What freelancer meaning do you subscribe to? Are you confused as to what to call someone who’s not an employee?
In this post, we’re going to clear up some of the gray areas around what freelancing is. We’ll go through what freelance jobs are compared to employment and what to expect. We’ll also get a little bit into what it means in this digital age and how we can all benefit.
What is Freelancing?
Freelancing refers to a work model where, rather than being tied to a company, an individual works for themselves. This model is possible in almost any industry, whether it’s related to finance, creative works, or food.
Freelancers are self-employed individuals, also known as independent contractors. They usually work on short-term projects and with multiple clients at once. They can take on in-person jobs such as personal photography or window cleaning. However, in recent years, the term “freelancer” has become more synonymous with terms like “remote worker” and “virtual assistant” This is due to the popularity of “work-from-home” culture and the ability to accomplish many tasks digitally.
The Freelance Work Model
Types of Freelancers and Freelance Work
1. Professional and Technical Freelancers
These are the types of freelancers who do freelance work full-time. Because of this, they are also incredibly technically skilled. They tend to focus on improving the value of their services in their specific niches. A few examples of this would be freelance SEO writers, logo designers, and product photographers.
2. Creative and Media Freelancers
Freelancers of this type focus on content creation and graphics. Some of the most popular fields are graphic design, content writing, video editing, voice acting, marketing, and advertising.
3. Administrative and Support Freelancers
These freelancers help take care of organizational and back-office tasks. These freelance jobs include:
- Calendar management/Scheduling and Planning
- Email management and Communications
- Organization and Maintenance of Data Records
- Accounting and Bookkeeping
- General Data Entry
4. Consultants and Advisors
Consultants and advisors or strategists are the highest level among the three types of virtual assistants. You could consider someone under this label an expert freelancer meaning someone with a high degree of knowledge and experience. These individuals have years under their belt have likely worked with many companies and brands. They take what they’ve learned and help create and implement systems and workflows. These can then lead to increased productivity and efficiency, better profit margins, and overall greater business health.
5. Gig and Casual Workers
As the name suggests, these types of freelancers typically take on one-off, short-term projects. This can be anything from logo design to data entry or content creation. Gig freelancers can work intermittently or venture into multiple fields of interests.
Freelance Compensation Models
This is the most common payment model used by the majority of freelancers nationwide. While this is a comfortable and typically safe option for most, it isn’t fool-proof. Speedy freelancers may not get paid for their efficiency. Slow freelancers may get overpaid. This is something that an employer and freelancer should discuss during the post-interview/negotiation stage of the hiring process.
Some freelancers give a quote on how much the entire project will cost. Some clients prefer this because they know exactly what they are paying. These payment terms typically have stipulations, such as a limited number of edits or revisions. These terms vary based on the project scope. With projects, though, there is a risk that the scope gradually widens without sufficient compensation.
This is very similar to project-based. One difference is that while a project is typically one-off, a package can be for a duration. You can think of it as a subscription for freelancing services. You pay for a set number of tasks, hours, deliverables, etc. for a fixed price. This is a good choice for experienced freelancers who know the value of their skills, efficiency, and knowledge.
While not common, some freelancers may request part of the payment beforehand and the rest after they have completed the project. One reason for this is to help cover costs during the project. This can be risky though, and hiring someone based on this compensation model requires a lot of trust.
Pros and Cons of Freelancing
- Flexible Hours and Workload – You aren’t tied to an employer as a freelancer meaning you can work as much or as little as you like. Whether it’s one-off projects, part-time or full-time work, or multiple jobs, freelancers decide what they can handle. They can negotiate how many hours a week they set aside for a project and choose what days to work those hours.
- Flexible Location – As long as they have an internet connection, freelancers can work wherever. They can enjoy the comfort of their homes, do some work while commuting or spend time in a coffee shop.
- Financial Control – You can earn proportional to the amount of work and projects you complete. If you are a hard worker, you can potentially earn more than a salaried employee. Freelancing rewards the hustle more consistently than in-house work.
- Self-Employment – Freelancers manage themselves. They are essentially entrepreneurs with a service business model. They are not bound by contract to a specific employer. Setting and adjusting rates is much easier and they can set the terms for each project.
- More Opportunities – A remote worker isn’t limited to job openings in their city, state or even country. They can work for an international company where they can get more exposure, build their resume, and earn more.
- Skill Development – It’s a cycle. Because you can work a variety of different jobs, you learn a lot more. When you develop more skills, you can apply for a wider array of projects.
- No Benefits or Insurance – There is no such thing as paid leave, dental, or company health insurance when you are a freelancer. Severance and retirement benefits also don’t apply. Freelancers need to come up with alternative ways to get insurance and save up retirement funds.
- No Job Stability – If you can’t find a client, you can’t earn. As a freelancer, if a client decides to drop you, there isn’t really anything you can do. There are also fewer if any laws in place that protect freelancers against unjust termination. This also means that freelancers don’t truly have a reliable source of income.
- Isolation and Loneliness – It can be a struggle to find community as a freelancer. While water cooler conversations can sometimes be awkward, human interaction is valuable. Months and even years in isolation, with no one to share in the highs and lows, can be mentally taxing. I think we can all relate on some level due to events in recent years.
- Self-Reliance – Freelancers typically have to figure things out on their own. Whether that’s alternative insurance options like we mentioned, marketing, or networking, they have to figure that out on their own.
Key Characteristics and Qualities of a Freelancer
Efficiency and Time Management Skills
Because freelancers move from project to project, they learn to manage their time wisely. The idea of a worker handling multiple projects may make some uncomfortable. However, they can help you meet that deadline and get things done efficiently.
Responsibility and Self-Management Skills
They tend to have a lot of discipline and can work on their own without the need for supervision. This lends to a greater degree of professionalism as well.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Working with different clients of varying sizes in potentially multiple types of industry has it’s perks. On top of working alone, a freelancer can also work together with a team to complete a task. They can adapt to different work cultures and can learn different tools and software faster than average.
A good freelancer needs to be a good communicator. This applies when they market their skills, answer interview questions, negotiate rates and schedules, or update their clients on work progress.
Freelancing in the Digital Age
Impact of Emerging Technology on Freelancing
Freelancing has become so popular, especially in recent years. The internet has already made more remote work possible, but it doesn’t end there. The development of tools, software, and websites have skyrocketed the potential for freelancers to make money online. Some technology makes “making money” a lot easier also due to automation.
We needn’t look further than accounting software for an example. This has allowed freelance bookkeepers to maintain accurate records more easily and take on more clients monthly. Maybe you want to look at the boom of eCommerce. Now the term “Amazon seller” is becoming less associated with side hustle culture and more of a sustainable full-time endeavor.
Technology hasn’t always been the friend of the freelancer though. One infamous example is AI. More and more businesses have attempted to substitute freelance work with artificially generated results, especially in the creative sector. For instance, you’ve probably heard of students using the popular ChatGPT to write essays and even term papers. Well, as it turns out businesses are doing it too and many freelancers have lost jobs to ChatGPT.
In terms of accessibility and availability, freelancers have never been easier to find. The sheer number of websites you can go to for outsourcing or freelance services have hiring managers spoiled for choice.
We’ve talked in the past about the best places to find freelancers online, particularly virtual assistant websites. We have posts on where to hire an SEO virtual assistant, a bookkeeping virtual assistant, and many others.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I choose the right freelancer for my project?
Here’s a checklist you can follow:
- Evaluate your needs – Determine the scope of work, list of tasks, budget, and timeline.
- Create a job description with a list of qualifications – Be as clear as possible.
- Do your research – Look at different freelance marketplaces and post your jobs there.
- Create a list of interview questions – Make sure you tailor them to the position you are hiring for.
- Negotiate, onboard, and manage – Negotiate rate, follow a proper onboarding process, and manage their progress.
2. What are the best practices for communicating and collaborating with freelancers?
The best tip is to establish communication and management tools and software (Slack, Zoom, Email, Trello, Asana, etc.) as early as possible. This is so they can get familiar with them if they’ve never used them before.
Also, take note of the quality of their work. That way you know who to contact should you need more work done in the future.
3. What are the risks involved in hiring freelancers and how can I mitigate them?
Sometimes you can get a bad hire. This can be someone who oversells their skills, bails before a project is done, or does a sloppy job. You can avoid this by hiring through reputable channels and reading client reviews. You can also mitigate other risks like data security and quality control by hiring someone with a good track record.
What Is Outsource School?
Outsource School helps you to unlock the potential of virtual assistants and accelerate your business growth.
Since being founded in 2020, Outsource School has helped 1,000+ business owners hire 2,000+ virtual assistants for their companies.
Free resources you might like:
- Outsource School Case Study: How We Scaled to 45+ VAs and 8 Figures in Revenue
- Free VA Calculator | See How Many VAs You Can Afford
- Free Training on 5 Keys to Working With VAs
- Learn Outsourcing 101 | Guides, Downloads, and Checklists
We’ve gone through freelancing and freelancer meanings, work models, pros, cons, and hiring tips. Now you’ve got yourself a much more complete picture of not only the life of a freelancer, but how you can effectively partner with one.