Did you know that there is more than one way to be a freelancer? Independent creatives — freelancers — can choose a variety of working scenarios and operate in more than one at the same time. What they all have in common is that they are not employees but work independently. They pay their own taxes and insurances. Instead of a W2 they receive a 1099. They can choose when, where and how they work.
Freelancing opportunities are increasingly plentiful. Businesses and organizations which formerly maintained in-house design or marketing departments have been reducing their creative staff maintaining or increasing their project load. This means that many are choosing to outsource to skilled freelancers.
There is no one way to freelance. Whether you’re an illustrator, designer, photographer or writer, you will generally encounter one of 5 common models described below. Which is your favored mode?
The Total Independent
This is the pure freelancing type. She works project-to-project and client-to-client. Working from home, from co-working spaces or an office, the independent is responsible for all of the creative, marketing and business aspects of her enterprise. The total independent can easily scale her business into a small creative firm with a few staffers.
The Represented Independent
This is the total independent working with an artists rep or literary agent who does most of the portfolio or manuscript submissions and marketing. For many illustrators and photographers, this is the preferred situation because the rep handles the contract terms, books the projects, shows the portfolio, connects with editors or art buyers, and hounds the freelancer to meet deadlines. Expenses for marketing and promotion are shared. Reps and agents receive a percentage of the creative fees. In some cases, the rep invoices on behalf of the creative and pays the creative after deducting his percentage.
The In-House Independent
The in-house freelancer is a contracted consultant rather than employee. He works at the client’s place of business, part-time or full-time, on a designated project or for a specific duration. These types of gigs often support a launch of new product or service, fill-in for a regular employee on vacation or leave, or support a special project. He invoices the client for work performed. Once the contract term has been fulfilled, he is free to move on.
The Temporary Independent
The temp freelancer is contracted and placed by a temp agency. Gigs can be a few hours or several months in duration. Similar to the in-house model, the temp moves from company to company, working in-house or remotely. Depending upon the type of contract the temp agency offers, this freelancer is paid by the client or by the agency. Temp agencies may require exclusivity, meaning the freelance works only through that agency. The freelancer is expected to be available and on-call, but jobs are not guaranteed. Temp agencies will look at portfolios, and may also require skills tests in various software and operating systems. The agency matches the freelancer to the job.
The Crowd-Sourced Independent
This freelancer joins online communities to post portfolios and bid on jobs and projects. She is paid directly by the client in most cases, and works remotely. The web site owners charge membership fees, commissions on projects acquired, or both. Some sites charge a fee to the client as well as the freelancer. Several offer a short-term free trial membership, which the freelancer must upgrade to a paid membership in order to receive full access and benefits offered by the site owners. The freelancer can enjoy working on a wide variety of projects. Although there are drawbacks to crowd-sourcing, it is possible to build clientele.
Depending upon your skill level and work style, it is possible to build income with any of these freelance situations. No matter what type of gig you prefer, the common thread in all of them is the freedom to choose. Your success as a freelancer depends on how you define success and on the amount of effort you put into pursuing work. Freelancers need to market themselves, keep their skills up to date, and be consistent and tenacious in looking for work. In that way they are responsible for their own independence and creative success.
Other online sources where you can browse for freelance projects: