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What You Need to Know About Freelancing

Young woman on phone in home office while working on computer
May 11, 2018

​If you're adventurous and willing to work outside of "normal" employment, freelancing might be for you. Freelancers are workers who aren't tied to a single employer. Instead, they sell their services to clients, working through a temp agency or independently.1 It's common in creative and culture-based industries like art, journalism, music, and writing, and has been growing in recent years. According to Skillcrush, 50 percent of the workforce is expected to be freelancing by 2020!2

What Freelancing Is – And What It Isn't

Freelancing isn't necessarily the same as owning a business, however, some freelancers are business owners. Freelance work simply means doing work for a client, which may or may not involve business ownership. For example, freelance artists may use their talents to help with a project a local company is working on. Similarly, a freelance writer may contribute pieces to websites, newspapers, or magazines.

Freelancing usually involves piece work. This means you're paid per item of work you complete instead of by a unit of time. For example, a freelance artist may earn a set amount per artwork instead of per hour. Likewise, a freelance writer or journalist may be paid per article or story.1

According to The Balance, freelance jobs can either be project-based or contract-based.6 In a project-based job, you'll work only for the length of one project. In a contract-based job, people or businesses sell something to another entity under contract terms.3 In a freelancer's case, they are offering their work as a service to a company. There's plenty of overlap between freelancers and contractors, but they aren't the same. Freelancers can work with or without a formal contract.

The Freelance Process

While a freelancer's days are usually never the same, there is a routine that comes with finding and completing work. Freelancing has less structure than traditional jobs, but that doesn't mean it's complete chaos.

The freelance process involves finding jobs and clients, completing work, and receiving your pay. You'll also need to keep in contact with your clients to ensure the work is complete and matches their needs. There are multiple ways of finding jobs; here are a few examples:

  • Networking and Social Media – You may have heard that a big chunk of job seekers find work through networking. With that said, freelancing is no exception. If you're interested in this kind of work, you can tap into your network right now to look for possible clients. Also, social media is a great networking tool, so it's highly useful to any freelancer.4
  • Job Boards – Yes, these sites usually have a focus on full-time work; however, many of them list freelance jobs as well.4
  • Sites for Freelancers – In addition to general job boards like Indeed, there are also plenty of sites out there just for freelancers. These sites, such as Upwork, provide platforms for such people to find and complete work for clients.

Should You Freelance?

Freelance work offers a great degree of freedom and is an alternative to the rigid structure of traditional employment. However, it's not for everyone.

First, freelancing can be exciting, but also unpredictable. It requires you to take a much more active role in your work. When you're completely self-managed, you won't have a boss giving you work to do. You'll be responsible for all of this yourself. Yes, freelancing isn't the same as business ownership; however, it has a lot of similarities.5

Second, freelancers technically set their own schedules. However, in practice, they still must follow time constraints like deadlines. And in this case, you'll have to keep track of all of this yourself. In a way, your client will become your new "boss."5

Third, freelancers have less constant income. However, they have more direct control over it than in a traditional job.5 This is because their income goes directly to them instead of being filtered through a "middle" party.

Read more about the pros and cons of freelancing in our article on the subject.

Alternative – Freelancing as a Side Gig

Freelancing part-time might be a good idea. You can use it to "test the waters" and eventually transition to full time. Alternatively, you might just find that taking side projects is more suitable for you than full-time freelancing.

If you're thinking of doing this, check with your current employer first. Some employers don't allow "moonlighting," which means working another job on the side. And even if they do, they may not allow you to take certain types of jobs while working with them.4 This often happens when the type of work you plan to do on the side is similar to the work you do for the company.

Also, some of the information, practices, and the like that you've learned on the job might be considered trade secrets, which working on the side would reveal. Finally, make sure your side gig doesn't conflict with your day job. Don't take on so much on the side that you can't focus on your full-time job as much.

Doing the above is your best bet before you start any side gig. It can save you a lot of trouble if there's a policy you forgot about or didn't know about. However, it's a good idea not to go directly to HR, because this may send the wrong message.4

 

Sources

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freelancer

2https://skillcrush.com/2014/11/12/freelance-tools/

3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_contractor

4https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-find-freelance-jobs-2064282

5https://www.thebalance.com/myth-of-freelance-writing-1360231

6https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-freelance-writer-1360229

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