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Is freelance the future of work?

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 So, what does freelance mean?


Put simply, it is freelance jobs. Meaning people working not for a company but working for themselves. They find ordering customers, equip a working space, do some work and get paid. ''Freelancer'' as a term was used for the first time in Walter Scott`s Ivanhoe novel. The famous Swedish writer used ''freelancer'' to define a soldier of fortune.


What do freelancers do?


A variety of jobs allow freelance work. All skilled-based professions not requiring expensive equipment, a lot of space or a big team to complete the job, are potentially a good fit.  A quick look at the freelance marketplaces reveals thousands of listed jobs for freelancers varying from IT-related like programmers, QAs, web designers to teachers, lawyers, babysitters, marketers, copywriters, etc. Surprisingly, the engineers, consultants and teachers are even more interest in generating «free earnings» than the IT experts.

Freelance work exists even in the construction industry. It is much more cost efficient for a construction company to hire freelancers than to keep regular builders staff on the payroll all year round.

Almost anyone can become a freelancer. It is not necessary to have an IT background or experience with video production or creative design. There is plenty of remote work and freelance jobs and some skills are easy to learn in a relatively short period of time.


How much do freelancers earn?


It depends on several factors including the years of experience, the freelancer`s area of expertise, his/her ability to present oneself, the references from existing customers and so on.

Overall, «a free» worker earns in 1,5-2 times more than an office colleague. Some experts that have already built their reputation and client base may earn 10 times than an employee having the same skills set.  At the same time, many freelancers struggle to make the ends meet. Either they can't acquire new clients or collect payment from the existing customers or they fail to develop their skills and differentiate themselves from the competition. Freelancing is not an entertainment but a job requiring certain knowledge, skills, huge commitment and persistence.


Where to look for an ordering customer or gigs 


A key aspect of the job of any freelancer (especially a newbie) is the search for ordering customers. More often than not, a freelancer offers his/her services by oneself.  With time passing by, s/he might get loyal ordering customers, who will give tasks on a regular basis. Developing a strategy and testing which freelance platforms and marketing campaigns bring good results is key. The list below gives some ideas a freelancer could start with:

  • Microsites or freelance marketplaces;
  • social networks and groups of interest;
  • thematic forums;
  • advertising in local newspapers;
  • online business directories
  • personal connections and so-called «jungle telegraph».

A freelancer can contact directly the companies s/he is interested in working with. Many do just like that. However, the response rate depends highly on identifying the right point of contact within the organization. For a freelance designer, this could be the creative director, for a freelance recruiter - the HR Director etc. The risk of online fraud or late payment is never to be overlooked in the process of searching for potential ordering customers. One big deal can actually leave the freelancer in debt if the payment is never transferred or is received too late.  Some freelance marketplaces offer a payment guarantee, some don't and it is important to check the terms and conditions prior to accepting a gig. In general, keep away from «pyramids», magic wallets, jobs that require an advance payment to receive guidance or training, etc.. If an unknown ordering customer asks you to do a job or part of a job as a free test, this could be a red flag. It is common for a freelancer to be asked to provide references, links to their portfolio and previously completed projects, etc. It is absolutely acceptable to be asked to complete a test gig or project at a reduced pay rate but never less than the minimum wage or below your cost.  


What are the advantages of working as a freelancer?


1. No fixed office hours (a freelancer does not need to get up early in the morning and wait for another weekend impatiently). However, quality work and completing the assigned tasks on time are imperative for receiving more orders. In some cases, it will be required to respect the time zone and the working hours of your clients meaning working late at night or early in the morning.

2. Cost and time savings (no need to use public transport or spend money on petrol).

3. An opportunity to earn well (a freelancer can earn more than his or her office colleague depending on her/his skills, network and marketing strategy).

4. Stability (a typical wage-worker can lose her/his job at any time due to automation, process outsourcing or a company`s bankruptcy, while a freelancer having a good portfolio of paying customers does not need to worry about it).

5. Opportunities (freelancing can become the first step on the way of building your own business).

6. A feeling of freedom: no dress code, corporate standards, politics or annoying bosses.

7. A free choice of a working spot (a freelancer can live and work wherever desired just so there was a proper Internet connection). A cabinet at home, a nearby coworking office or even a cafe could be a great option. 

8. Travel the world. A freelancer can easily work and travel, move in and move out, change cities and even countries.


What are the major disadvantages of freelance work?


1. Fierce competition. A freelancer needs to search for ordering customers actively; s/he should be able to present oneself and services well.

2. Upfront costs. In some cases, the freelancer will have to invest in software, equipment, online advertisement, etc.

3. Taking care of her/his tax returns and social security payments. 

4. Accounting and tax advisory costs to be in compliance with the legislation. 

5. Lack of social status. In some societies, moving up the career lather is still perceived better than working as a freelancer.



About the author: Melisa Marzett is a freelancer who has been freelancing for about 10 years now and enjoys it. She believes that freelance is the future of work. Melisa is currently working for FindWritingService.