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What Is A Freelancer? Definition, Types & How To Start Or Hire

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Getting a job is hard enough, but what happens when you hate yours or have trouble getting companies to hire/interview you?

Believe it or not, that is the reality for many people, thus freelancers are on the rise.

You may have heard all about how the future is freelancing.

But what exactly is freelancing, and should you be doing it?

This article discusses the details of freelancing and offers you in-depth knowledge of the industry.

What is a Freelancer?

A freelancer is a category of an independent contract worker.

Freelancers do short-term work, typically on a project basis.

What Does a Freelancer Actually Do?

A freelancer completes projects for a client who contracted them.

Their job depends on the tasks indicated in the contract.

This will vary from industry to industry and client to client.

Freelancer vs. Employee: Similarities & Differences

Freelancing varies from employment in various ways, but there are some similarities.

Similarities Between Freelancers & Employees

Employees and freelancers do have some similarities:

  • Both are judged based on performance on each project
  • Both have to have negotiation skills to increase pay

Differences Between Freelancers & Employees

Here are the key differences between employment and freelancing:

  • Employees receive a salary biweekly or monthly. Meanwhile, freelancers get paid per project
  • Employees get benefits
  • It is easier for freelancers to find new opportunities, earn more money, and grow their career
  • Freelancers have no set working hours. Meanwhile, employees must show up to work within certain hours
  • Employees work in teams and have a lot of human interaction. Meanwhile, freelancers usually work alone
  • Freelancers have no job security, and clients can choose not to pay. Meanwhile, employees have more job security and expect a notice before losing their job.

Freelancer vs. Independent Contractor

Both job categories have similarities that can get mistaken. However, there are a few key differences.

Similarities Between Freelancers & Independent Contractors

Since freelancers are a category of independent contractors, they share a few similarities:

  • Both careers allow for location independence
  • Independent contractors and freelancers can choose who to work with
  • Taxes are complicated for both independent contractors and freelancers
  • Both independent contractors and freelancers have a lot of creative freedom in their work.

Differences Between Freelancers & Independent Contractors

There are some key differences between independent contractors and freelancers:

  • Freelancers can work at any time. Meanwhile, independent contractors are usually bound to specific work hours
  • Independent contractors can have a non-compete clause that bars them from working with other companies in the same niche
  • Freelancers often work alone. Meanwhile, independent contractors usually work as part of a team
  • Independent contractors work to grow a company. Meanwhile, freelancers work on the success of one project
  • Freelancers get paid per project. Meanwhile, independent contractors get paid at a specific rate for a certain period

What Are the Pros and Cons of Freelancing?

Freelancing does have numerous pros that draw many to try it.

However, there are also cons you must be aware of before you switch to freelancing.

Pros of Freelancing

Freelancing offers many benefits including:

1. Flexibility

You can work at whatever time, with whoever, and in whatever place.

You can also switch career fields faster than you would as an employed person.

2. Work from Anywhere

Most freelancing roles are remote roles.

Some jobs require you to show up on-site but you can pick a new one every few months and change locations.

You have the freedom to travel and work from anywhere in the world, including your bedroom.

3. Variety of Work

If you choose your clients and projects well, you can get a wide variety of work.

This keeps you from getting bored and expands your expertise and knowledge.

4. Control Over Your Schedule

Freelancing allows you freedom with your time.

You can work at any time you see fit and during whichever months you want.

5. Get Income from a Bunch of Sources

As a freelancer, you are not limited to one income source.

Any client you get and can handle is an income source.

You can work with multiple clients at the same time and earn more money.

Cons of Freelancing

There are several cons of freelancing you should consider before you decide to take the step:

1. Taxes Are Challenging to Navigate

Paying taxes as a freelancer is very tricky.

There is no standard template and you have to get educated on the tax laws in your area.

2. Uncertainty

There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with freelancing.

You never know where your next project comes from and thus can’t guarantee payment.

Additionally, clients can reject your work and refuse to pay.

3. You Have to Manage Your Career and Schedule

Self-discipline and management are needed as a freelancer.

No one will remind you of a deadline or reach out to clients on your behalf.

There is no team to handle different aspects of a project.

You have to be extremely self-disciplined and strictly stick to a schedule.

4. You Don’t Get Benefits

Freelancing is a contractor position.

You do not get any benefits including health and allowances.

Your rates should cover your costs for work and any benefits like health insurance and retirement contributions.

5. You Have to Market Yourself

Freelancing is a business and getting clients is up to you.

If you do not market yourself, you will not get clients.

You will have to market yourself on social media, in real life, or on various freelancing sites.

Do Freelancers Get Paid?

Yes, freelancers get paid. The pay rate differs greatly from one industry to another.

Your experience also determines how much you get paid.

The budget of the person/company you work for will also dictate your pay so it will vary from project to project.

As you establish yourself as a freelancer, you can set your rates and stand firm on them.

Research the average rates of freelancers in your chosen niche and adjust as you see fit.

How Does a Freelancer Get Paid?

Freelancers get paid through multiple methods.

You can get paid through checks or wire transfers directly to your bank.

Paypal, Payoneer, Skrill, and other online platforms are also popular payment methods.

Do Freelancers Pay Taxes?

Yes, freelancers pay taxes. Or at least they are supposed to and you should never avoid paying them.

Freelancing is like any other job and the government takes its cut.

How Freelance Taxes Work

Taxes differ from country to country and in the USA, different states have different tax laws.

Do a lot of research and consult other freelancers in your area to understand the tax laws.

Hire a tax specialist to help you properly file your taxes when the time comes.

Can You Freelance Full-Time?

Yes, you can. As your income grows, you can choose to quit your job and focus on freelancing.

Decide how much money you need to survive and work to earn or surpass that every month.

What Kind of Work Can You Do Freelance?

Freelancing is a great job for bloggers but they are not the only ones who can work as freelancers.

Here are other freelancing niches you can try out:

1. Web Development

Web development is one of the easiest tech roles to freelance.

With experience, a web developer can juggle up to ten clients at a time.

There are thousands of web development freelance jobs available online.

2. Writing

Freelance writing is one of the easiest ways to step into the freelance marketplace.

You can choose to bid for writing jobs on a freelance website or apply for a position as a freelance writer at a publication.

Additionally, many blogs outsource writing so you can pitch your idea and start guest posting on several blogs in your niche.

3. Design

Design is taking off as the world moves digital.

Companies are looking to hire all kinds of designers for projects, products, and services.

You can also design apps and websites.

Freelance design jobs are usually found on job boards and freelancing job sites.

4. Consulting

Consultants usually work on a contract basis.

This is a form of freelancing and you can usually handle two to four clients at a time.

Freelance contracting roles are available on job sites and through networking.

5. Marketing

Believe it or not, you can freelance as a marketer.

Digital marketing especially is a field of marketing that has a lot of freelancing opportunities.

Other marketing forms also allow for freelancers and you can find jobs mostly through networking.

As a freelance marketer, you will get contracts of one to five years, usually part-time.

This allows you to work with two or three clients at a time.

6. Videography

Videography is a wonderful freelancing field.

You can get clients like businesses, NGOs, YouTubers, and TikTokers.

It is a diverse field and you can narrow it down to sub-niches like documentary filming, long-form content videography, and so on.

7. Photography

Photographers are the original freelancers.

Most photographers rely on occasional clients and passing events to make money.

You can build an impressive portfolio and sign a large number of clients from across the world as a freelance photographer.

It is the perfect niche for creatives who enjoy travel and odd hours.

8. Accounting

Becoming a freelance accountant is a great way to get a work-life balance as an accountant.

Many businesses cannot afford an in-house accountant but will pay for accounting during specific seasons.

You can get multiple clients year-round and build a successful accounting business.

9. Social Media Management

Social media management is the ideal job for anyone who spends hours scrolling on various social media platforms.

The job is not exclusively scrolling feeds, but also requires an in-depth knowledge of trends, algorithms, and audience engagement.

Learning analytics and understanding how to adapt your social media strategy based on the data.

Many businesses need social media managers and you can manage accounts for multiple businesses at the same time.

How Do You Start Freelancing?

To start freelancing, follow these simple steps:

1. Choose Your Niche

Freelancing offers you the opportunity to work in any industry you choose.

The easiest option is an industry in which you have work experience.

You can also choose the field you studied at university.

Do some research and test yourself to see which niche best suits your skillset, lifestyle, and goals.

2. Develop Your Skills

You must prove you can do the job, to get hired as a freelancer.

Developing your skills is crucial to your success as a freelancer.

Taking courses, watching YouTube, and taking on free projects are the best way to develop skills in your chosen field.

3. Make Connections

Like any other career, success in freelancing depends on who you know.

Having the right connections will help you land clients.

You never know which company is looking to hire freelancers or which person is expanding their business and needs help.

Reach out to people in your industry using social media and in real life and nurture those connections.

4. Get Your First Gig

Getting your first gig is the hardest par

. Whether you are bidding on freelancing sites or signing on a client, it is a daunting task.

Nonetheless, keep bidding and keep connecting with potential clients.

Research ways to get your first freelance client and adjust your pitch until you land one.

5. Continue Freelancing on the Side

Once you have completed our first gig, keep going.

You do not have to quit your job.

Realistically, you will not make enough as a freelancer for the first couple of years to replace your income.

Keep picking up gigs during your spare time and balance your job with freelancing.

You can also drop to part-time hours as your freelance business picks up.

6. Freelance for Your Company

You can work for your employer or previous employer as a freelancer.

Do not burn bridges when you leave your job or want to quit.

Leverage your existing relationship and reputation at the company to continue working for them but as a freelancer.

Create a contract by researching and asking your boss to sign you as a freelancer.

7. Raise Your Online Profile and Reach

Marketing yourself is one of the most vital parts of a successful career as a freelancer.

You can use social media, friends, LinkedIn, and other job boards to market your services and showcase your skills.

Additionally, reach out to previous clients and ask them to recommend you to others if they’re satisfied with your services.

8. Get Practice

You can take on projects for the experience.

Sometimes offering a lower rate or taking on an unpaid job can help you tremendously.

As a freelancer, your portfolio and experience are what sets you apart. Doing practice projects is a great way to boost both.

9. Build Step by Step

With each client, you get to build your portfolio and gain confidence as a freelancer.

Take it one client and one project at a time and do not give up.

Each client and project is a lesson and an opportunity for growth.

Focus on building your portfolio and delivering on every promise you made to your client.

Best Freelancing Websites: 7 Best Options

1. Upwork

screenshot of the upwork homepage

Upwork is one of the best freelancing sites.

You can create an account and get set up in minutes.

With your industry selected and experience listed, you will have thousands of gigs to bid on.

However, with the free plan, you only have a certain amount of bidding credits a month.

2. Guru

guru homepage screenshot 1

With Guru, you can send a quote and bid to win a freelancing gig.

The site is user-friendly, and simple, and has many job opportunities in multiple industries.

3. Fiverr

screenshot of the fiverr homepage

Fiverr is a service marketplace for freelancers.

Freelancers get to list the jobs they do with extreme detail and various options.

You then wait for someone to message you or select a service.

You can also market your profile and gigs to get more clients.

4. Jooble

jooble homepage screenshot 1

Jooble is a job board that highlights jobs across the world.

They are not exclusively a freelancing job website but have various freelance and remote options.

5. Freelancer

freelancer homepage screenshot 1

Freelancer is the most well-known freelancing website.

To get a freelancing job, create an account, select your industry and experience and bid on any projects you are interested in.

6. SimplyHired

simplyhired homepage screenshot 1

SimplyHired is a free job board for U.S jobs.

They enable businesses to post any open positions and allow anyone to apply for them.

It is not exclusively a freelancer site but lists many freelancing jobs.

7. Flexjobs

flexjobs homepage screenshot 1

Flexjobs is a remote job listing site.

They screen the jobs to ensure they are legitimate and list them in various categories.

The jobs listed on Flexjobs are from companies, individuals, and remote organizations.

Wrapping Up

If you’re insecure about your current job or don’t have one at the moment, freelancing is exciting and full of opportunities that suit almost everybody.

Freelancing is an excellent way to earn money on the side, gain some work experience, or launch your own business.

Being a freelancer allows you freedom and flexibility and is great once you master taxes and self-discipline.

Have more questions about freelancing? Comment below.

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