What is a freelancer?


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Freelancer Basics

Freelancers can sometimes seem like a mythical beast to those who work in full-time employment. Like the Sirens of Greek mythology, from afar they look great. They get to wear what they want, work from home and pick their own hours. Up closer inspection, though, life as a freelancer isn’t quite so leisurely. It’s certainly not easy, and is far from the carefree life many others assume it to be. So what, exactly, is a freelancer?

Essentially, it’s someone who works for themselves. This means they don’t have your run-of-the-mill employment contract with a company (although there are plenty of people who do freelance work in their spare time outside their normal job).

This means a freelancer must go out and find work themselves. This can be done in a number of ways and, usually, an array of methods have to be employed. It can include networking events, word-of-mouth, job posting sites and your regular old CV spraying. Often, freelancers may not know when their next job will be coming in – so half the battle is constantly searching for new work.

All jobs vary in size as well, so it’s pretty common for a freelancer to be working on a number of projects at once. This also means they can have several different clients at the same time. A freelancer, therefore, has to be well-organised. This means keeping tabs on various conversations, deadlines and work in tandem. Without organisational skills, freelancers can really suffer.

In essence, the freelancer runs their own business, which brings a lot of extra work with it. Administration, accounts, marketing, and all that other stuff that your average worker doesn’t have to deal with alongside their actual job. This is why the idea of the relaxing life of a freelancer is a myth. Not only do they have to do the job they’re trained in, they have to learn how to do all the other essentials along with finding the time to do them too.

In the end, a freelancer is someone who is willing to take risks. Risks that involve putting the responsibility of their working life and career progression on themselves and doing all they can make rent at the end of the month.

It can be a tough life, but it can be incredibly rewarding as well. Either way, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. You may also be wondering the origin of the word ‘freelance’!

Photo by Wes Hill

  • Charlotte Fleming

    As well as needing to stay creative a freelancer wears the R&D Department’s, HR Manager’s, Marketing Manager’s and Accounts Manager’s hats too. That’s quite a pile of headgear.
    So: are you cut out to be a freelancer? How many plates can you keep spinning at once and still keep smiling?
    Or would you be better selling your services to an agency?
    It’s your life and it’s for living; if you don’t want all that hassle, do the sensible thing! Life’s too short to spend your (much needed) sleeping hours still at work.
    Me? I’m a freelancer. But I do sometimes wonder…