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Who Can Be Called a “Freelancer?”

by Laura Spencer

on December 11, 2012

in Freelancing Basics

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The term “freelancer” is tossed about quite a bit–but do you really know what it means?

There are lots of posts and articles about the growing popularity of freelancing, but not everyone means the same thing when they say “freelancer.”

Should everyone who works from home be called a freelancer? Are all entrepreneurs freelancers? What about online store owners–are they all freelancers too? Can just anyone be a freelancer?

In this post, I’ll explore the definition of freelancing. I’ll list eight professions that lend themselves to freelancing. Then, I’ll discuss 11 common characteristics that many (but not all) freelancers share.

At the end, feel free to chime in with your own thoughts about who should be called a freelancer.

Who Are the Freelancers?

The word “freelancer” is becoming fairly well known. There is a lot of discussion about who can be considered a freelancer and even whether it’s a good idea to call yourself a freelancer or whether you should use another term.

Often, people use the word “freelancer” to refer to anyone who earns a living by using the Internet, but that is not all that there is to freelancing. In fact, there are many people who use the Internet to earn a living who are not freelancers. There are also some freelancers who do not rely on the Internet.

So, what is a freelancer?

According to most definitions, a freelancer is someone who sells his or her professional services to companies on a contract basis. Often they are brought in to do a specific project or task, but they lack a long-term commitment to the organization that has hired them.

For income tax purposes, freelancers are usually considered to be self-employed. Many are sole proprietors, although some freelancers may be set up as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or work under some other business structure.

Unlike an employee, a freelancer receives no benefits such as health insurance or paid vacation days (other than pay) from the company who makes use of their services. When a freelancer’s working arrangement ends, they are not eligible to receive unemployment compensation.

What Does It Take to Be a Freelancer?

First and foremost, to be a freelancer you must have a marketable skill. If you don’t offer a service that companies actually need, you will have trouble being a freelancers.

Here are eight marketable skills that easily lend themselves to freelancing:

  1. Writing
  2. Programming
  3. Web Design
  4. Translation
  5. Virtual assisting
  6. Consulting
  7. Public Relations
  8. Artist

Of course, the skill list is not comprehensive. I’m sure you can think of other skills.

Freelancers must also have the right equipment to perform the tasks that they are hired to do. For many freelancers, having the right equipment simply means that they own a computer and have an Internet connection.

However, some freelancing specialties require specific equipment or software. It is the freelancer’s responsibility to arrange to purchase or get access to the tools that he or she needs to do the job.

For employees, their employer often specifies when and where the work is to be performed. However, a freelancer decides when and where he or she will work. As long as the freelancer meets the agreed-upon deadline, where and when they did the work doesn’t matter.

Freelancers are also responsible for finding their own work assignments. While an employer brings projects to their employee, a freelancer often must find their own projects. For that reason, a good freelancer is almost always also good at marketing themselves.

11 Common Characteristics of Freelancers

While the work that freelancers do varies widely, there are some characteristics that many freelancers share. These characteristics are not part of the definition of a freelancer. One could be a freelancer without having these characteristics.

Not all freelancers will fit these characteristics, but most will be able to relate to some of them. Here are the common freelancer characteristics:

  1. Works from home.
  2. Contacts clients through the Internet.
  3. Works as a creative professional.
  4. Has a flexible work schedule.
  5. Works for more than one client at a time.
  6. Works with technology.
  7. Has good self-discipline.
  8. Is not afraid of risks.
  9. Works hard.
  10. Does not require close supervision.
  11. Has irregular earnings.

Can you think of any other common characteristics that freelancers share? What are they?

Are You a Freelancer?

What would you add to this description of what a freelancer is?

Image by Sonia Belviso

Learn how to earn $125 or more per hour as a freelancer - Free Test Drive

About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy LauraĆ¢??s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.