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The earliest ‘freelancers‘ were hired soldiers or ‘free lances‘ who sold their services to kings and rich landlords to defend soil and property. They were an important part of medieval warfare. Freelancers have come along way since those antiquated times and this blog takes a quick look at what it really means to earn your living as a freelancer (or more specifically a freelance writer) in this Century 21.
A freelancer is someone who works on their own terms for a variety of clients. Freelancers can be graphic designers, engineers, tutors and teachers, programmers, web designers, editors, researchers, photographers, marketers — and of course — writers. Regardless of the industry or occupation, what really makes someone a freelance is they are not bound by an employer and have the freedom to choose who they work for, when, and where.
Freelancers are usually self-employed and work to a project brief as they complete individual assignments. Payment is negotiated before starting a writing assignment and often a contract is put in place to dictate things like deadlines, confidentiality, and the terms of payment.
A true freelancer has no ongoing commitment with a client (outside of a contract), and is not working directly for an employer. They provide their own tools, equipment, and working space and take full responsibility for the the work they provide (ie, they must rectify any defect or mistakes in the work at their own cost).
For taxation reasons it is essential that a freelancer is NOT :
NOTE: We’ll talk more about why this is so important in the last section.
The scope of freelance writing projects is enormous, and most of us freelancers tend to choose a niche and specialise in that area. Here are a few examples to get you started:
If you can think of something to write (and then get someone to pay you to do it) then you’re already on your way to becoming a professional freelance writer.
Before launching your own freelance writing career, please make sure you’re a real freelancer (in the legal sense). Most countries have strict laws regarding the status of employees, contractors, and freelancers, and there are stiff penalties for getting it wrong.
Here in Australia direct employees must be paid Superannuation and have PAYG tax withheld from their wages, plus it’s illegal to be paid as a contractor or freelancer when you are actually working like an employee. But why would you want to anyway?
Freelance writing gives you the freedom to follow your own interests, write about the topics you’re passionate about, and only work with clients you love — yes you can easily say no to dodgy writing assignments you don’t care for. Every day your writing skills improve, as you research, learn (and write) more about the world around you.
Now the next time someone asks you ‘what exactly is a freelance writer?’ you can quickly say — someone who sets their own work hours, works independently, and writes for range of innovative clients and cool publications. Actually you can say, ‘a freelance writer is me’.
© 2019 Melinda J. Irvine
PS: if this blog was helpful, leave a comment or ask a question. I’d love to hear from you. Mel.
Interested in the freelancing life? Hook into neXtDRAFT, my weekly zine to help freelance writers operate a successful (and profitable) writing business.
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