Definition of Freelancer
A freelancer is self-employed person offering services, usually to multiple clients at a time. Operating as his own boss, a freelancer sets his own service menu, price, and target market of clientele.
Some think that freelancers are called that because they work for free – or next to it. That is not the case,and in many cases freelancers earn more than their employed counterparts.
Freelancing is so flexible, you can set your own hours, working full or part-time on the projects of your choice. While clients can offer specifications to the work, a freelancer works similar to an independent contractor, in which he’s free to control how the work is completed. This is an important distinction for tax purposes, because the IRS views employees and independent contractors differently.
The regularity of freelance work can vary. Many freelancers work for the same set of clients over a long period of time. For example, a freelance writer might have a client that requires an article twice a week ongoing. Others work with clients over shorter periods, usually on specific projects. For example, a freelance web designer might build a website for a client and once the site is done, so is the work relationship.
Advantages of Freelancing
There are several perks to working as a freelancer, including:
- Fast to get started. As long as you already know the skill you plan to offer, getting started is simply a matter of finding your first client.
- Easy to start. You can start right now, acting as a sole proprietor and using your network find a client. While you’ll want to build a LinkedIn profile and/or a website, you can network within your current career and friend networks to find your first client.
- Affordable. Odds are if you have the ability to provide the service, you also have whatever equipment or software you need to deliver. Eventually you’ll want to invest in business building tools, such as a website, but using LinkedIn (which is free) is a great online resume that can help you promote your service.
- The need for freelancers is large. While the marketplace of freelancers is competitive, the need for quality, reliable freelancers is growing. Many businesses don’t have employees and instead have a team of freelancers.
- Choose your own schedule. Work when and where you want.
- Pick and choose clients. While in the beginning you may take any client that will hire you, as you grow, you can choose not to take on difficult clients. You can even fire them.
- Do the work the way you see fit. While you need to deliver what the client asks, how the work is done is up to you.
Disadvantages of Freelancing
Where there’s a good, there’s usually a bad. Here are some disadvantages to freelancing:
- Can take time to build clientele. Getting enough clients to make freelancing something that supports you and your family can take awhile.
- Work can be irregular. Many freelancers experience an ebb and flow in their work. You need to plan for lean times, and be ready to work hard to deliver work on-time when work is plentiful.
- Managing multiple clients and projects can be a challenge. While some people like the variety of working on several projects at a time, others may find it difficult to keep track of deadlines and pace themselves to deliver quality work on time. Great time management systems and organization is key.
- Pay may be low to start out. Especially in today’s digital economy, many people expect to pay less for work from a new freelancer. Breaking in with lower costs may be needed, but as quickly as possible, seek to charge what you’re worth and find clients willing to pay for quality.
What’s the Difference Between a Freelancer and Home-Based Service Business?
There really isn’t a difference. Both work as self-employed individuals and can work for several clients at a time. Both can set their own schedules and have to abide by the same self-employment tax rules.
There are a few differences. A freelancer often works under his own name, where as a home business owner often creates a business name. Often a home business owner has found way to fill a gap in the market whereas a freelancer works within the established needs of the market
Also Read: 15 fresh tools every freelancer needs
How to Get Started as a Freelancer
Getting started is as easy as visiting one of the freelance sites to find work and networking with your current sphere of influence to find your first client. Here’s steps to building a freelance career:
- Decide what you’ll offer. Common freelance work includes writing, web design, graphic design, photography, marketing, social media management, bookkeeping and more.
- Determine your target market.Who needs what you have to offer? Decide if you’ll specialize within a specific niche of your service (i.e. copy writing or WordPress web design) or within a specific market (i.e. writing for Realtors or web design for authors). This is the time to decide your brand and unique selling proposition.
- Create an online portfolio.Start at LinkedIn, a social network all about career networking. Build a profile that promotes the benefits you have to offer. Consider setting up a website, that offers you more customization and flexibility than LinkedIn.
- Set your prices.Make sure you charge enough to cover your overhead, time to do the work, as well as to earn a living.
- Start reaching out to find clients.Use your network to help you connect with potential clients. Consider using a freelance site, such as Freelancer.com or Upwork (formally eLance and Odesk) to find work. While they may pay less than you want, it can be a great way to get experience, testimonials and referrals.
Freelancing is a fast and affordable way to get started working as your own boss from home. With that said, there are pros and cons, and success is comes from those who plan their business and deliver high quality work.
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How to Become a Freelancer
Becoming a freelancer is a way to work at home and be independent without needing to start an actual business. As a general rule, so long as you operate under your own name you do not need to register as a business (check your home state for any special requirements). This makes it possible to get started as a freelancer overnight without a lot of hassle and with the least amount of expense.
What Is a Freelancer?
A freelancer is someone who offers services for a fee. In general terms, a freelancer works independently with no expectation of a permanent or long-term relationship with a single employer.
Why Would You Want to Freelance?
If you suddenly get laid off, you’ll need to do something in order to keep an income stream coming in. The sooner you can do that, the less financial trouble you’ll be in. While you can look and look for jobs and hope you get hired, you could decide to freelance on day one and try to find work independently.
If you’ve had an urge to be your own boss anyway, becoming a freelancer may be a good way to do it. You can even continue your job search while you freelance.
What Kind of Work Do Freelancers Do?
Freelancers can be asked to do just about any kind of work you might imagine. Here are just a few of the most popular types of freelance services:
- Freelance writer
- Freelance desktop publishing services provider
- Freelance virtual assistant or virtual professional
- Freelance bookkeeper
Basically, anything you might consider doing in your own business, you can do on a freelance basis under your own name. In most cases, even in those professions where a license is required.
What Do You Need to Freelance?
To freelance, you basically just need to have something of value you can offer to potential clients.
Most people draw on their employment experience and offer freelance services in areas in which they are especially talented. The following items are also useful for those who want to freelance:
- A website to promote yourself
- A dedicated business phone or cell phone number on which prospects can reach you
- A business card
- Ideally, a business address (such as a post office box or mail box service)
- A portfolio of your best work
- Ideally, a few references, but you will build those as you go along
How Do You Find Freelance Work?
The answer partly depends on the type of freelance work you want to do. But here a few freelance job resources you might consider:
- Craigs List – www.craigslist.org
- Guru – www.guru.com
- ELance – www.elance.com
- Freelancer – www.vworker.com
Some freelance job sites are free – some charge a renewable fee in order to bid for jobs. In some cases, a freelance job site might offer both free and paid membership, but in such cases the jobs on which you can bid as a free member are usually very limited.
Some freelancers join a union that can also provide job opportunities.
You can also look for opportunities to get free advertising your freelance services – including CraigsList and posting your profile on freelance sites.
If you can become part of a network affiliated with your services, that’s always helpful. You should also post a profile on social networks, such as LinkedIn.
How Do Freelancers Handle Taxes?
Like any job or business, freelancers need to meet their federal, state and local tax obligations. This means filing any estimated tax returns, just as you would if you started your own business, except that your taxes are filed under your own name and social security number instead of your business name and tax ID number. Any clients who pay you more than $600 in a calendar year are required to provide you with IRS form 1099 reporting your earnings.
Estimated taxes are filed with the IRS (and in most states, with your state) on a quarterly basis. The IRS provides forms to help you estimate your taxes so you send in the right amount. Not paying your estimated quarterly taxes can result in interest and penalties from both the IRS and your state.
What are the Major Advantages of Being a Freelancer?
If you freelance, you can usually set your own hours. You may be extremely busy one month and at a standstill the next month in your freelance practice. Use the slow times to rest up and to find new ways to find freelance gigs in your field. Also use the time to improve your website or investigate other ways you can market your freelance services.
Freelancing is what the “American Dream” is all about for many people. Low costs and little time and hassle to get started with a great deal of independence. In the vast majority of cases you will be able to work from home. You won’t have to convince your employer it’s a good idea to let you telecommute.
Freelancing is also a great way to help keep your head above water if you find suddenly find yourself unemployed. It can help tide you over until you find other work, all the while giving you valuable experience in client service and giving you exposure to a variety of projects. Who knows, after you’ve been a freelancer for a while, you may decide you like being independent and stop looking for employment!
What are the Pitfalls of Being a Freelancer?
Some people believe that being a freelancer means they won’t get paid much and some employers who hire freelancers think they shouldn’t have to pay much. That’s because the competition is very tough and it’s global – people from all around the world may offer the same services for less than half of what you can offer them. That’s to be expected. Over time, your experience and your references will help you command freelance rates you can be proud of.
Keep in mind too, that a freelancer you are not obligated to accept a job. If you don’t like what’s being offered, keep looking for something that pays a bit more. Unfortunately, a fair number of employers who use freelancers end up taking advantage of them – by paying a substandard rate, not paying on time, etc. As you become an experienced freelancer you will learn to recognize which employers are worth your trouble and which are not.