DEFINITION of 'Freelancer'
A freelancer is an individual who earns money on a per-job or per-task basis, usually for one-time or short-term work. A freelancer is not an employee of a firm, and may therefore be hired to complete different jobs concurrently by various individuals or firms, unless contractually specified to work exclusively until a particular project is completed.
Typically free-lancers are considered self-employed and may do such contract work full-time or as a side job to supplement some other full-time employment, time permitting. Freelancers as independent contractors typically require signed contracts for the job to be done and will agree to a pre-determined fee based on the time and effort required to complete the task. This fee may be a flat fee or per-hour, per-day, per-project, or some other similar measure.
BREAKING DOWN 'Freelancer'
A freelancer tends to work in the creative, skilled or service sector such as in: film, art, design, editing, copywriting, proofreading, media, marketing, music, acting, journalism, video editing and production, illustration, tourism, consulting, web site development, computer programming, event planning, photography, language translation, tutoring, catering and many more.
The Internet has reduced the costs to individuals seeking to work part-time or to be self-employed doing freelance work. According to the Freelancer's Union, in 2014 53 million Americans, or 21.2% of the total U.S. workforce were freelance in some capacity, whether moonlighting or freelancing as their main source of income. In the U.S. freelancers do not receive W-2 forms for income tax purposes and instead will file a 1099 Misc. tax form which does not typically include any tax withholdings.
An example of a freelancer would be an independent journalist who reports on stories "at large" and then sells his or her story to the highest bidder. Another example is a web designer or app developer who does one-time work for a client and then moves on.
Benefits of freelancing include freedom to work from home, flexibility of work schedule and a better work/life balance. Freelance work can employ workers who have been laid off, reducing the incidence of overall unemployment in an economy.
Drawbacks include uncertainty about future income, job stability and consistency of getting new work, lack of typical employer benefits such as insurance and retirement plans, and typically lower per-hour rates compared to employed wage workers.