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How to be a freelancer

What is freelancing, exactly? And why should you consider it?
By Mack Gelber, Monster contributor


hether you’re looking for a
side-hustle gig for some extra cash
or are trying to get out of the 9-to-5 grind,
freelance jobs offer a variety of perks and
opportunities. In the spirit of celebrating
independence, let’s break down the essentials of starting a freelance career.


Unlike regular full-time employees
grinding it out on the 9 to 5, freelance
workers are self-employed and work on
a contract basis, usually for more than
one company at the same time. Some examples of popular freelance jobs include
writing, graphic design, web development, programming and photography.
For example, a freelance graphic
designer may be contracted by a hotel to
design their website and contracted by a
publisher to design a book jacket.
Depending on a job’s requirements,
freelancers may work from home or at
a company’s office. Typically, when the
job they were contracted to do has been
completed, the freelancer has no further
obligations to the company—off they go
to hustle after the next freelance assignment.


Freelancing is already a way of life for
a growing number of workers. According
to the Freelancers Union, an estimated
57 million Americans are doing freelance
work—3.7 million more than in 2014—
making up 36 percent of the workforce.
Advances in technology not only make
it easier to get freelance jobs, but also
provide the best way to find new work.
But what does it actually take to make

an honest go of a freelance career, where
being your own boss also means hunting
for your next paycheck?


Fear not: We’ve got some tips to get
you on track to freelance success, and
ensure that you’ll soon be celebrating
independence in every sense of the

1. Define your brand

Yes, that means more than coming up
with a funny name for your S corp. Like
traditional job seekers, freelancers need
to remember that the real product they’re
selling is themselves: their services, their
expertise and their raring-to-go-it-ness.
So don’t just tell a prospective employer
who you are—tell them why they should
hire you, and only you, above all others
in your peer group.
You should also develop a comprehensive business plan that, in fine detail,
explains exactly what your services are,
how much they cost and how your clients
stand to benefit. It’s worth mulling over
the rate question in particular. One solid
guideline on how to set a freelance rate is
to determine the salaried pay of comparable work at your experience level, then
factor in the value of a health insurance
plan and other perks you’d get with traditional employment. From there, you can
come up with an hourly or flat rate based
on the type of project.

2. Use your connections

A stacked address book (or Rolodex,
if you’re retro) is the lifeblood of any

Photo provided by Getty Images

freelancer. When you’re always on the
lookout for the next gig, you’ll often
find yourself depending on the kindness
of...well, not total strangers, but former
colleagues, friends of friends, and that
messy college roommate who went on to
become a Silicon Valley big shot.
That’s especially true when you’re
just starting out, before you’ve amassed
a sizeable portfolio or developed a strong
professional reputation. Don’t forget that
you’re starting a business, and you need
to market that business.
One reliable approach is to reach out
to contacts in your target field to let them
know you’re now proffering your services as
a freelancer. Like a cover letter, think of it as
a way of pitching yourself to potential clients—be sure to mention your relevant professional experience, and link out to work of
yours that best illustrates your talents.

3. Set a routine

For all the wonderful open-endedness
that goes along with a freelance career,
it’s important to remember that freelance work is still, well, work. Be a pro
about it: Set a daily schedule and keep it
consistent, make a point of not working
in your pajamas and consider finding a
dedicated place to set up shop every day.
Similar rules apply for freelancers
working in an office setting as part of a
larger team that may consist of other freelancers, contractors and full-time employees. While you may have been hired on a
project basis, you’re still responsible for
showing up on time and meeting the expectations for professionalism that apply
to any W-2 worker. Pay attention to (and
participate in) the governing office culture—and remember, any of these people
could easily be the ticket to your next gig.


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