What is a freelancer really?
The workforce is evolving, and so is the way we define freelance work. Yet, with so many ways to say “freelancer”, it’s easy to get confused in all the jargon. We’ve heard independent contractor, consultant, contract worker, gig worker, contingent worker, flexible worker, temp worker, moonlighter, free agent, solopreneur (this one’s a new one)… Well, we think you get the point. There’s a lot.
With this article, we’re going to clarify what some of these terms mean.
We’re also going to debunk the misconceptions around what a “freelancer” really is.
Let’s start with a few standard terms.
A consultant is someone who offers professional or expert advice in a particular field or specialty.
An independent contractor is a person or entity contracted to perform work for—or provide services to—another entity as a nonemployee.
Gig workers tend to work on short-term commitments and do more task-based jobs. Examples are content writers, logo creators or rideshare drivers.
A moonlighter is someone who has a full-time job and also a “side hustle” or a part-time “gig”. Examples would be an engineer who takes on consulting assignments on the weekend or a teacher who tutors in the evenings.
Part traditional employee and part freelancer, diversified employees split their time between part-time jobs and at-will work.
Freelance business owner:
This is someone who owns a business and offers their services through freelancers. Think of this as a freelancer’s freelancer. For example, a freelance dog-walker that needs to expand her business to meet rising demand, so she hires additional freelance dog walkers.
Now, how do we define a freelancer?
Essentially, “Freelancer” is the umbrella term for all these multitudes of definitions mentioned above.
A Freelancer is:
- A consultant
- An independent contractor
- A gig worker
- Any other non-permanent and outsourced worker who is hired on a per-project basis.
Freelancers work independently and through contracts to perform services for another entity (or for themselves) without the legal status of an employee. Services provided can be one-time or task-based projects or larger ongoing projects.
A task-based service falls more under the “gig” worker definition. An example of this is one-time logo design.
Examples of larger, ongoing projects include: Developing a new software for a company on a 6 month-contract, business analysis services on a 3-month contract or even providing project management services on a 1-year contract. This type of freelancer would fall more into the “consultant” or “independent contractor” definitions.
Now, let’s get to the bottom of the myths surrounding what defines a freelancer. This will provide you with a better understanding of the large scope definition of a freelancer.
Myth 1: Freelancers only do task-based, gig work
A freelancer does “gig” work or short task jobs such as creating a logo, food couriering, etc.
Because of the rise of the gig economy, many people have associated the term freelancer to be the same as gig work.Yes, there are a lot of task-based freelancers out there, but a freelancer can also work on long term projects as well. A Freelancer can be anything from a gig worker to an expert consultant.
Myth 2: Freelancers offer varied service to multiple clients
A freelancer is a professional who offers their services to several clients at once without being exclusively obligated to any one of them. They also offer varied services and their work can take different forms.
Yes, this can sometimes be true but more often than not, a freelance professional will be committed to a single contract for a determined amount of time (i.e a 6-month contract for a project with a company).
Also, most freelancers will offer very specialized expertise on a particular field of work.
Myth 3: Freelancers work remotely
Freelancers live outside of the geographic area of the company’s head office and so they work from remote locations or from home.
Freelancers can work remotely or can work at the office of the company they’re contracting for. It all depends on the project or company needs. Some freelancers prefer to work on location, alongside co-workers, while others prefer the remote lifestyle. Some prefer to have the flexibility to do a bit of both. Because freelancers can work remotely – this also gives companies access to more talent.
Myth 4: Freelancers are more expensive
Freelancers have higher rates and thus will cost you more than hiring a permanent employee
While it’s true that Freelancers usually have a higher rate, if you consider the costs of hiring a permanent employee, you end up saving on average 30% by hiring a freelancer. With a contractor, you save the overhead cost, admin expenses (payroll, taxes, legal fees etc.), training and benefits.
Besides that, you are likely to have a much faster delivery by hiring an expert in their field. They can dedicate their time solely to this project, which would otherwise take your team much longer due to their other day to day obligations. This will save you time and money as well.