Starting a New Job

What is Freelancing?

May 27, 2021

Freelancing is becoming increasingly popular, both with employers and employees. Many professionals choose freelance work because it gives them more control and flexibility over their careers. Employers are increasingly favouring freelance workers because they're often a much more affordable form of increasing the workforce. In this article, we discuss what freelancing is, explore the different types of freelance work, learn how to earn money as a freelancer and provide a few tips to become a successful freelancer.

What is freelancing?

Freelancing means to work as an independent contractor rather than be employed by someone else or a company. Freelancers are self-employed and work on a short-term or part-time basis. They don't receive the same level of commitment or compensation as full-time employees.

Freelancers can choose how involved they are when working with clients and the number of projects they work on at one time. For instance, a freelance writer may produce blog posts for three clients. They could then agree to work for a fourth or fifth client after a current client refers their services to them because of the quality of work they produce. Freelancers may also work on behalf of companies that match clients to freelancers.

Freelancers are paid using various payment methods. You may need to provide clients with an invoice for the hours worked and receive payment based on the company's accounts payable terms. You could receive payment via an online payment method, such as AsiaPay or PayPal, immediately after completing work, or you may need to wait for the client to issue a check or deposit the money in your bank account directly.

What are the different types of freelance work?

Here are different professions freelancers can work in:

Writing

Freelance writing is when you write on a self-employed, or freelance, basis. In many instances, you're paid per project or per batch of projects. For instance, you may be paid for producing one blog post, or you may be paid a lump sum to write six articles per week. Freelance writing can be on a one-off basis or can be performed on a recurring basis.

Many freelance writers have at least a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism, English or a related field. However, you may be able to find work without a degree, as long as you have a strong portfolio of high-quality written work.

Project management

Freelance project managers plan and manage the execution of a project from start to finish. They may work in a variety of industries, including law, engineering, healthcare, construction and technology. Project managers may create a timeline and budget for project completion, lead a project team and ensure that the project is progressing well.

Many project managers have at least a bachelor's degree in a field such as business management or administration. Some companies or clients may prefer project managers who have a technical degree in areas such as information technology.

Graphic design

Freelance graphic designers create visual content in both digital and print form. They might work on digital media, publications, newsletters, advertisements, architect or interior designs, product packaging, app or web design and film. Most graphic designers have at least a bachelor's degree in graphic design, graphic arts or a similar field, though you can find work with just a certification.

Freelance graphic designers don't need a certification or license to find work. However, a certificate program that offers training on specific software applications, such as design and publishing suites, might make a graphic designer more appealing to potential clients.

Human resources and recruiting

Freelance human resources employees perform duties associated with recruiting, compensation and benefits and development. Freelance recruiters are accountable for hiring employees for open positions within a client's company. In this role, you will also post jobs on job posting websites to attract interest from candidates, look at their resumes for open positions, interview applicants and present job offers.

Human resources freelancers have responsibilities outside of recruiting such as setting up health insurance plans for employees and pay structures for positions within different departments. You may work with a client's leadership team to create strategic goals and performance metrics to evaluate employee performance.

To work in this field, you need at least a bachelor's degree. While employers may hire a human resources professional with a variety of degrees, the most common specialties in this field include business administration and HR.

Tutoring

A freelance tutor is responsible for improving the learning of students outside of school. You'll usually dedicate one-on-one time to work with students who may need additional support to succeed in their education. You have to keep students motivated and on track to excel academically. A tutor typically helps a student on one specific subject, such as history or math.

To become a tutor, you need at least a Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) and extensive knowledge in the subjects you intend to teach. If you plan to teach high school or university students, you need to have at least a bachelor's degree with a major in the subject you intend to teach.

Web development

Web developers present their clients' services or products to a wide audience by creating appealing, functional websites. They consult with clients or other stakeholders on website style, uses, functions and goals. Web developers use various programming languages, such as CSS and HTML, to design webpages and organize images, text, videos and other visual elements. They often collaborate with copywriters, graphic designers and other web developers to develop easy-to-read and visually appealing webpages.

To become a web developer, you need to have strong coding and design skills. While you can obtain a college degree to pursue web development, such as a bachelor's or an associate's degree in computer science, many web developers are self-taught.

Bookkeeping

Freelance bookkeepers record clients' financial transactions, including income earned and expenses, using a variety of accounting software. They also prepare financial reports that depict a company's financial status, oversee the bills owed to vendors and work with tax preparers to ensure compliance with tax codes. You may work with your client's accounting manager to identify the company's financial status and discuss how to communicate this information to key stakeholders.

If you want to work as a bookkeeper, you need at least a high school diploma. Some employers may prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree, usually in a related field such as business or accounting.

How to earn money as a freelancer

Here are steps to help you earn money as a freelancer:

1. Identify your area of expertise

You can specialise in one area to provide high-quality services to clients. For example, if you have several years of work experience in the field of project management, consider becoming a project management freelancer. Your clients will be more likely to refer you to other clients if they're satisfied with the work you completed for them. Working for more clients increases the prospect of having a steady workload and income.

2. Determine the clients you want to work with

Look at your previous work experience to determine the clients you want to work with. If you've worked with small businesses, brand yourself as someone who works for them. Prospective clients want to work with someone who understands their unique challenges.

3. Select the rates to charge clients

Next, set hourly and project rates for the services you provide. Clients can pay you those rates or a retainer fee to work for them. Start with lower prices if you're beginning freelance projects so you can focus on delivering results and building relationships with clients. Charge more for your services once you gain more experience and confidence in the work you're providing. Ask current clients to write a testimonial to boost your reputation as a freelancer and the pay rate from new clients you work for.

4. Build a portfolio website

Create a portfolio website to showcase the projects you've worked on. Note your biggest achievements since you began freelancing to showcase your results. Include an 'About me' page to talk about your expertise, interests and your location. Add your contact information, so clients can speak to you if they're interested in your services. 

Tips to become a successful freelancer

Here are tips to help you become a successful freelancer:

  • Start while you have a full-time job. Begin freelancing while working a full-time job to see if you're successful with projects and making an income. Review feedback from the client and how much you earn from them to determine if you can earn a full-time income.
  • Improve your skills. Get certifications to learn new skills related to your specialty. Your focus on improving your skills can increase the quality of your work and the types of projects you work on. For example, a freelance writer may take an online editing course and work on editing projects following the completion of the course.
  • Say no to some projects. Allocate time to clients that can boost your income and reputation as a freelancer. Decline projects if you want to spend more time on other clients or if it falls outside of your specialty.

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