So You Want to Be a Freelancer? – Guest Post
Whether you find the promise of career freedom hard to resist or traditional office environments just don't mesh with your health needs or goals, there are many good reasons you might choose to become a freelancer.
AHJ GeorgeCareer Freelancer
A freelancer is a self-employed worker who markets and uses their skills to provide services to customers or clients. A freelancer can work as an individual or as a small corporation. Whether you find the promise of career freedom hard to resist or traditional office environments just don’t mesh with your health needs or goals, there are many good reasons you might choose to become a freelancer.
Regardless of where your motivations lie, it’s good to know what you’re getting into when stepping into the world of freelancing. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years as a full-time freelancer.
What Is a Freelance Job?
Freelance jobs are agreements between those who provide business services (the freelancer) and those who receive them (clients).
How does this differ from traditional employment? Besides not having to worry about commutes and office politics, freelancers and contract workers take their careers and futures into their own hands. For instance, I’m responsible for paying my own taxes, but I can also claim more exemptions. Although I have to subsidize my own health insurance, I find that controlling my commitments gives me more freedom and time to live a healthier lifestyle.
How Can I Get Work as a Freelancer?
Freelancers benefit from two attractive factors that other careers lack:
- An increased availability of flexible work
- A unique variety of available work
There’s a wide pool of clients at any given moment, and they each require different types of work. Common freelance jobs include writing, design and programming. For example, I’m currently acting as a freelance writer. Sometimes, I provide branding advice for companies or illustrations for blogs. You might find a job as a freelance writer, graphic designer, engineer or any other area you have skills or experience in. Part of the joy of being a freelancer is specialization. An employee is usually hired for their overall skill-set with years of varied tasks in mind. Freelancers can choose individual jobs that match their specialization or interests. This makes it much easier to specialize in an area you love.
How Do I Get Paid as a Freelancer?
When I first started freelancing, I had no clue how to receive payments. Fortunately, I quickly discovered that there were plenty of options, from payment services like PayPal and Stripe to cryptocurrency wallet apps.
I also had to learn how to make my income as steady as possible in the absence of the direct deposits that most professionals take for granted. With clients paying per-job instead of hourly, it was up to me to budget responsibly, keep up with my taxes and complete a certain amount of work weekly. Being self-employed means that you are your own boss and business owner; that freedom means that the responsibility to remain profitable is yours. Starting a daily earnings spreadsheet was a massive help for me. Setting repeating goals based on your financial needs and schedule is also recommended.
Keeping Your Options Open Keeps You in the Money
Just as designers, engineers and other workers can all be freelancers, just about any type of business can be a client. In one day, you might write for a machinery company, a blogger and a tech firm. If a client is a bad match for you, you can usually move on to another until you find a niche that pays reliably. You may find clients do the same if your services don’t meet their needs, but this is the beauty of the freelance market! Negative feedback not only allows you to grow; it allows you to quickly narrow down your most profitable and promising opportunities.
Rolling with the Punches: Some Gigs Are Hit-or-Miss
View your freelance failures as learning opportunities, and then use them as stepping stones. It’s important to arm yourself with the appropriate tools to hone your work; for example, a freelance writer should pick up a good writing style reference and bookmark a solid dictionary. You’ll feel grateful for the spelling and grammar help later. It can also be worthwhile to invest in a high-end word processor like Microsoft Office Word. If you’re just getting started and don’t have a lot to spend at the moment, free tools like LibreOffice and LanguageTool are great utilities to keep your quality up early in the process. Freelance designers will want an up-to-date photo editor and illustration program like Photoshop/Illustrator or GIMP, and freelance coders will want a comfortable and functional IDE.
Ensuring Your Contracts Include Payment Terms
Always formalize your freelance arrangements with contracts. For instance, an independent writer might invoice a local business for a Twitter campaign by requesting a payment retainer up front and the remainder upon completion.
If you need to work from home out of necessity or preference, you might become an independent contractor to leverage benefits like escrow. Escrow is an arrangement where the brokerage acts as a third-party transaction judge to make sure neither the client nor the freelancer gets ripped off. Finding a platform that offers reliable, unbiased payments can reduce the headache of getting paid considerably.
Do I Need Experience to Become a Freelancer?
While many freelancers leverage previous experience to find success in the gig economy, independent contractors come from diverse backgrounds, including unrelated careers, disabilities or physical limitations, or criminal records. Many would-be freelancers start off by attaining formal training or education. They can apply these career skills to complete assignments on topics that they already know about and master others as they go. Such flexibility makes being your own boss appeal to everyone, from people with criminal records to those facing professional burnout.
What Does the Typical Freelancer Look Like?
A survey by the Freelancers Union noted that the U.S. had almost 54 million freelancers in 2015. This meant that approximately 34 percent of all domestic workers had completed freelance jobs in the previous year. Whether you work for full-time income or moonlight for beer money, the sheer size of the population makes this an extremely accessible career path.
For me, the ultimate takeaway is that being a part of a broad, mobile workforce gives me supreme flexibility. Since I can choose what I work on and write about things that I believe in, I maintain a far more positive outlook on the necessity of working. Being able to get things done at my own pace does wonders for my perspective.