Freelancing work – tempting but not for everyone. Can you become a freelancer?
March 2, 2021
Freelancing has not only become popular in recent times but has also gained importance. The increasing demand for online services creates a room for multiple specialisations. The pandemic contributed significantly to this phenomenon, affecting all areas of the economy, including the freelance job market. What is freelancing and for whom is this work model good for? Read in the article and check if you could become a freelancer.
Table of Contents:
Freelancing – characteristics of the work model
Freelancer is someone who:
- does not have a permanent position, fixed working hours or a boss;
- remotely executes orders for one or more entities;
- orders may be one-off, occasional, cyclical or permanent;
- usually only needs a computer and the Internet connection;
- executes orders remotely and online;
- can work when, wherever and how they want, and can choose for whom they wish to work;
- solicits customers themselves by offering services under certain conditions.
Can anyone become a freelancer?
Despite the vast possibilities freelancing provides in terms of arranging work, not everyone is suitable for this work model. Some people work most effectively when they have a boss and a team of colleagues. They value employment stability, regular income and procedures regulating professional life. It provides them with a sense of security and corporate benefits.
It is also quite common that people get tired of working in a corporation with rigid hours, procedures, meetings and dictated work. They may want to switch to freelancing. However, it does not mean that freelancing will turn out to be the best form of work for them. You can look for more freedom, flexibility and harmony between work and private life in various ways.
People who decide to freelance must have an idea for themselves and their business. It is necessary to have specialisation in a given domain, knowledge and practical skills within the scope.
Freelancing – for whom?
Freelancing is usually chosen by brave, creative and free spirits with an artistic flair. Time is favourable for such people because it is most prevalent in creative industries, such as the broadly understood IT industry, graphics, copywriting, translations or business services.
Freelancers are looking for companies and individuals who wish to create a website, design a logo, write content for their website or blog. Recently, the work of a virtual assistant has become fashionable, and is performed entirely remotely and online.
Skills and possibilities of freelancers
Freelancers have a wide range of skills that allows them to build their business. The last six months have shown that during the pandemic, as many as 51% of freelancers participated in skills training (compared with 28% of non-employees in this sector). The use of various websites and applications by freelancers is crucial to the successful execution of their assignments.
Before the pandemic, 1 in 4 skilled freelancers typically found jobs online. Among them, 54% say that soft skills such as communication and interpersonal skills have proved to be very valuable in their work. They allow you to find trustworthy customers and make it easier to access resources that help project management and performance.
Out of those who are not freelancers but are new to working online, 58% say that:
- remote work made them more productive employees (73%);
- want to continue working remotely instead of returning to their traditional workplace (74%);
- they can earn extra income to cope with the pandemic’s impact on their personal finances (85%).
Freelancers adapt better to changes
Out of those freelancers who worked in their profession during COVID-19, most have the same amount of work as before or more.
Research showed that compared to non-freelancers, freelancers:
- are generally better equipped to withstand the current pandemic;
- faster adapt their business development strategies as a result of the emphasis on remote work made them.
On the example of generation Z, i.e. those entering the labour market, people who started work during the pandemic:
- half worked as freelancers;
- over 1/3 of them (36%) took up a permanent job (mostly part-time);
- 9 out of 10 of them will most likely continue to work on a contract.
On the other hand, freelancers aged 55+:
- account for over 1/4 of all freelancers (26%);
- mainly carry out work requiring specialist skills, based on projects;
- 65% of them see this form of work as an excellent way to retire and a reasurrence in terms of financial stability.
5 types of freelancers
In a study by the American Freelancers Union – the largest organisation associating – approximately 56.7 million independent workers, five types of freelancers were defined:
- independent contractor (35%) – a person performing only orders, without a permanent employer or income;
- mixed worker (28%) – for whom payment is made of orders and traditional work, divided equally;
- additional worker (25%) – works traditionally during the day and carries out further job orders in the evenings and at night;
- temporary employee (7%) – a person employed for a short period with one employer and one contract;
- freelancer with their own business (5%) – is the owner of a company and works as a freelancer at the same time.
Pros and cons of freelancing
There are many possibilities, advantages and disadvantages in this field. You should also be ready for hard work and some sacrifices. Before you decide to switch to this form of work, ultimately, do not quit your job overnight. It’s good to have some kind of emergency fund that will help you survive in the early stages because freelancing is not always profitable right away. You have to set up a business, get orders, learn how to promote yourself and set the price of your services.
- flexible and non-standard working hours;
- independent choice of place and time that can be devoted on a given day;
- the possibility to combine work with home, family life and bringing up children;
- not wasting time and money commuting to work;
- the ability to select one’s tasks and orders;
- the opportunity to influence terms of the contract after gaining experience;
- potentially unlimited income;
- building your brand and significant development opportunities.
- taking care of the continuous acquisition of orders and ensuring their retention;
- lack of regularity of orders and occupational safety;
- lack of steady income and financial stability;
- risk of losing the border between work and private life;
- no paid vacation and sickness benefits;
- requires a high degree of discipline, time management skills and strong motivation;
- total responsibility for your own work.
7 the most popular freelancing professions
The list of areas and professions suitable for a freelancer is continuously growing, but the most popular are still creative industries:
1. Programming and IT
A programmer is probably the most desirable profession of the 21st century. Today it is difficult to precisely define this job tasks’ scope because the IT industry is subjected to dynamic changes.
This specialist creates websites, web, mobile and desktop applications, as well as computer programs and systems. As a freelancer, they can work one hundred percent remotely and take care of many clients who need supervision over their services.
2. Graphics and design
The work in graphic designing can be performed remotely, but it requires significant predispositions. Spatial orientation, manual and plastic skills, and sometimes mathematical skills, e.g. with 3D graphics, are crucial.
In the work of a graphic designer, equipment is critical, and above all, specialised software enables drawing illustrations for games or animated videos.
3. Social media marketing
Social media evolved as a marketing tool in 2020, enabling brands to broaden their audience and sell through their channels. It gives marketers a great deal of scope for action.
Their role is to actively conduct company/brand profiles, plan publications for their recipients, look for an engaged community or brand ambassadors and create content marketing. Social media marketing employs a viral marketing strategy. Interaction with portal users following the profile is essential.
4. Business consulting
Such a person offers consulting services in a given field to companies interested in a remote form of contact. This is mostly done in the form of a videoconference (needs a communicator, e.g. MS Teams), during which the company’s situation and its needs in terms of finances, investments, planned development or other business issues are discussed.
During the online meeting, selected problems are consulted; on the screen, they review the documents, then the advisor writes an opinion or analysis on a given issue.
5. Virtual assistant
The profession gained momentum in Poland during the pandemic. A virtual assistant works remotely. This is someone who helps small entrepreneurs run their business (they can work for several clients at the same time).
Sometimes this job only requires the ability to use the broadly understood Internet and technological media. Often, however, the specialist must demonstrate a wide range of competences and high interpersonal skills.
This is someone who is the author of short promotional and sponsored texts and slogans, articles for websites and other content such as SEO texts, product descriptions or advertisements. This work is usually remote – for an advertising agency, publishing house, editorial office or a company that runs its own blog.
In some cases, a copywriter participates in a broader process of creating a company, for example, making advertising films or recording for the radio.
This profession has been known for a long time, but today, when digital content has arrived, there are much more texts to be translated. Orders can be obtained from translation agencies, companies or private persons.
The prerequisite is a perfect knowledge of the original and target language of the text. From the point of view of the Polish right to practice this profession (except a sworn translator), specific education and experience are not necessary. Still, practice shows that language certificates, diplomas of linguistic studies, or references are a requirement.
The future of freelancing in the USA
A detailed study by Upwork, the US freelance platform, published in September 2020, found 59 million Americans were self-employed in the first year of the pandemic, representing 36% of the country’s total workforce. It found that US freelancers have low rates of COVID-19 negative impact on their overall lifestyle, well-being, mental health and finances.
While some freelancers (10%) stopped working, many saw it as a lifetime opportunity, and 12% began freelance work as a result. Generally, these are people from the technology and business sectors with high professional skills. Their motivation to take up this form of work came from the necessity to maintain financial stability.
How can you prepare to work as a freelancer?
- develop a good, professional CV and portfolio;
- emphasise your professional experience, or if you have none, focus on your strengths and professional ambitions;
- highlight your specialisation, knowledge or skills in a given field;
- choose a proven and reliable portal for freelancers and register on it;
- find portals with the possibility of listing an advertisement;
- create your professional profile on LinkedIn with a detailed and up-to-date description of your work, projects and achievements;
- start to use the tools for freelancing work management;
- provide clients with transparency, certainty and security.
The pandemic seems to have brought the job market into a new era, and freelancing has become an essential part of it. Overall, freelancers are more optimistic about the future than their full-time colleagues. Most of them say that the best days of freelancing are ahead, and many – both the so-called skilled and brand new freelancers see this form of work as a positive career path.