If it seems as if you’re hearing about freelancers more and more often these days, it’s not your imagination.
The way companies and individuals alike do business these days is evolving, with freelancing becoming an increasingly significant part of the narrative, and it’s a win-win situation for all involved.
Skilled, motivated web developers, graphic designers, content writers, and more get to write their own tickets when it comes to their professional lives.
Brands get the expert services they need without having to create full-time in-house positions to address every task they need to be completed.
But what is a freelancer? What are the pros and cons of becoming one, and how might hiring one help your brand reach its full potential?
Let’s take a look at the answers to those questions and more.
What Is a Freelancer?
In traditional employment, a professional is hired in a full-time or part-time capacity by one company for whom they perform a specific service.
On the other hand, a freelancer is a self-employed independent contractor who may use their skills and expertise to serve a variety of clients, companies, and brands simultaneously.
The number and type of projects a particular freelancer may take on vary greatly from person to person. Some people choose to freelance on a full-time basis, while others do it on the side to supplement income from a traditional job.
A part of freelancers offers highly specialized services, while others prefer to provide a broader spectrum of options for their clients. Some work entirely out of their homes, while others do not, as well.
What Is Freelancing?
These days, just about everyone knows at least a couple of people who self-identify as freelancers. But what is a freelancer, exactly? And what is freelancing all about?
In contrast to traditional employment, freelancing is a contract-based approach to providing services to companies, businesses, individuals, and organizations. Instead of committing to just one job or position, freelancing involves taking on multiple individual jobs (or gigs) instead. Some freelancers maintain a roster that includes many clients, while others are more comfortable working for just a couple of clients at a time.
The freelancer is their own boss, and it’s ultimately up to them what types of services they offer, how many clients they serve, and what hours they prefer to spend working. Freelancing is often done from home over the internet (but doesn’t necessarily have to be).
What Do You Need to Be a Freelancer?
More or less anyone can decide to become a freelancer anytime they wish, and most people likely already have the basics that they’ll need to get started – like a computer, a reliable internet connection, and a marketable skill or two. But it’s important to realize that a freelance business is still a business, so it’s important to be properly prepared before you dive in and get started.
Have a business plan
Decide right off the bat what services you want to offer, as well as what types of clients you’ll be serving and how you plan on connecting with them. Determine a tentative work schedule, decide how you’ll bill your clients, and set your operational hours.
You’ll also want to check with your city or county to see whether you need a business license in order to work as a freelancer, as well as learn a bit about how taxes for freelancers work.
Create a service menu
Some freelancers prefer to focus on just one service offering they’re especially good at or passionate about (like copywriting, editing, or graphic design, to name just a couple of examples). Others decide to offer multiple services.
Whichever approach you decide on, you’ll need to make a service menu that describes what you do and don’t do, as well as what your rates are for each one.
Have a website or business profile
Every freelancer needs a website (or something comparable) to let potential clients know they’re available. Include a bit about yourself, an overview of your services, a portfolio, some testimonials (once you have some), and a few selling points that set you apart from everyone else out there.
Many freelancers also maintain profiles on social networking platforms (especially those aimed at professionals, like LinkedIn), as well as a few top freelancing platforms – like Upwork, Guru, or WriterAccess.
The Pros and Cons of Freelancing
Like every big decision in life, the choice to forgo traditional employment in favor of becoming a freelancer has both benefits and drawbacks.
Here’s a closer look at some of the most important ones to consider.
The Pros of Freelancing
Read much of any resource that addresses the question “what is a freelancer,” and you’ll see professional freedom listed among the top benefits of freelancing every time.
Freelancing allows talented professionals to pursue whatever work they please and serve a wide variety of clients and brands. Freelancing also:
- Provides an opportunity to become a respected expert in one’s field, industry, or niche
- Allows professionals to set and manage their own schedules
- Makes it easier to scale one’s income over time as they build experience and skill
- Allows a professional to quickly pivot from one topic or industry to another
The Cons of Freelancing
But, of course, nothing comes without a few cons as part of the mix, and freelancing is no different.
Commonly cited drawbacks to the freelance life include:
- The need to be one’s own marketer, accountant, customer care specialist, etc;
- The need for a plan as to how to deal with slow-paying or non-paying clients;
- Workload inconsistencies — busy months followed by incredibly slow months;
- The need to obtain one’s own insurance, navigate complicated taxes, etc.
So what is a freelancer? A freelancer is someone with access to a variety of incredible opportunities when it comes to their professional future.
But it’s also crucial that aspiring freelancers be aware of the challenges that come with that choice.
Examples of Freelance Jobs
A person can do nearly any type of work on a freelance basis. However, the digital age makes certain kinds of freelance work particularly popular. Here are a few examples.
A way with words is an incredibly beneficial skill to have in your corner if you’re interested in freelance writing.
Freelance writers and editors can specialize in a wide variety of content types, including blog articles, press releases, whitepapers, and more.
Visuals are really just as important as written words when it comes to building a brand and making a splash online these days.
For that reason, freelance gigs in graphic design, web design, logo design, and more are plentiful.
Video content is huge these days, so brands need good go-to professionals who specialize in video production, editing, music composition, and more.
SEO and Marketing Pros
Having a professional to turn to for SEO, marketing, and branding services is crucial for every digital-age brand. It’s also very common for these tasks to be outsourced to third-party agencies or individual freelance professionals.
And these are really just a handful of the many options available to today’s freelancers. Many people also work as freelance translators, accountants, HR managers, personal assistants, and more.
Part-Time Freelance Work Examples
Although many people do eventually decide to embrace freelancing on a full-time basis, it’s by no means a requirement. Many people can (and do) freelance part-time in addition to holding down a traditional full-time job and other responsibilities.
The following are some good examples of freelance work that is easy to work into your life while remaining conventionally employed elsewhere.
The world of freelance writing is vast and covers a lot of ground. And companies of all types need content (and lots of it) to stay ahead in the digital age, so there are plenty of part-time opportunities available for talented people who love to write. These include blog writing, copywriting, press release writing, and more.
Freelance Graphic Design
Compelling visuals are just as important as written content when it comes to putting a business on the map and keeping it there. Articles, posts, and written content need graphics to help them stand out and pop. So do websites, apps, brochures, and a wealth of other options.
Freelance Web Designer
Every digital-age business needs a dedicated website, but web design isn’t necessarily a common skill everyone has. So if you do have it, designing websites, eCommerce sites, and similar options for clients could make an excellent part-time freelancing option for you.
Freelance Video Creator
Video is red hot these days as an alternative to written content, so talented video content creators and editors are always in demand. This is even more the case as video-based social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok continue to gain traction.
The Difference Between Freelancer Projects and Jobs
The type of work involved in freelance projects is often very similar to the type you’d be doing if you worked for the same company as an in-house employee. The differences lie in how the work is performed if a freelancer decides to accept a project.
Freelance projects generally operate on a contract basis that only applies to those specific projects. Many freelancers and clients do decide to work together on other projects if all goes well, but neither is under any obligation to do so.
And freelancers can work with as many clients as they please (and vice versa). They can take on as much or as little work as they like, as well.
In a job, the worker is obligated to spend a certain number of hours on the clock according to a set schedule, usually at an outside office or other location, whether there’s work to be done or not.
Freelancers, on the other hand, work only when there’s work to be done. They also set their own schedules and choose where they work, as well – often the freelancer’s home, but not always.
Better Working Experience
When people are allowed to do work they care about according to rules, schedules, and criteria they set, they’re better able to take care of themselves and maintain an optimal work-life balance.
Not only is this better and healthier for the person doing the freelancing, but companies benefit when they work with people who are genuinely invested in the projects they take on.
Ready to experience the convenience and freedom of hiring freelancers firsthand? Sign up for a free two-week trial to WriterAccess and start building your team!
How Can Freelancers Help Brands?
At this point, we’ve covered the possible answers to “what is a freelancer” and touched on some of the reasons a professional may or may not choose to become one.
Now it’s time to take a closer look at how hiring freelancers can help modern brands get ahead in today’s digital landscape.
Freelancers can save your company a fortune
Although there are definitely benefits to hiring full-time employees for many tasks, the costs of doing this for every possible job you need to be done are costly, to say the least.
Not only does a traditional employer need to cover salaries, but they’re responsible for benefits, payroll taxes, paid time off, and more.
And unless a company is hiring for a remote position, they need to provide a space for the person to work in, as well.
Since freelancers are self-employed, the companies they work for aren’t responsible for any of those things.
Instead, clients can pay for work on an as-needed basis, reducing costs without sacrificing a thing regarding work quality.
Freelancers provide excellent work quality
Many freelancers have an incredible degree of varied experience under their collective belts. They also tend to be passionate individuals who do what they do because they genuinely love it.
That adds up to a lot of dedication to providing top-tier work.
Naturally, anyone looking to outsource work to freelancers must thoroughly evaluate candidates to ensure they’re a solid fit for their brand and business goals.
But you’ll find that, overall, outsourcing to freelancers won’t require you to lower your standards even a little.
Freelancers can often complete tasks faster
Most full-time employees ultimately wear many hats and have a long list of responsibilities on their plates at any given time. Adding additional projects to any one person’s to-do list may also mean delays, depending on the person’s current workload.
Since freelancers often accept new projects and clients on a case-by-case basis, they don’t deal with the same scheduling issues full-time employees do.
This allows them to commit to shorter turnaround times and devote more of their attention to each individual project.
The very nature of freelancing also makes it easy to hire fresh talent as needed. You can bring on additional help to assist with work overflow, cover an existing team member’s unexpected absence, get something critical done at the last minute, and more.
Freelancers help brands reduce risk
Hiring a full-time employee is a long-term commitment. That said, it requires a brand to invest in that individual’s future with the company. (Think employee training costs, orientation time, and similar factors.)
If and when that employee ever decides to move on to greener pastures and pursue other opportunities, you lose that investment and must reinvest in someone new.
But anyone who’s done their homework on “what is a freelancer” knows that outsourcing to freelancers doesn’t carry any of these risks.
You still get access to incredible work quality as well as the chance to build an ongoing relationship if you wish.
However, neither of you is required to make a long-term commitment to one another unless you want to, reducing risk for both parties.
Freelancers bring a fresh take to the table
When people work together for the same company in the same space over long periods of time, they begin to think alike.
And while this can be fantastic in some ways, it can lead to creative stagnancy and a lack of access to the fresh perspectives brands need to stay ahead these days.
Adding freelancers to your team gives you instant perpetual access to that freshness, especially if you’re hiring creative professionals.
The right people can introduce you to new solutions to problems, approaches to branding, and ways to connect with your customers – things every brand could use.
Freelancers are easy to hire and onboard
According to a recent report from Upwork, roughly 36 percent of all Americans took on freelance work in one capacity or another in 2021.
That’s over 59 million people in the United States alone – an immense pool of people from which to choose your brand’s next star collaborator.
That said, talented, experienced freelancers are pretty easy to find, especially with access to a couple of go-to freelance platforms in your back pocket.
And the onboarding process is incredibly simple, as well, as you’ll be contracting with the person on a project-by-project basis.
Skill You May Want to Have as a Freelancer
The more different freelance skills you have going for you as a professional, the better your chances will be of scoring choice projects and inspiring your best clients to hire you again and again. So, what is a freelancer?
A freelancer is a self-employed professional with a well-developed mixture of key hard and soft freelance skills. Hard skills are learned job-related abilities, while soft skills are personal qualities and interpersonal abilities that enhance how well you work. Here’s a look at some of the best ones to have at your disposal today.
Soft Skill: Time Management
One of the best things about freelancing for a living is you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder anymore. But without solid time management skills, the absence of a boss could turn out to be more of an obstacle in disguise.
Ultimately, you’re the one who’ll be responsible for keeping your work on target for timely delivery, managing your schedule, and meeting your client’s expectations. And time management becomes increasingly more important as you become busier.
You can further develop your own time management ability by:
- Creating daily plans and maintaining a detailed ongoing schedule
- Focusing on one key task at a time
- Organizing your workspace, work tech, and digital assets so you can always find what you’re looking for
- Keeping distractions (like social media) to an absolute minimum
Soft Skill: Adaptability
The life of a freelancer is never boring, and that’s honestly one of the best things about it. But you’ll need to be someone who’s adaptable if you’re going to cope with (and ultimately enjoy) this aspect of freelancing.
Great freelancers know how to think on their feet, embrace change, and keep their minds open at all times. Not only is adaptability the best way to avoid being overwhelmed by unexpected setbacks, but it’s an ideal way to get more out of life, in general.
Hard Skill: User Research
One of the most crucial freelancer skills any aspiring self-employed professional can develop is the ability to research like a boss. Because whether you’re a freelance copywriter or a pro blogger, a graphic designer, or a web developer, you need to know everything there is to know about the task at hand before digging in.
Good researchers know to start broad with their research and then follow up by digging deeper as needed. They use trustworthy, high-quality sources and verify facts before adding them to their work, as well.
And when copywriting for a business or company, they always scope out the competition, as well, so they know what they’re up against.
Hard Skill: Technical SEO
Anyone looking to become a freelance writer or other professionals who makes a living online should know the ins and outs of technical SEO. Start by learning the basics from a diverse collection of sources and reading up on expert techniques. Then practice auditing different websites to hone your skills.
Assembling a selection of go-to SEO tools for freelancers is a good idea, too, as the right ones can take so much of the guesswork out of the process. It’s also worth noting that successful professionals continue to polish their freelance skills indefinitely. The worlds of SEO and digital marketing are ever-changing, and it’s crucial to stay up to date.
Hard Skill: Data Science
Saying that the world generates a lot of data here in the digital age is a massive understatement. For example, in 2020, the collective human world generated about 64.2 zettabytes of raw data. That makes the ability to process, assess, mine, visualize, and analyze data a must-have for many professionals.
So what is a freelancer in digital-age terms? It’s someone who’s not only knowledgeable about SEO and social trends but who understands the basics of data science, as well. Data science-related professionals are in high demand, a demand that increased by nearly 300 percent in 2021 alone.
Skills for Freelance Beginners
Regardless of the field you ultimately decide to go into as a freelancer, some freelancer skills are considered universal and can benefit anyone. Here are some key examples every beginner should cultivate and hone.
What is a freelancer who’s at the top of their game best at? Communicating tops the list in a big way. Writers, graphic designers, web developers, and more need to be experts at nailing down project specifics with clients, asking the right questions, and getting to the bottom of what they’re looking for.
Marketing and online content production go hand in hand regardless of the niche a freelancer specializes in, so understanding the ins and outs of marketing is a must.
You’ll need a full understanding of how to tie a client’s products and services into nearly any topic. It’s important to understand marketing concepts like brand identity, buyer’s journey, and conversion, as well.
A good freelancer is definitely good with facts, hard data, and the basics of how to craft a winning piece of content from the ground up. However, they also understand that creativity is often the X-factor that separates a good freelancer from one who’s truly great at what they do.
Creativity helps a freelancer think on their feet, solve problems, and produce the kind of original material their clients are looking for.
An ability to write well on a variety of different topics and in multiple styles is a major asset beginning freelancers will want to cultivate for sure. The most in-demand freelancers are well-versed in copywriting, blog writing, and SEO writing for the web. Understanding how to tell a good story and use storytelling to connect with an audience is important, too.
Love it or hate it, social media is a massive part of how the average person lives their life and makes decisions about where to spend their money. That means knowing how to use it is one of the most important freelance skills a beginner could develop. Such knowledge is essential in understanding what makes content effective (or not) in the first place.
Success in content production is only partly about the technical skill required. Great freelance professional understands that they’re also in the business of relating to people, which requires empathy.
They know how to handle sensitive subjects with absolute care, anticipate the needs of an audience, listen to clients, and more.
Last but definitely not least, a beginning freelancer needs to not only understand negotiation but be comfortable with it.
Many freelancers do contract work, so it’s crucial to understand how to advocate for what you want and needs out of a deal while also ensuring that you can meet a client’s expectations.
Send Your Brand Soaring into the Future with the Right Freelance Talent
So, what is a freelancer? They’re so much more than just a talented worker who could be an incredible help to you when it comes to staying on task and getting things done. The right person could be the X-factor that helps propel your brand to greatness.
This is especially the case with important brand-building priorities that require fresh perspectives and dedicated talent — like building and maintaining a winning SEO strategy.
Check out our handy guide to outsourcing your SEO campaign to the right freelance professional for more information.
You’ll discover the many benefits of outsourcing various SEO tasks, learn when outsourcing is the best solution, and more!
How Brands Can Find Freelancers
So where can up-and-coming brands go to find the best freelancers in the business when they’re ready to start assembling a team? The following are some great places to start.
Fiverr is one of the biggest, most popular places to meet freelancers these days for a reason. To begin with, it’s home to a wide variety of different professionals and service providers, including copywriters, animators, marketers, graphic designers, and more.
It can take time and effort for a client to find exactly the right service providers for their project (or for a freelancer to find the right clients). But there are options available for every budget, turnaround times tend to be quick, and payments are protected.
Workana is another emerging platform where aspiring freelancers across multiple industries can connect with all sorts of different clients, including large corporations, tiny startups, and everyone in between. It works similarly to larger platforms like Upwork in that clients post projects and freelancers send proposals describing their suitability.
As with similar platforms, freelancers can set their own rates on Workana, offer multiple services, develop strong ongoing relationships with clients, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with secure payment options.
WriterAccess by Rock Content is a top-tier content production platform that’s ideal for skilled, experienced freelancers and discriminating clients who want to hire the best of the best.
Like other platforms, WriterAccess offers freelancers – including SEO content writers, graphic designers, and editors – the ability to build profiles that showcase their skills, achievements, and best work. Clients looking to hire can post projects available to service providers at a variety of skill levels.
Some selling points that make WriterAccess a particularly solid choice for freelancers and companies alike include:
- An easy-to-understand star rating system for indicating a particular freelancer’s skill level, work quality, and reliability
- Flexible pricing for clients based on the skill level of the talent they’re looking to hire
- A rigorous vetting process for new freelancers who are new to the platform, plus opportunities to continue to hone key skills
- A secure payment system that protects both freelancers and clients
- The ability for clients to build love lists populated with favorite freelancers, distribute solo projects to individual freelancers, and more
WriterAccess customers can access the service and its vast pool of talented freelancers via a monthly subscription free, so if you’re currently looking to build your own personal dream team of go-to service providers, you’re in the right place with WriterAccess.
You can also find out what it’s all about at zero cost to you when you sign up for a free two-week trial today! Network with talented, experienced copywriters, content producers, designers, editors, and more.
Where to Hire Freelancers
If you’re a business owner or marketing professional looking for assistance with your ongoing workload, the right freelancers can be incredibly helpful, especially as your business grows. Here are some key places to meet the best talent for your needs.
Many freelancers maintain detailed profiles and presences on LinkedIn, so it’s an excellent place to find talent for specific projects, long-term partnerships, and more.
Upwork is a massive online marketplace where many different types of clients and freelancers come together to connect. You can evaluate your options by checking out performance reviews or portfolios, interviewing candidates you’re interested in, and more.
Fiverr is another popular online platform where companies can go to hire a wide variety of different freelancers – everyone from artists, to copywriters, to voiceover artists, and more. It’s especially great for finding inexpensive talent for one-off projects.
WriterAccess is a next-level platform that is home to some of the most experienced, passionate freelancers and content creators working today. Each service provider is rigorously evaluated for skill and ability, so companies and marketers know they’re hiring truly capable professionals.
Are you currently in the process of building your ultimate content creation dream team? Sign up for a two-week free trial to WriterAccess today, and find out why it’s such a game-changer.
The Top 4 Industries Most in Need of Freelancers
Although just about every industry could potentially benefit from hiring freelancers, there are some where jobs are particularly abundant. The following are some great examples.
1. Copywriting and Content Writing
In the digital age, a solid web presence, a well-maintained blog, and robust social media feeds are absolute musts. And all of those things require a steady stream of engaging, interesting content. All companies further require top-tier written copy for their websites, email blasts, product pages, and more, as well.
That said, a freelance writer who’s capable of generating content that converts, gets people’s attention, and helps companies achieve top SERP rankings has their work cut out for them.
2. Web Design and Development
Just as companies need plenty of written content, they also need someplace to put them – a website. But a business’s website speaks volumes about them and makes a powerful impression on first-time visitors, so it needs to be just right.
For that reason, freelance web designers and web developers who can build and maintain beautiful, functional, fast websites are in extremely high demand.
3. Accounting and Bookkeeping
Every growing business, big or small, needs help managing its finances and keeping its books up to date. So if you’re a qualified professional who’s great at those things and has been thinking of going freelance, consider going into financial services.
4. Virtual Assisting
Great customer service is essential for any well-run business, so a reliable, personable virtual assistant will find there’s plenty of full-time and part-time freelance work out there for them.
Virtual assistants frequently also handle tasks like scheduling, organization, administrative tasks, and more, so you can specialize in whatever subcategory you want.
These days, rounding out your workforce with a team of carefully chosen freelancers is a wonderful way to give yourself a better array of options as to how you do business and manage your time. Sign up for your free two-week trial on WriterAccess today, and experience the difference firsthand!