What is Freelancing and Should I Embrace it?

Written by Steven Marwick
Author

Many people who are new to the jobs market see others extolling the virtues of freelancing and wonder what it is and how best to go about it. So, first of all, what is freelancing? It is a way of working where you can apply to work with different clients and contract with them to provide a specific piece of work. 

This tends to be on a much smaller scale than with a regular job, so you may write an article or two for a particular client if you are a freelance content writer or a particularly tricky page of code for a business website if you are a freelance coder. The trick then is to build up the number of clients who are willing to pay you the amount you would like to earn per action or contract on their behalf.

Is Freelancing the Same as Remote Working?

Many freelancers work remotely, as their work often involves tasks that would otherwise be office-based.  Many of the tasks that freelancers do can be done in a location-independent manner and this means that there is no necessity to be tied down to one particular place of work. 

Many people freelance when they are a bit younger as it is a good way to be able to fund travel to other countries. Earning a decent salary while being able to lounge by the pool and work whatever hours of the day work best for you sounds like some kind of dream but it is a lifestyle which is more than within reach for many young people these days. This is particularly true since the Covid-19 pandemic proved to many sceptics that remote work is still working.

Taking a remote year while freelancing can be a great way to meet other people who can become your colleagues and work friends, if only for a while. Being able to spend time with others who are doing similar kinds of work is a key to happy staff and workations can also be a good way to meet like-minded freelancers. 

How to Get Started with Freelancing

In order to get started with freelancing, you will need to have an idea of the area that you would like to specialise in and have some knowledge and qualifications to back up your skills in this area. Check out some of the areas that are most suited to remote work.

Not all of the qualifications have to be from an academic environment, accreditations from reputable online courses can be taken into consideration as well. You will need to be able to fill out your information on popular networking websites such as LinkedIn.

Freelancing Websites

There are some very popular websites aimed at freelancers who are starting out in different fields and they help to match freelancers with clients. Most of these sites are free for freelancers and work on a commission basis, depending on the sector, or the amount of work that has been secured with a particular client. 

Upwork.com, for example, has a sliding scale of fees. They charge 20% for the first $500 earned with a client and after that, the fee goes down to 10% for everything from $500 – $10,000 with that client. Anything above $10,000 is charged at a rate of 5%. This is a great way of encouraging freelancers to build profitable relationships with clients and helping to find good fits for freelancers and clients alike.

These numbers may seem quite hard to hit when starting out but many freelancers will easily hit them with a single client, especially in the software development field. It can take a while to get established on the freelancing websites but once you have taken some jobs at slightly below what you would ideally like to charge, and hopefully received some good reviews, it is possible to increase your prices. This is how many people get started off with freelancing. 

Always Reject Free Trials

It is important to remember not to take part in free trials. Your work has worth and should always be paid for. Free trials will only ever work in the favour of the client and may prevent you and others in your field from finding paying work in the future. 

If you are ever asked to do a free trial, it is not impolite to respond that you don’t work for free and give a counteroffer of a paid trial at your stated hourly rate. Legitimate clients will be happy to consider this and those that won’t consider it would never have paid you anyway. They were just looking for some free work. 

Downsides to Freelancing

The downsides to freelancing can be most readily compared to working from home. You must be able to be a good self-starter and maintain a good level of productivity, even when you are not really feeling like it. 

Clients

You must also be able to deal directly with clients in a professional manner and manage their expectations when it comes to timescales for projects. Some freelancers find this side of things difficult and will opt out of working with some clients again in the future based on how hard they were to deal with. The ideal client wants as few edits as possible to the work that you submit and has very clear specifications about what they are looking for. 

Taxes

You must either have a good idea of how the tax system in your country works or have an excellent accountant who can handle this side of things for you. This will be an extra expense if handled by an accountant but many people see this as an expense worth paying so that they don’t have to worry about keeping on the right side of the authorities. 

Finding Sufficient Work

It can sometimes be hard to find sufficient levels of work to sustain you as a freelancer and you may experience a lot more self-doubt than you would in a full-time job for someone else. It is up to you to work out whether this is just an example of impostor syndrome and how to work through the hard patches in order to come out stronger and grow your freelance career.

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