The term freelancer has different connotations in different industries. Interestingly, in the media, there are a number of different freelance jobs you can get. You can work a part-time position as a freelancer, working a reduced schedule, or you can be a full-time freelancer, working either as a freelance writer, photographer, or illustrator. You can also work a full-time job and freelance on the side, doing projects here and there.
The Advantages of Freelancing
The biggest advantages of working as a freelancer are mostly lifestyle related, beginning with the freedom it affords you. A freelancer isn’t bound to keeping a certain schedule. In fact, most freelancers are able to work the hours that suit them, provided they meet the deadlines expected by their clients.
Generally, freelancers also work remotely, which saves both time and money on commuting and alleviates the stress of sitting in traffic. Depending upon where the freelancer lives, that can make the prospect of freelancing enticing enough on its own. Freelancers are also free to find the right situation for themselves. Whether it's picking which clients to work with or managing their workload, they don't have to answer to anybody else. Many people gravitate toward having that sort of autonomy.
The Disadvantages of Freelancing
At the same time, however, being on your own can also be seen as a downside. Working by yourself means you are doing everything from finding new clients and overseeing billing to collecting payments and handling the accounting. And all of that administrative work is essentially being done without immediate compensation, on top of actual paid freelance duties. Worse, some
Another disadvantage of working as a freelancer is the lack of financial stability. Your ability to generate income is directly tied to your ability to attract clients. If you're not necessarily outgoing, you might have difficulty gaining clients, and that, in itself, can be stressful. Even if you're good at interacting with people, it can be equally daunting to bring in that new business consistently.
Then there is the process of billing when the job is finished and making sure you're getting paid on time. Sometimes it can take a month or two before you receive payment. A freelancer doesn’t have the luxury of a steady paycheck. That can be tough when you've got bills to pay yourself and other obligations to meet such as income taxes and self-employment taxes, which need to be paid quarterly.
What's worse is that some freelance jobs are unpaid gigs, with promises of exposure. Before accepting any jobs of this nature, make sure you weigh the pros and cons and decide if it is worth your time.
Freelancing can also be tough because most freelancers don’t receive health coverage (unless they have a specific contract with a company and then have a unique full-time freelance position), a benefit that is typically afforded to full-time employees. Working for an employer also offers additional benefits that aren't available to freelancers, including having paid time off. When a freelancer is ill or otherwise needs to take time off, they do so without pay.
How to Transition From Full-Time to Freelance
To become a full-time freelancer, you need to assess where you are in your career and what your needs are. Do you have the contacts you need to get a steady stream of assignments? How much money can you reasonably expect to make? Do you need health insurance? These are all questions someone needs to address before they can start freelancing full-time.
Many freelancers, in various sections of the media, will work full-time for years, making contacts within their industry and picking up freelance jobs on the side, before they take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer. One thing a successful freelancer needs is strong ties to people who assign the work they do.
Successful freelance magazine writers, for example, often have strong relationships with certain editors who they rely on for multiple assignments. Once you have certain people who you can rely on to give you work, then you can comfortably get to a point where you can search out other jobs and bring in even more potential assignments and more money.
Because of the risky nature of freelance work, it’s very hard to develop a successful freelance career unless you’ve been working in the media for some time. There are exceptions to every rule: If you’re a famous novelist, for example, you can often wrangle a plush freelance writing job because of your stature. But the key to successful freelancing is leveraging the experience and reputation you build by working in that field.