Everything you need to know about freelancing
What is freelancing?
Freelancing can be a beneficial way for students, recent graduates, and professionals to gain experience in the industry. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of freelance is “a person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization.” After class discussion, most students define freelancing as working for yourself on a project by project basis or for a company.
Professionals from all industries and sectors can begin a freelancing career, but some of the most common types of freelancers are designers, writers, editors, copywriters, translators, and web developers. Many engineers, accountants, lawyers, paralegals, and project managers also freelance.
Before establishing a freelancing career, we recommend researching into the sector more, but begin with these basic guidelines that we have adapted from resources and class discussion.
Reach out to professional and personal contacts to cultivate relationships. By reaching out before you begin your freelancing career, the relationships are already established to begin a conversation about your business.
Develop a personal brand for yourself. This not only includes your resume and portfolio, but also your social media presence and your disposition. Consider using your name wisely. A more common name will not be as memorable as a unique name.
Create a plan of action. Developing a plan to establish clients, manage money, and run a business allows you to think through the decision to freelance and prove to yourself that you are serious about freelancing.
Research should take place along every stage of the planning process, but researching your competition is key. If you haven’t already, research what other freelancers in your industry are accomplishing and how they are accomplishing it. Adjust your plans as necessary.
Advantages of Freelancing
Becoming a freelancer allows for more flexibility than other jobs. You can create your own schedule, choose your own clients, set your own prices, and do the work as you see fit. Because you can choose the type of work you produce for clients, freelancing can allow you to improve on particular skills or work within your comfort zone.
Many companies have begun to allow their employees to work from home, but freelancers can work from anywhere. Not only can you choose the city you work in, but you can choose to either work from a home office, work at a local coffee shop, or wherever you are the most productive.
Most freelancers will call themselves an entrepreneur because they are running a business. According to Merriam-Webster, entrepreneurs are people one who organize, manage, and assume the risks of a business or enterprise. Freelancers create a brand and business plan, manage their financial status and assume the risk of the market and its variables.
When companies and organizations hire freelancers, it can be extremely beneficial for them because freelancers can cost less than a full-time and part-time employee. Freelancers make up 35% of the workforce now, and that is because employers do want to hire freelancers. The demand is high.
The Freelancers Union
The Freelancers Union is a resource for freelancers to connect with other freelancers and find other resources. The Freelancers Union is free to join and offers benefits such as continuing education, insurance discounts, legal advice, other discounts for companies and organizations that you could use on a daily basis.
Disadvantages of Freelancing
Because you choose clients, you have to find your clients. This can be a challenge for some freelancers, especially if you are beginning. Look to your personal and professional contacts, online, or even at your church or school. Have conversations with possible clients, show them their possible needs, and how you can meet them. This process can be time-consuming and unfruitful at times, but freelancers need to continually be searching for their next client.
Work can come and go in cycles called “feast and famine” cycles. There will be times where work is abundant, but other times where you can not find any work. Balancing this financially can be a burden if you do not plan correctly, so be aware of the market and the types of clients you are signing (long term vs. project based).
While it is tempting to have the flexibility to set your own work hours, you must learn to balance work life and free time. Knowing that your situation can change based on certain life and market events will help when choosing a work load, but the truth is that there needs to be time to complete and produce the work. Finding that balance is crucial.
Lack of Insurance and Benefits
Companies offer their full time employees benefit packages when they are hired. These packages include health insurance, retirement plans, dental insurance, paid vacation, etc. When you work for yourself, you must be able to pay for your own insurance and plan ahead for your future. Set your prices to a comparable rate, but also realize that you will need to pay for the insurance and benefits out of pocket.
Most businesses require an initial investment to become functional, and so will yours. This investment can be many different costs: office space, technology, programming, branding pieces, etc. Plus, when you first begin, income may not always be sufficient. Choose your investments wisely but realize that you will have to spend money to make money.
As a freelancer, your taxes will look different than before, so hire an accountant. Taxes can especially be complicated if you are not sure how they work. It is a safe bet to hire an accountant because it is their job to know how the system works.
There are a multitude of freelancing opportunities available. Be sure to look on websites, social media platforms, your communities, etc. There have even been success on Craigslist.
Other Helpful Tips
- When soliciting clients, do your research and show them their own needs.
- Read the contracts carefully.
- Once again, hire an accountant.
- Track your time as you work. You can find online tracking applications to use easily.
- Update your portfolio frequently.