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Freelancer Definition & Overview

Updated: February 20, 2023

For people who hold full-time jobs, working as a freelancer can occasionally seem like their dream come true. They appear fantastic from a distance because they can wear whatever they want, work from home, and set their own hours.

But when you look more closely, life isn’t always that leisurely, and it’s definitely not the carefree stroll around the park that many people believe it to be.

Read on as we take a closer look at what exactly a freelancer is, the benefits and risks of being a freelancer, and lay out some tips for those looking to move into this way of working.

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    • A freelancer works as an independent contractor.
    • They earn money without being employed by a company. 
    • Freelancing benefits include flexibility and better pay.

    What is a Freelancer?

    A freelancer is a person who works independently without having ties to any single employer. They pursue a specific profession but do not make a long-term commitment to a company. Employers usually pay freelancers on a per-task or per-project basis. 

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    Types of Freelance Work

    If you have a particular skill or offer a service, it may translate into freelance work. Examples of common freelance jobs include:

    • Graphic design
    • Photography and filming
    • Writing and editing
    • Counseling
    • Video production
    • Tourism promotion
    • Web design
    • Event planning
    • Translation and transcribing
    • Tutoring or teaching
    • Virtual assistant

    Independent workers are not limited to the roles listed above. If you have a niche skill, there may be a market for you to offer services as a freelancer. 

    Benefits of Being a Freelancer

    Freelancing is a great way to have a more flexible lifestyle and potentially make more money.

    Open Schedule

    You’re not tied to working specific hours. No one tells you when you can or cannot take time off work. Freelancers can often work different hours than the standard full-time employment of a Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 

    Work More or Less

    As a freelancer, you can work as much or as little as you want. If you need extra money, you may be able to pick up additional projects as your schedule allows. If you don’t need to make as much, you can work fewer hours.

    Better Pay

    Freelancers often make more than they would at a traditional job. Companies are often willing to pay freelancers more because there’s no training involved. Businesses don’t have to pay benefits, 401K, or guarantee your salary for an extended period of time. 

    Risks of Being a Freelancer

    Freelancing can be wonderful, but doesn’t come without risks.

    No Work Guarantee

    When you are employed with a company, you’re guaranteed a paycheck for your work. Freelancing offers less consistency.  Future income may be unpredictable. You may have time between contracts or have less work than you anticipate. You may also spend more time looking for new roles in freelance marketplaces.

    Self Employed Taxes

    The IRS considers freelancers to be self-employed. Most companies do not withhold taxes for independent contractors. As a remote worker, you are responsible for paying your taxes. This includes additional self-employment taxes. You are required to pay self-employment tax if you make more than $400 per year. The additional tax portion covers medicare and social security that would otherwise be taken out of your paycheck. 

    You can use a 1099-MISC tax form to claim your freelance income. You should also track all of your business expenses for income tax purposes. Qualified deductions help to lessen your tax burden for the year. 

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    ​​Tips for Finding Freelance Jobs

    Once you establish your freelance industry niche, begin searching for available work. You can begin on an online marketplace for freelancers. Examples include Upwork, Freelancer, and Guru. You can also find remote jobs on traditional career sites. Be sure to search for your desired job with keywords like remote. 

    If you interview for a freelance job, the prospective employer may ask about your freelance work practices. Be sure to have examples of previous work. Highlight how you stay organized while working remotely. Most importantly, share what sets you apart from other candidates.


    Freelancers work as independent contractors instead of being employed by a single business. You can freelance in almost any field. While finding freelance work can sometimes be a struggle, freelancing does offer many benefits. Working as a freelancer may offer better pay, more flexibility, and the ability to work from anywhere. There are also cons to working as a freelancer. Being a remote worker means that you have to pay your own income taxes. You also have to be a self-starter and stay on task independently. 

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Freelancing

    What is a freelance job?

    A freelance job is usually an independent contractor role. It specifies project(s) and the methods of payment for the work a freelancer completes. For example, a company may pay an hourly rate or a predetermined amount per project.

    Is freelancing good for beginners?

    Yes. There are many freelancing roles available as entry-level positions. Freelancers just need to know where to look for these opportunities.

    How can I get freelancing projects?

    As a freelancer, it is important to set yourself apart from the competition. When you apply for freelancing roles, explain how your unique skills can benefit potential clients.

    Do freelancers get paid?

    Yes. Freelancers usually get paid a flat rate for their service, but may also get paid hourly. Companies do not usually withhold taxes for freelancers, so it is your responsibility to pay taxes owed to the IRS.


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