Well, yes, but for most that will not be the case — it’s just too unstable and subject to overwork and periods of unemployment. And I haven’t even mentioned the stress of it all.
A solo freelancer usually divides his or her time between actual design work and the unpaid work of running the business — marketing, bookkeeping, etc. The big, well-paying projects are typically out of reach and go to agencies with several employees. That leaves the solo freelancer picking up the odd jobs from smaller businesses here and there.
Some people thrive in this environment, but lots of them have backup income to provide stability, like part-time work elsewhere or a spouse with a steady job. The competition is fierce, which has driven down prices to the point where they’re far below what they were 20 or 30 years ago. There are exceptions, of course, but a lucrative career as a solo, full-time design entrepreneur typically doesn’t work out over the long haul.
As for programming and scripting, I keep getting sucked into coding websites no matter how hard I try to stay away. Ten or 20 years ago, I actually liked it, but it’s gotten so specialized, complicated and unfulfilling, that I’m finding myself actively trying to avoid UI/UX and coding because of the never-ending frustrations and tedium of it all.
I often work with non-designer programmers who love their jobs. When I mention to them the things I dislike about scripting and programing, they tell me those are the very things they love. When I’m at the point of my head pounding due to an intractable and utterly tedious problem, some of the programmers I work with are bouncing around in their chairs eager to tackle and untangle a new puzzle. I don’t get it. Their masochistic brains are just wired differently, I guess.
Whether or not someone should plan a career around design or programing seems to me to be something of a false choice for most. These days, so much of graphic design has become so associated with user interfaces that it seems like there’s a natural connection between design and coding, but really, they’re very different things that require different skills, talents and personalities. On the other hand, for those who can and who enjoy doing a bit of both, there are well-paying jobs out there. For that matter, at least in the area where I live, those are the design-related jobs that are most abundant and that companies are having difficulty filling.