What is Freelancing and What Jobs are Freelance?

Freelancer working at a standing desk in nature.

According to the latest market research, the U.S. currently has over 58 million freelancers and it’s not just a fad. Freelancing is expected to become the majority workforce in America by 2027. Even with its popularity, there are still questions that surround this career choice like: What is freelancing? 

At Love Work at Home, all of our team members are freelancers or have been freelancers at some stage in their careers. We love the flexibility and the variation that it brings. Most of all, we love the way it can connect you to people all around the world! 

It’s not often that you can start your day speaking to an Australian client who’s on his way home from work, have a lunch meeting with a client in New York as he has breakfast, and end your day speaking to a client in San Francisco as she walks to her first meeting for the day! It’s an exciting career move

Freelancing can provide flexible work hours, the opportunity to work at home (or at any place of your choosing like a standing desk overlooking a park), and even the chance to be your own boss. In this article, we will help you understand the basics of freelancing, the pros and cons, and if freelancing is right for you.

By the end of this blog post you’ll:

    • Have the answer to the question: What is a freelancer?
    • Know the type of work a freelancer can do
    • Understand the difference between freelancer vs. independent contractor vs. employee
    • Find out the pros and cons of being a freelancer
    • Know where to find work as a beginner freelancer

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This post might contain affiliate links and I may be compensated, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking on a link. 

Freelance Definition – What is Freelancing?

Freelancing allows you to work from home - home office with plants

Freelancing means to work for yourself (self-employed) as opposed to being employed by a company or employer. Freelancers are hired by companies who are seeking work done on a part-time or temporary basis. They do not receive benefits or the same compensation as full-time employees.

Freelancers can also be called independent contractors, contract consultants, 1099 (U.S. tax form used for freelance work), or contract-to-hire (referring to part-time freelance work for a company before being hired full-time).

Freelancers are paid a rate, usually set by the freelancer or negotiated, to provide a service. 

Freelancing can be a one-time gig or multiple jobs with the same client. Since freelancing is set up by the freelancer, they can have as many clients and jobs as their working hours allow. They are not limited to working for one company as full-time employees often are.

Freelance work is usually sporadic unless you have an agreement for a set number of hours or jobs per month. For example, a freelance bookkeeper might have an agreement with a company to reconcile their expenses every week or two. 

Freelancers who work the same amount of hours or provide similar work each month with the same client are often put on a “retainer” or a flat fee that the freelancer can count on each month. A retainer fee is usually given to freelancers with experience in their field and is attractive to freelancers who desire a steady cash flow.

What is Freelancing Work?

You can provide virtually (pun intended) any service as a freelancer. Jobs range from one-time gigs to steady work that can last for years.

Top freelance positions include the following:

Top freelance positions - can be done virtually from anywhere

    • Writing
    • Editing and proofreading
    • Design
    • Developers
    • Project management
    • Video Editing
    • Photography
    • Digital Marketing
    • SEO
    • Virtual Assistant
    • Accounting
    • Customer Service
    • HR
    • Education

Freelance vs Independent Contractor vs Employee – What’s the Difference?

Man celebrating his first job as a freelancer

Once you’ve taken the leap, cracked the code, and started working from home (like this guy above), you might find yourself wondering: am I a freelancer or a consultant…. or an employee? Great question! Here’s the difference. 

Freelancer

As a freelancer, you decide when, where, and how you work. You can set your pay for each client and choose which companies/clients you would like to work for.

Freelancers work with multiple clients at one time (as many as they can handle) and work can be short-term or infrequent. While freelance work can be ongoing like that of independent contractors, freelancers are more likely to work with a company for a few weeks or months and then move on to the next.


Pros

    • Great first step into your own home business
    • Set your own hours
    • Set your own pay
    • No clients limits, never get bored
    • Increase your rate with each new client
    • Tax benefits if you set yourself up as a business


Cons

    • No company benefits
    • Inconsistent income
    • Can be tricky to maintain a work/life balance

Independent Contractor

As an independent contractor, you can also decide the parameters of your work and choose which companies you would like to work for at what rate. 

Independent contractors have similar guidelines to freelancers. The difference lies in the number of clients one has. Independent contractors tend to work with one or only a few clients at a time and choose larger scale projects with longevity. 

Independent contractors generally do not receive benefits and the employment end date can change at any time.


Pros

    • Set your own hours
    • Set your own pay
    • Larger scale projects
    • Typically more stability
    • Tax benefits if you set yourself up as a business


Cons

    • No company benefits
    • Inconsistent income
    • Limit of clients you can work with

Employee

The employer decides when, where, and how you work. Your employer can determine your work hours, provides you with the necessary equipment to do your job, and provides instructions on how your job should be completed. 

When you are an employee, your pay is determined by your employer and typically the employer will provide you with benefits such as healthcare, retirement, or job-related expenses. You are expected to come to work until the employer asks you to leave or you leave the company.


Pros

    • Benefits (health insurance, retirement, monthly stipend, free learning courses, equipment, travel expenses, etc.)
    • Stable and recurring pay
    • Job security


Cons

    • Commute
    • Set-in-stone hours (less flexibility)
    • Burn-out from repetitive work or tasks

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Best Freelance Websites for Beginners

Freelance websites for beginners

Several general freelance websites give space for beginner freelancers to grow. We have listed four below. Some of these websites feature freelancer rates which can be extremely helpful when you start pricing your services.

We also have a comprehensive list of the best websites for freelancing in another blog post if you are interested in more resources.

Upwork 

UpworkUpwork provides freelancers with a detailed profile including space for resumes, specialized profiles (for example if you do graphic design and writing, you can send a potential client your graphic design profile), work examples, rates for standard projects, etc. 

Freelancers use “connects” to apply for jobs. Top freelancers can be invited to jobs. If you’re invited, you don’t have to use connects to send in a proposal. 

Jobs can be filtered for your niche, keyword, experience (beginner, intermediate, and expert), pricing, etc. You can also filter to include or exclude previous clients.

Upwork has the following fees:

    • 20% of freelancer earnings up to $500 with the same client (lifetime billings)
    • 10% fee for $500.01 to $10,000 with the same client
    • 5% after $10,000. 
    • No fee for ACH transfer after work is approved (it usually takes 5 days).

The 20% fee might seem on the high-end for some but keep in mind that it includes payment protection and automatic invoicing. 

Payment protection covers you as a freelancer. If for some reason the client’s card bounces or there’s an issue, Upwork will still pay you as the freelancer and sort out the issue with the client. Upwork also automatically sends your client an invoice on your behalf. This is a convenient feature, especially if you’re working on an hourly rate. No more time spent capturing timesheets, everything is automatically recorded. 

It’s not always easy to get accepted into Upwork but if you are just starting, you will generally be able to find clients that will take a chance on you. You can also build testimonials and use those to spice up your profile or to level up your rate.

Fiverr

Fiverr logoWith Fiverr, you can set up an online shop to showcase your services. Services used to cost $5 on this site, but the times have changed. These days you can create multi-tiered service offerings that cost significantly more. 

Instead of bidding for jobs like Upwork and Guru, interested customers come to your shop and request custom services.

Fiverr has the following fees:

    • Fiverr takes a 20% commission on each sale, regardless of the cost. 
    • Fiverr has a 2 week wait time before you can withdraw your earnings. When you withdraw your earnings, you will also pay a PayPal fee (currently 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee). So for every $5 gig you sell, you will receive $3.58.

Guru 

Guru freelancer platformLike Upwork, Guru provides you with a freelancer profile and you bid on client projects. The site has a variety of freelance jobs including programming, writing, design, admin, sales, marketing, and finance.

Guru has a tiered pricing structure for freelancers:

    • Free users pay a 9% job fee to Guru and can bid for 10 jobs a month. 
    • Paid plans start at $11.95 per month and include additional features such as more monthly bids, communication with the employer before bidding, annual bid rollover, and lower job fees.

FlexJobs 

Flexjobs logoFlexJobs is a paid monthly service that aggregates the best job leads all on one website. If you are spending more time looking for work than working, FlexJobs could be the answer to your search.

FlexJobs provides a searchable freelancer profile, free skills testing, and email alerts when new jobs are posted. The site focuses on flexible jobs such as remote, part-time, and more.

A FlexJobs subscription can be purchased for as little as one week ($6.95). However, purchasing a year is the best deal at just under $50. 

There are also discount codes regularly available online to make the monthly payment more affordable.

Is Freelancing Worth It?

A freelancer enjoying the freedom of working from anywhere

Yes… yes, it is… especially if you’re prepared to start small and work your way up. Sometimes the best way to start is to freelance as a side gig and from there, as your rate increases, you can eventually move over to being a full-time freelancer. 

Initially, you might have to work more hours than you would like in order to make ends meet, but the freedom of being your own boss is totally worth it. 

You’re also not limited to one field of expertise. If you’re a writer but you love design, you can apply for design work as well. You might even find an undiscovered talent of yours and become a voice actor or actress. The sky is the limit!

Depending on the freelance niche you choose and how much experience you have, you can earn some serious coin. Below this section are 5 examples of freelancers from Upwork and Fiverr that earn over $100 an hour for their services.

While it may take some time to build up your rate, you may be surprised how quickly a little elbow grease and networking can build quality referrals.

Plus, freelancing allows you to work your own hours, choose the projects you want to complete, and even the clients you work for. Most freelancers can work from home, giving you the flexibility to live virtually anywhere with an Internet connection.

If you are looking for a way to leave your monotonous 9 to 5 and be your own boss, freelancing could be the answer. It builds a firm bridge to building an agency, taking a break from full-time work while still staying current in the job market, or even providing passive income for the future.

Check out what these freelancers below are doing, and what they’re charging!

Christi B Upwork
Cara B on Upwork
Matt R on Upwork
Leilabelmahi market researcher
Indieoven animator

Conclusion

I hope this article helped give you the answer to the question: what is freelancing?

Keen to dip your toes into the wonderful world of freelancing?

We don’t blame you. After all, having a flexible work schedule is now easier to grasp than ever before!

No matter what your niche, freelancing gigs are abundant and may offer higher pay and more freedom than your regular 9 to 5. Not everyone is cut out for freelancing, but with a little hard work, you could be on your way to living the life you always wanted.

We hope you gained the information you needed from this post to start your freelancing journey. We would be ever so grateful if you could share this post with others who might also benefit.

INSTANTLY EMAILED JOB ALERTS, DON’T GET LEFT BEHIND

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