A freelancing career is one of the many exciting options for professionals looking to offer specialized services to clients. It’s essentially a way to run a small business in a full-time or part-time role, working for many individual clients. There are a lot of advantages to becoming a freelancer, but getting started can feel like a major hurdle. How do I become a freelancer? What services would I offer as an independent contractor? What responsibilities does this career demand? These are all important questions to ask.
Here are some freelancer basics, the pros and cons of freelancing, and how to start.
What is Freelancing?
Simply put, a freelancer is a self-employed individual who offers services for a fee to clients. One of the quickest and most affordable ways to start in the gig economy is to sell a service you’re already comfortable offering to potential clients. Some freelancers only have one or two clients and run a side hustle on top of other jobs. Successful freelancers often launch full-fledged small businesses and enjoy all the perks and profits that come with working for yourself.
Types of Freelancing Careers
Freelance work is incredibly varied and depends greatly on your skillset. Maybe you’re a social media expert, a writer, a coder, or a marketer — the good news is the freelance space is often viable across all kinds of industries. Let’s talk careers:
Independent Contractor for Companies
As more companies discover the value of hiring remotely, freelancing for established companies has become more popular than ever. Some companies hire independent contractors for job roles that can be full-time or part-time, such as accounting, legal, and other service-oriented positions. This type of arrangement is often remote, and you can expect to support the business in whatever capacity you are hired to supplement staffing needs. Freelancing for an established company is often a more stable option than striking it out completely on your own.
Writer or Copywriter
One of the most common freelance gigs is writing across a variety of industries. Common examples of freelance writers include blogging, writing for search engine optimization (SEO), technical writing, grant writing, copywriting, and even journalism. If you can write, you have a great leg up on the competition. Adept writers can generally tailor their skill set to any written task, producing unique content for just about any purpose.
Social Media Manager or Marketer
For those with a knack for social media and growing audiences on social platforms, you may find freelance work in this field. Social media freelancers typically spread their services over several clients, as many social media marketing gigs tend to be part-time. Many companies use independent contractors for this kind of work.
Web Designer or Coder
If you can code or are experienced with web design, these skills are highly applicable to freelancing and it’s possible to build lucrative careers in the field without becoming a full-time employee. If you work in web design as a day job, you can easily find smaller projects through clients, co-workers, and networking. Ask around! If you are an aspiring web designer don’t worry if you don’t have any experience yet as this is a type of career you can acquire without a college degree.
Freelance Accountant, Legal Services, and More
Outside the more web and tech-related fields, there are also freelancing opportunities in specialized traditional industries like accounting and law. Bookkeeping, tax filing, legal advice, and consulting are often used by small businesses where accounting and legal departments would be cost-prohibitive. The solution? Find a freelancer! If you’re coming from a more credentialed background, this is an option.
We could go on about all the various industries, but just know that if you possess almost any professional skill, there is probably a great opportunity for you to become a freelancer.
Freelancing Pros and Cons
Freelancing is an excellent choice if you’re disciplined, motivated, and not afraid of a little (okay, sometimes a lot of) risk. If you’re more comfortable with a larger organization having your back, it might not be the best option. Here are the pros and cons to consider:
Advantages of Freelancing
- Starting up can be free in many cases.
- You have total control of career direction.
- Freelancing is perfect for remote work.
- You are your own manager.
- You determine your own schedule, much like business owners.
- It’s actually possible to work less and earn more as a freelancer.
- Rates for independent contractors are often higher than for employees.
- You can set your own workload and pace.
- Freelancing is ideal as a side hustle, producing extra income.
Disadvantages of Freelancing
- You must be highly self-motivated day in and day out.
- Finding your first gig can be challenging.
- Work ebbs and flows.
- You need a well-developed skill set.
- Clients are rarely permanent, so you must always be on the hunt.
- No employer health care plan or benefits.
- Responsibility for billing, accounting and taxes.
- Software and equipment can be costly and you’re on the hook for the bill.
How to Start a Freelance Career
- Pick your service – First, you need to decide what service you can offer. Let’s assume you love writing. Start there and figure out what kind of writing you want to do and for who.
- Research, research, research – Get online and start digging into market research in your field. Keeping with the writing example, determine what the career outlook is for various types of freelance writing, find out about rates, and try to learn from the stories of established freelancers—YouTube and Reddit are great places to start.
- Get established – Spend a couple of bucks on a personal website to act as a portfolio, launch social media accounts to promote yourself, and if you want to go old school, order some business cards.
- Get familiar with the process – Learn about the various forms you’ll need to start (1099 forms, tax paperwork, sole proprietorship details if you go that route, contracts) and how to navigate them.
- Stock up on software and equipment – We recommend grabbing some simple invoicing software, a new checking account, other relevant software (Photoshop, Google Docs, Word, etc.), and equipment like a reliable laptop. As you earn money, choose a business bank account that is as flexible as you are.
- Hunt for clients and network online and in-person – Utilize online platforms like LinkedIn, Freelancer, Guru, and Upwork, where you can find some great people and opportunities. Your inner circle too is a fantastic place for connecting. Look at real-world networking events and friends, family, and co-workers in your circle, they may know someone who needs a freelancer.
- Be patient – It can take a while to land your first job and that’s completely normal, but you never know, anything can turn into a freelance contract! Diligence pays off and once you start this journey, unexpected opportunities will open up.