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  • Writer's pictureNatashia Larkin

What is a freelancer?

Updated: Jan 31

what is a freelancer

If you've landed on this article, it’s probably because you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer, but you’re not quite sure what this means for your career. 

If so, yay! This can be a very exciting time for anyone. 

But there’s no denying that it’s also a big decision and knowing as much as you can about being a freelancer can help you to make the right choice. 

I’ll admit, I was quite fortunate when I chose to start my freelance life. 

I started my life of content as a copywriter and transitioned into a PR and communications role. But I was still in the very early stages of my career, so although I was giving up a guaranteed paycheck, I was young, and had very few commitments. 

Basically, what I’m saying is I was not leaving a sturdy £60,000 salary behind me. 

It’s a little different if you’ve got a mortgage to pay, kids to feed or any other monthly expenses and commitments that might be at risk. 

All that being said, I have now been a freelancer for six years, supporting myself and always making sure I can pay the rent. Sure, although I don’t have kids or a mortgage, I do have a husband and a very needy little whippet. 

But enough of that, I guess what I’m trying to say is I’ve managed to make a continuous and liveable wage as a freelancer - and you can too. 

But what is a freelancer and what do they do? 


What is freelancing? 

Freelancing is a type of self-employment in which most professionals will lend their skills to several different clients rather than having just one employer. 

Freelancers typically work on a project or contract basis and as they aren’t committed to long-term contracts (unless they want to be) this is a much more flexible way of working. 

Some freelancers may have their own office, they may use shared workspaces and many, like me, will work from home. 

Who hires freelancers? 

Any company or even an individual can hire a freelancer to help them with their business needs. 

From small startups to Fortune 500s, even individuals who just need a hand, they will hire freelancers to help them with specific tasks or to fill specific skills gaps. 

For businesses, this is usually a more cost-effective solution as it means they don’t have to hire a full-time employee. 

So basically, it doesn't matter what industry or niche you want to work in, there tends to be freelance opportunities in every sector. 

From web design to cybersecurity, marketing to dog walking, you can be a freelancer in any industry provided you have the right skills and the drive to make it happen. 

How does freelancing work?

In the early stages, setting up a freelance business is the same as setting up any other business. 

You need to create an online presence, whether that’s a website, social media accounts, newsletters or a mixture of digital platforms. This is important for getting your name out there. 

As a freelancer, you will also have to think about: 

  • Whether you will be a sole trader or a limited company 

  • Invoicing and tracking expenses 

  • Completing your tax returns each year

  • Getting freelance insurance 

  • Opening a business account and buying any assets you require 

  • Where you’ll work from 

  • Drafting relevant freelance contracts 

Where freelancing really differs from a regular job is that you have to build your own client list. You have to be proactive at putting yourself out there, looking for work and attracting potential clients. 

So, as you can see, there’s a lot to think about in the early stages and becoming a trusted freelancer takes time. 

But everyone has to start somewhere, so if you’re thinking about taking the leap, don’t let that put you off. 

The advantages and disadvantages of being a freelancer 

There are lots of reasons you might be thinking about starting a freelance career and I can tell you, it certainly has its perks. For example:

  • You get to be your own boss

  • You get extra flexibility and the chance to work hours that better suit you

  • You can pick and choose the projects you do and don’t want to do 

  • You can work remotely, from home or from your chosen office location 

  • You keep all your profits (apart from those that you owe the tax man, of course) 

Let me give a great example. Yesterday, I took two to three hours over lunch to go for a beautiful coastal walk with my husband and dog. I wouldn’t get way with that if I worked for someone else! 

But, of course, as with everything in life, there are also some disadvantages to choosing the freelance lifestyle and you need to think about these carefully too. These might include: 

  • Having to work hard to pull in clients 

  • Keeping work coming in on a regular basis 

  • Dealing with irregular payments and clients settling invoices late

  • Tackling all issues, invoices, complaints and any other setbacks you may face

And if I’m being honest, it can also be a lonely world, especially if you work from home and don’t talk to anyone throughout the day. So it really depends on your lifestyle and network outside of your freelancing and whether or not you’ll work with others in person as part of your job. 

If you’ve been thinking about the freelance life and asking yourself, but really, what is a freelancer, here is a brief overview of what it means to manage your work and career in this way. 

Sure, every individual is different and your experience is unlikely to be the same as someone else, but the more knowledge you have going in, the more you can prepare yourself for the freelance life. 

That, or you might decide that perhaps it’s not the career move for you. 

Either way, I wish you the best of luck! 

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