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What Does It Take to Become a Freelancer?

PS has worked as a freelance writer since 2012. When she's not traveling and writing, she helps people with web design and development.


Before getting yourself caught in the freelancing web, you should understand the know-how of freelancing. Especially if you want to take it as a full-time career in the near future. First of all, question yourself, are you a game for freelancing?

Freelancing is a lucrative career since you have the freedom to work from anywhere anytime and earn as much as you can. The point that many people are unaware of is, that it is not just about completing your projects. You also need to carry out other several tasks which were handled by your management in your 9 to 5 job. This includes financial handling and your self-motivation to work.

The misleading image of a freelancer and the actual lifestyle

  • Things are changing now, yet there are still many who perceive freelancers as lazy douchebags. According to them, freelancers work a little, choose their own timings, go for monthly offs, and make plenty of cash.
  • It’s been a couple of years since I started working as a freelancer and I yet to come across a person who lives such a fairytale lifestyle. It’s true a dedicated freelancer can earn ten times more than the average office-goer, but money doesn’t come easy.
  • In reality, you need to be highly committed, disciplined, and have attuned knowledge of the business. This demands for more working hours than your 9 to 5 counterparts. Not all freelancers work for long hours, this is especially true for newbies who are yet trying to fit in the picture.
  • Unlike employees, freelancers don’t receive sick leaves or paid leaves, they earn when they work. Fortunately, experienced freelancers can win a large number of clients through referrals, who are also ready to pay them a massive amount for each job.
  • Freelancers’ salary doesn’t have monthly or yearly criteria. It is possible for them to earn millions in a year and only a few bucks in the next year. Considering the freedom, it is still better than the employed professionals, though.
  • As a freelancer, you need to have enough savings to cover up for the next months in case your project is on hold or you are receiving less-paid job offers. It can be due to seasonal requirements or other circumstances such as during COVID-19, many clients are aiming for low hourly rate freelancers due to the downfall of economical conditions.
  • You may also need to travel within your country or abroad to work with the companies.
  • Besides the hectic work schedule, if you are hired by well-established companies, you receive all sorts of luxuries such as free travel, stay at lavish hotels, work in sunny places, and so on. On the other hand, these opportunities are very rare and only a few distinguished freelancers receive such opportunities.
  • 99% of the freelancers start from the very bottom. It includes building the portfolio, working with startups, newbie entrepreneurs, and small to medium companies.
  • You should also master the networking skills to spread the word about your skills. This is the most effective way to get yourself recommended by others.

You know you are a freelancer if you can positively answer these questions

Whether feasible or not, each of us does think about working on our own terms. Though, this doesn’t work for everyone because it comes with its own pros and cons. To make sure, you have made the right decisions ask the following questions to yourself:

  1. Does your current surrounding encourage you to be a freelancer? Do you have dependents who may suffer in case there’s a drop in your cash-inflow?
  2. Are your current financial situations strong enough to protect you if you receive delayed payments? Many clients pay their invoices late so you must have enough savings to pay your bill.
  3. Does your health allow you to work overtime?
  4. Are you flexible with the timings and self-motivated enough to find the regular work? Many projects require you to work for long works in a single day. Also, some of them don’t have regular workflow so your work may get paused for a while. During that time, you should be actively looking for other opportunities to sustain in this career.
  5. Are you passionate about your skills or just looking for ways to earn money? The freelancing job demands you to connect with other people, understand their goals, and help them achieve it. You can’t act like a money-making machine. If so, you are best suited for a regular job. You must be passionate about your skills and always ready to learn new things.
  6. Do you have in-demand skills, which are provided by only a few professionals at the current time? If yes, then you have all the reasons to start working as a freelancer. You can even ask for higher rates.
  7. Do you have entrepreneurial skills? As a freelancer, you are nothing less than an entrepreneur, better said a business owner. You should know how to come up with great decisions, strategies, and make your service more reachable and profitable. You should be able to visualize the bigger picture.
  8. Do you have great communication skills? Communication skills are crucial to leave a long-lasting impact and ensure higher success. It is general to have clients from all the different places who share different dialects and languages. English, being the business language, should be your strong point, both in writing as well as speaking. Though many clients can still hire you on the basis of your work, they do give fewer stars if you lack in communication skills.
  9. Do you have authoritative skills? Not always, but sometimes you may receive clients who are trying to take too much advantage of your work. They may ask for work that wasn’t pre-planned and also doesn’t count for extra money. You should stay calm and assertive to deal with the situation. You should settle all your clients' requirements at the beginning of the project itself. In case, there occurs a need for change, you must revisit the proposal and revise the rates with them.
  10. Are you confident in your skills? Finding online work as well as finding online workers, both are based on how much you can put your trust into the opposite party. You must be self-confident about your skills and aptitude to complete the work so that clients can rely on you and hire you immediately. As a newbie freelancer, your portfolio is your strongest point.
  11. Can you handle negative reviews and rejections? It is natural to be rejected and receive negative reviews at times. You should know how to handle them. They might be discouraging, but you can avail them to improve your work and provide better services. In case, a client leaves negative feedback. You should reply to them by accepting the loopholes and promising to deliver better the next time.

The number of freelancers is on the rise due to the following reasons

The reason why you started freelancing in the first place will keep you motivated to continue your new career. Here are some of the most common reasons:

1. A medium for sustenance

  • Freelancing is a skilled move for graduates who are struggling to find the right job. Since the job market is overflowing with applicants and under flowing with opportunities, receiving a working experience as a freelancer can boost their employability.
  • Your main aim is to build a portfolio. So, you need to pay heed only to the jobs that add value to your resume. Trying out any sort of job can consume lots of your time and may discourage you later.
  • You also have the advantage to receive promising recommendation letters from the right clientele. You can avail them to receive well-paid job offers.
  • To boost your employability, you should never aim to work for free or at a lesser cost than your worth. Otherwise, you will be considered as free labor and will not be given enough value.
  • To set your rate, you must first research what others are charging who have a similar skill set like yours. It’s not a good idea to start with a low rate nor it’s the best decision to overrate yourself. You must evaluate yourself practically. Suppose you are a PHP developer. Then, search online to find out the average hourly rate of PHP developers. Your search must be location-specific. You can modify your rate depending on what other skills you have and are there limited professionals with such skills. For example, if you are a full-stack web developer and work on a rare PHP framework, you can easily ask $70 or more hourly rate.
  • You must also plan your time in advance. You can work full-time, part-time, or hourly. You should also mention your availability time so that your present project doesn’t get messed up with upcoming projects.
  • Before agreeing on the project, it is important to do thorough research on your client. Find the people with whom you are working. This is very important for you to know that you must never agree to develop features on the request of people who don’t have decision-making authority. It’s better to receive a thumbs-up from key-decision makers from the client’s side before adding anything new.
  • Be clear and specific about what you do. There’s a misconception among people. For example, some consider that if you are a web developer, you can also help them with SEO and content marketing. This is absolute nonsense. If you accept to work on any such project, there’s a possibility you may not make it up to their expectations. This will leave you with a poor rating. It’s better to clarify them about your work preferably in writing.

2. A great option to improve your skillset

  • Freelancing not only improves your employability chances but also makes you a better employee and also a businessman.
  • You understand how you can manage your finances, negotiate deals, manage the projects, handle the clients, and communicate effectively. You don’t receive this chance in your regular job.
  • You also learn about the current job trends and what skills are in most demand.
  • Consider you are an SEO copywriter, you wish to improve your technical skills to also work as a technical copywriter. You can find plenty of clients who are looking for technical writers or copywriters. The job is certainly different from SEO, but your copywriting experience and good command in English can increase your chances of getting hired. And like I said before, most of the clients presume you already have additional skills.

3. An escape from regular routine

  • The reason to go freelancing isn’t always a permanent or serious one. You may opt for it, to take a break from your regular job.
  • Freelancing is a good option to cover the employment gaps you have in your CV. Your freelancing projects and complementary skills you gain can give you a huge employability boost.
  • You can build a network of like-minded people and can also ask for recommendations if needed. Not only you strengthen your professional network, but you are also ensuring your future employment opportunities in case you want to return back to freelancing.
  • Freelancing can help you update your skills. This is applicable when you specifically work in a tech field such as web development, graphic designing, animation, and so on. If you are on a break, this can be a paternal leave or sudden lose of job, freelancing can help you to brush up your skills and live with the trends.

4. A route to financial security

  • Undoubtedly, freelancing for beginners isn’t a cakewalk. But your continuous efforts can help you win multiple productive jobs back-to-back.
  • You also open the door to multiple income sources. Today, the Internet is filled with plenty of work-from-home jobs to help you earn millions annually. Your experience in freelancing gives you business acumen skills to try out new ventures and open new inflow cash streams.
  • Your finances are no longer bounded by your single employer. You get to choose your own clientele. But make sure not to go for many because working with multiple clients who can spend only little are not worth your time and may involve a high risk to your career.
  • Unlike in your daily employment, where everything you create is classified as the property of your employer, in freelancing you are the sole owner of everything you create. For example, if you have developed software that can be commercially valuable, then you receive all its perks. But if you develop it while working with a company, even if you do it outside of your working hours, it will be a product of your employer.
  • There will be instances when you will be asked to write customized code for projects. In this scenario, your work is owned by the one hiring you. If you add something of your own that’s not demanded by your client, you can claim full ownership over it. A similar clause will also be mentioned in your contract where it’s clearly written the work you are being paid for is solely owned by your client.
  • Many freelancers have successfully gone on to develop their own software, apps, websites, start their own agencies, and launch their online courses. They, now, earn a regular income and plenty of passive income as well. Your continuous efforts can make you a part of these financially-secure freelancers.
  • It certainly takes time to generate income from freelancing. But once you do, you can build a life based on financial security. Unfortunately, this profession is not for faint-hearted.

5. An option for side income

  • Many freelancers work as part-time along with their full-time jobs to save for holidays and other interests.
  • You can find many clients who prefer to work with part-time freelancers at reasonable rates.

Don’t leave your regular job yet

Being your own boss is a very tempting feeling, it comes with its own fun and sadness. The thought of choosing your own clients, working whenever you want, earning millions, and so on are highly encouraging. But you need to accept the reality.

As a freelancer, you not only work but also handle other duties such as handling clients’ requests, communicating with them, finding jobs on a daily basis, advertising your skills, building your network, handling finances on your own, planning budget, managing time, and so on.

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A 9 to 5 job is hectic and messes up with your work-life balance, so does the freelancing. While freelancing is better than your regular job in many ways, you need to be highly skilled in time management to work as a successful freelancer. Till the time, you don’t learn, it would be a foolish idea to leave your regular job and switch to remote working full time.

Sole Proprietorship/ Partnership/ Limited Company

Working as a self-employed professional, there are certain legal entities that you need to be aware of should you decide to continue this profession for a long time. You can opt for any of these depending on your circumstances.

1. Sole Proprietorship

  • As a sole proprietor, your only concern is paying your taxes as per your country's regulations.
  • It is the most simple legal entity as it requires less paperwork and hassle.
  • You can effectively use your time to work rather than indulge in legal matters.

2. Partnership

  • A partnership is a little complex yet secure way to build your business.
  • You have the advantage to ensure quick business success by combining the talent of different people who come from all walks of life.
  • Suppose you are in partnership with two other people. You specialize in business management, second in finance management, and the last one in technical know-how. Then, you as a team have the potential to build a robust business strategy and achieve better profitability. Some examples of a partnership are Apple, Facebook, and Google.
  • Sadly partnership does come with its own cons. The most common one is the lack of contribution by either of the partners. Many partnerships result in failure because one partner refused to invest further and steal the benefits for his own greedy needs.
  • While in a sole proprietorship, you make your own decisions. In partnership, the final decision can’t be made unless all the partners are available. It is also quite common for business partners to be in disagreement with each other causing the destruction of the business.
  • To ensure you don’t fall victim to this situation, you must create a formal contract beforehand. The contract should mention the percentage of ownership, delegation of duties, and the criteria for termination of the partnership.
  • You can set a monitoring system to ensure all partners are working as expected.
  • It is also important to have a fixed procedure. Through this, each partner is assigned authority for different departments, also guaranteeing they all can be communicated when needed.

3. Limited Company

  • A limited company is an organization in its proper form.
  • Unlike the above two, such a company requires intense paperwork, which later needs to be submitted to a particular government department, in a specific format, for approval.
  • You may need lots of helping hands while setting up this company as your involvement in paperwork can certainly hinder your business activities.
  • On the brighter side, if your company ever goes into debt, it’s not you but your business as a whole that owns the debt. Also remember, the directors can be held responsible for your business debts in case they are found out to be conducting the business while it’s already on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • You also receive tax advantages once your company's net profit reaches a certain level. You must take help from your accountant on this matter as these policies generally differ country wise.

There’s also a dilemma in if you should work from home or not. Because it comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. I have discussed it in detail here.


There’s no specific way of how you must work as a freelancer. Some people stick to freelancing full time, while some take it as a part-time job or side income. Either way, you need to put your maximum efforts to see if it actually works for you.

When you are just starting out, it’s better to work from home, so you can invest your money in advertising your skills. Later, it’d be better to have a desk space or work from co-working offices.

Many smart self-employed professionals always opt for sole proprietorship first. When it seems fruitful, they either opt for partnership or limited company. Both of them are equally great options and also have certain pros and cons.

© 2020 Prachi Sharma


Prachi Sharma (author) from Seattle, WA on June 25, 2020:

US has some very strict rules for freelancing. I am glad neighbors in India don't hold that much authority. And yes, freelancing is sometimes a mess because of the business aspects.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 25, 2020:

I did some freelance copywriting work when I was a young, stay-at-home mother. After I went to work full-time, I could hardly wait until I could retire and freelance again. But I ended up with a better retirement than I'd dreamed of. Now that I have a good retirement, I decided I didn't want to do it again. I guess I'm too dumb, fat and happy with the way things are.

But you are right about the business end of freelancing. I don't like business. If I could stick with only the creative side, I think I would love freelancing again. In the U.S. we have too many government agencies, including the IRS, state, county, city, etc., we have to satisfy to stay in business. One must have a license from the city, and if the next-door neighbor doesn't like your working from your home, they can protest and put a stop to it.

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