Freelancing – An Emerging Employment Arena

Nothing is new in the freelancing concept. It is an old idea first traced in literacy reference from Sir Ivan Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe. It referred to soldiers working for a warlord as war and battles were the largest employment channels in the bygone days. The term was synonymous with independent. Sir Ivan Scott comments about men fighting for a warlord. “Thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.” Over time the concept left the war field and penetrated politics and journalism, finally emerging into a meaning of “any kind of work”.

 The Way It Works

The concept of freelancing has evolved a lot. The term nowadays refers to services on a short time or long-term basis. It differs from a job. Freelancers enter into a contract with the person needing services. The freelancer offers services in compliance with the terms of the contract and receives payment against the completed project.

For example, I hire a person for a specific job, say writing my resume. I pay for the completed work. I am free to search for someone else for another task, and the freelancer is free to search for more work elsewhere. The freelancing agreement can be full-time or part-time, depending upon the nature and volume of work. Nature of work sometimes asks for hiring a freelancer on an hourly basis. This way, the freelancer has to work for an agreed number of hours per week or month. It is called a “retainer.”

The arrangement ensures the uninterpreted availability of a professional. The concept is popular among the lawyers who engage with companies on a retainer-ship basis, getting a fixed amount every month irrespective of the volume and frequency of work. The freelancer offers a service, and the beneficiary pays for the services. 

 The Rationale Behind Freelancing

Every aspect of work has its pros & cons. Freelancing is popular for independence. It provides flexibility and self-control that is non-existence in a regular job. Freelancers get projects from different service buyers, schedule their own time, set preferences, and adjust their working hours. They have the choice to accept or decline a work offer. They can work from home or any other remote location. The advent of the internet has facilitated remote working.

 The COVID-19 crisis helped work from home to emerge as a new norm of office work. It also cleared the path for outsourcing the work to freelancers as they charge significantly less than the cost of regular employees. Freelancing is a new facet of entrepreneurship that breaks the barrier of a fixed salary. It offers potential for independent income. One can earn as much as he works. You are your boss, making your own decisions instead of taking orders from a boss. 

Freelancing is not only searching, working, and going the same way forever. The visionary freelancers, however, develop their agencies, get in touch with a variety of service buyers, negotiate the price with them, and sub-let the work to other freelancers, keeping their portion of the profit by working as an intermediary agency. That is not the end. Freelancers progress into traders and manufacturers by launching their products and brands. That is the gift of an experience they gathered while working as freelancers. 

Getting Global

The info-tech has revolutionized every aspect of life. Technology is helping freelancers to work across borders. Freelancing web portals facilitate people to post their projects to hire freelancers for their work. Such sites work as a platform to connect clients and freelancers and secure payment settlements between the both. The list of freelancing portals is ever-growing. We mention here some of the leading freelancing websites. We shall discuss the working of these portals in detail in another article.

The Income Potential

The income of a freelancer grows with time, expertise, and repute. It starts from the meager amount of $ 5 per hour. On average, a freelance earns $20-25 per hour depending upon niche and expertise. Content Creation, Transcription services, and other usual skills have a lower tag of $5-10 per hour. The technical and more complex skills like graphic designing, software engineering, and CAD, SEO services get more than $50-100 or even more per hour. Better to make a comparison of a particular skill to get more insight into the income potential of a freelancer. 

Is It a Risky Game?

Risk is the reason behind life. Nothing is risk-free in the world we live in. Freelancing is risky too. The most important are the financial and health risks. Full-time employment in many countries comes with fringe benefits. Health insurance, bonuses, and recreational leaves are part of a regular employment package. Retirement plans, however, remain the biggest attraction of all. Freelancers lack all these amenities.

They have to plan for all their needs from the available income. They have to work hard and increase their income to cover all their needs and exigencies of life. They have no external help available to plan their financial futures. They have to pay for their health insurance from their regular income. They have to pay higher rates for health insurance and other services as compared to companies that negotiate discounted rates for their employees. 

Who Can Become a Freelancer?

Businesses, especially the IT sector have become more attuned to hiring freelancers. The launching of freelancing portals has facilitated the globalization of freelancing careers. It is now easy for everyone having access to a computer and an internet connection to sign up a freelancer account at any or on many portals and start accepting work offers in his area of skill-set. There is, therefore, no binding of niches, skills, and types of work that one can find and do as a freelancer. Below is a brief list of skills and roles that one can choose. The list of niches is not limited to the listed below, but each listed category has various sub-categories. 

  • Admin Support & Assistance
  • Content writing & Blog Writing
  • Customer Service
  • Data Analytics
  • Design and Creativity
  • Engineering and Architecture 
  • Finance & Accounting
  • IT and Networking
  • Legal Writings & Consultancy
  • Management Consultancy
  • Sales and Marketing 
  • Translation & Transcription
  • Web, Apps & Software Development

How to Start Freelancing?

Starting a freelancing is as easy as 123. For example, a University student can start helping fellow students in the preparation of assignments and teaching against payments. That is the simplest form of freelancing. You can start testing your skill from the inner cycle of your friends. The sky is only the limit to growing as an expert, freelancing through portals, and working for clients in every nook and corner of the world. The next step is to incorporate a company, open a bank account, and make a presence in cyberspace by launching a website and mobile app to streamline your freelancing career. Following are the different work models for a freelancer. 

Freelancer to Client – Direct Connection

You know a client and communicate with him to understand requirements, negotiate price, complete and submit work and get the payment. There is no hassle, no commission for a middleman, and no deduction from the price you charge to your clients.  

 Subcontracting

Freelancers are skilled in a particular field but avoid the tension of search and communication with clients. They prefer to work through a subcontractor or agency to ensure a better volume and regularity of workflow. Agencies charge their commission in fixes or percentages. The agencies also can subcontract the work in portions to allot to different freelancers and submit the complete work in combined form to their clients. 

Through Web Portals

Freelancing web portals are a new avenue for freelancing. They connect clients with freelancers. Clients sign up to post their projects. Freelancers sign up to search for work. Freelancers make offers against projects. Clients then select the best-skilled freelancer matching their budget and sign a contract with the freelancer. The completed work is submitted through the portal. The client makes payment to the portal. The freelancing website passes it on to the freelancer after deducting their specified commission.

Image by Al Kwarismi Wirawan from Pixabay 

Umar Hayat
  • Umar Hayat
  • The author has rich management exposure in banking, textile, and teaching in business administration.