What Is It Like to Work as a Freelancer? An Overview

freelancer
Are you tired of answering to a demanding boss that dictates how you spend your time at work? Well, you aren’t the only one wondering how to work from home as a freelancer. 53% of Generation Z and 40% of Millennials freelance full time so this is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice. But how easy is it to make a living as a one-person business? Keep reading for the complete overview of what it’s like to work as a freelancer.

What Is a Freelancer?

Let’s start by defining what freelancing means. A freelancer is an independent contractor with a marketable skill set who takes on project work for a specific time. For instance, a freelance web designer may bid for paid contracts to create a business website. Some people work full-time as freelancers. Yet others are employees that take on the role of freelancer for extra income. Some successful freelancers own companies that hire other freelancers to take up some of their workloads.

Why Should You Freelance?

Freelancing has several advantages. The first is that freelancers have autonomy over their working hours and schedule. For instance, if you are a night owl you can choose to work from midnight to 8 am. In general, freelancers also work fewer hours than full-time employees so they may be less stressed than their employed peers. Freelancers also choose where they want to work. Whether it’s at the local coffee shop, at the park, or from the comfort of their bed. Another benefit of freelancing is that you can save a lot of cash on taxes. This is because freelancers can deduct a variety of business expenses from their tax bills. They must keep meticulous records of their expenses in case they get audited by the IRS. This is the reason why many freelancers hire a professional accountant to handle their books.

The Risks of Freelancing

Freelancing does have some risks and drawbacks. The main disadvantage is that there isn't a guaranteed paycheck at the end of each month. Employees get paid per hour but a lot of freelancers get paid per completed project. You need to be self-motivated to hustle for a steady flow of jobs or they will end up with an insufficient and inconsistent income. Freelancers must also have the discipline to save part of their income. This is so you'll have a cushion in case you run into low-income months. Another disadvantage of freelancing is the lack of employer benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, vacations, and sick days. So, freelancers must factor these in when pricing their services otherwise they end up out of pocket.  

What Is It Like to Work as a Freelancer?

Now that you know the basics of freelancing you may be wondering what it feels like to work as a freelancer. Below are some important aspects of a freelancer’s daily life.

Freelancing Workday

As mentioned, a freelancer has a flexible workday and can choose when and where to work. Even so, a freelancer must put in a few hours of work most days to earn enough for a living. Some freelancers must deliver projects within certain deadlines so time management is vital. The Pomodoro technique is one of the most effective time management techniques used by freelancers. You set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on a task. When the timer goes off, there's a 5-minute break at the end of the 25-minute session called a “Pomodoro”. After four Pomodoro's, you get a longer 20-minute break. Another working from home tip to enhance productivity is to set aside a home office where you won't be disturbed. You can also have strict office hours so that you have free time for your family activities and hobbies. Many freelancers have at least one day off where they relax and stay away from their business to prevent burnout.

Looking for Work

When they aren't doing the work they were hired for, a lot of a freelancer’s time goes to looking for gigs. Most freelancers sign up on freelancer job boards, job alerts, and newsletters as these are the easiest ways to get job leads. Freelancers also sign up on websites like Upwork, Fiver, Freelancer.com and bid for jobs that interest them. As a freelancer, you would also network online and offline as this is the best way to get high-paying clients. Setting up a LinkedIn page with links to a work portfolio is a must for anyone serious about their freelancing career. Many larger companies these days are hiring more freelancers to their teams so optimize your profiles accordingly.

Business Management

Another important aspect of freelancing is day-to-day business management. Freelancers don’t get an automatic paycheck but must invoice clients to get paid for work done. They must also take care of other business tasks like drafting client contracts, filing taxes, business registration, etc. Freelancers also spend a lot of time on financial management. It's important to have a budget that estimates their monthly expenses and projected revenue. The freelancer must then track their actual revenue and expenses. This helps with planning and strategizing how to earn more money should there be a need to.

Training and Upskilling

Successful freelancers stay ahead of their competition by upgrading their skills. Some jobs like social media marketing and blogging need you to keep up with the latest trends in SEO optimization. One may also need to know how to use newly released or the latest digital marketing trends. So, freelancers spend a lot of time training and learning new skills.

Consider Becoming a Freelancer

Millions of Americans are making a great living from the gig economy so there is no reason why you can’t. Freelancers have a flexible work schedule and generally tend to work fewer hours than employees. But being a freelancer requires a lot of self-motivation and discipline. In the beginning, you'll need to hustle more for jobs. You should also save a good percentage of your earnings. This is to create a good cushion for yourself if income because unsteady. If you follow a sound business plan you can avoid the pitfalls of freelancing. Sign up for our newsletter to get freelancer job alerts plus the latest tips and advice on finding success with freelancing.