What does it Mean to Be a Freelancer

writer at work
Freelancers Set Their Own Fees

What does it mean to be a freelancer? If you're thinking of turning your love of words into your primary source of income, it's helpful to make sure you understand how to answer this question.

Advantages of Freelance Writing

Freelance writing is a profession that attracts people from many different backgrounds because of the advantages it offers. For example:

  • You are allowed to set your own work schedule, working nights one day and early morning hours the next if you wish.
  • You can work as many or as few hours as you want.
  • You can choose to work on the projects that interest you the most, whether that includes writing a column for the local newspaper, creating step-by-step tutorials for an online Web site, or helping a business prepare its marketing materials.
  • You're free to set your fees at a level that you feel best represents your skills and experience.
  • It's easier to balance work and personal obligations, since you can throw in a load of laundry or get dinner started between writing and editing tasks.
  • There is no dress code in your home office. You can work in your pajamas and bunny slippers if you wish, although most longtime freelance writers will tell you they tend to be more productive on the days they take the time to dress properly.
  • When it's nice outside, you can take your laptop and head to the park. As a freelance writer, your office can be wherever you have a working Internet connection.

Disadvantages of Freelance Writing

While freelance writing does have many advantages, it's important to have a realistic view of the profession before making any radical career change decisions. Some of the drawbacks of working as a freelance writer include:

  • There are no employer provided benefits such as paid vacation or health insurance.
  • You must provide the tools and materials you need to do your job, including your computer and all related office supplies.
  • What does it mean to be a freelancer? Self-employment taxes are very high and you must be diligent about keeping receipts throughout the year to make sure you get all of the tax deductions you are entitled to take.
  • Balancing the needs of several different clients at one time can be a tricky task. You need to be very organized in order to juggle multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Your income can vary widely from month to month, making it important to have a hefty emergency fund to take care of necessary expenses during the lean times.
  • If you're not naturally a very assertive person, it can be stressful dealing with clients who are slow to pay you the money you are owed.
  • Without the support of coworkers close by, you may find yourself feeling lonely or isolated.

What does it Mean to be a Freelancer?: The Legal Answer

From a legal perspective, a freelancer is synonymous with being an independent contractor. At the end of each year, clients with whom you completed at least $600 of work will send you a 1099 form indicating how much money you were paid throughout the year. You'll need to check this amount with your records, then take the form to your accountant to file a Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business - Sole Proprietorship). Even if you don't receive a 1099 form from your client, however, you are still legally obligated to report all income received on your Schedule C.

Recently, there have been several cases of companies getting into serious legal trouble for improperly classifying employees as independent contractors. If you have an ongoing relationship with a freelance writing client who is providing a detailed timeline for your project, closely supervising your work, and requiring enough of your time that you don't look for other clients, you may actually be considered an employee in the eyes of the IRS.

For more information on the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor or freelance writer, you can visit the IRS Web site.

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What does it Mean to Be a Freelancer