It is also easier to try and get work with some big name clients that will look impressive on a resume. I'm not saying it's impossible to get big name clients as a freelancer, but I have yet to do it, and I'm not sure how so many self-taught freelancers manage to get briefs for clients like Nike or Adidas.
Overall, If you have the finances to make it through the slow periods as a freelancer, then I would say that is definitely the way to go. Otherwise, if you are starting out or need steady income, I believe it is more advantageous to gain the professional experience and "climb the ladder" so to speak, before going out and trying it on your own.