Join Tom Geller for an in-depth discussion in this video What is freelancing?, part of Freelancing Fundamentals.
No matter what the economy, there's always a reason to consider a freelance career. When times are good, freelancing can help you gain flexibility and spend your time more enjoyably. And when times are bad, freelancing is one way to make your own path despite the tight job market. But before we get too deep into things, we need to define what we're talking about starting with the word freelance. I like Wikipedia's definition which is "Somebody who is self-employed and is not committed to a particular employer long-term." It's worth noting that freelancers are generally considered sole proprietors or sole traders as they're called in Great Britain.
In the United States, the word freelancer is synonymous with independent contractor; a group of over 10 million people in the United States. The fact that so many people are independent contractors is good news for you because it means that the market is accustomed to hiring and working with such people. But independent contracting is only one of four alternative employment arrangements. Another type is on-call work; for example, a graphic designer who comes in to lay out a department store's ads once in a while. About two-and-a-half million Americans fit this description.
A second type is temporary help agency work, more commonly known as temps. This is actually how I got my own start fresh out of college. A temp agency would call me, often a date in the morning, and I'd go into their client's office, and do small projects. A little over a million Americans are temps. The last kind of alternative employment is work from agencies that specialize in long-term contracts. It's a lot like temping except that the jobs tend to be full-time and they last for much longer.
A little under a million American workers are in this kind of arrangement. You can read more about all of these definitions and the U.S. government's statistics on each type of employment by visiting the URL on your screen. I should mention that this course won't talk about all the unskilled or piecemeal work such as stuffing envelopes or mystery shopping. To be blunt, a lot of those alleged jobs are out and out scams, and the ones that aren't are so low-paying that you can't truly build a career on them. I'll talk a bit about them in the video Avoiding Scams.
But let's get back to independent contracting which is where you handle all the details of the job. Admittedly, the differences between this and other kinds of alternative employment can be subtle. And in fact, you'll probably find yourself doing a mixture of all four of these so-called alternative employment arrangements during your freelance career, and that's okay. It's what I've done myself. For this course however, I'm going to focus on independent contracting. I think it's the hardest of the four work styles because you have the most responsibility.
But along with that comes greater freedom to work as you want, to grow your business, and to spend your time doing what you really love.
A bonus chapter covers common questions freelancers have when entering the field.
- What is freelancing?
- Defining your career goals
- Funding your startup
- Getting licenses, permits, and insurance
- Setting prices
- Finding work through agencies
- Getting referrals
- Working with time and project management tools
- Increasing your rates