Is Freelancing Right for You?

Freelancing or working as an independent contractor are great ways to make money while you are earning your degree, especially if you have a skill that’s in demand. And if you build up enough clients while you’re in school, you could earn a living as a freelancer after you graduate.

Some of the most common freelance workers are writers, photographers, graphic designers, social media experts, computer programmers, and political consultants, but contract work is available in a number of fields.

If you’re considering taking a chance in the freelancing world, here are a few things you need to do before taking on a gig.

Consider the pros and cons.

As with any job, working as a freelancer has its ups and downs. For example:

  • Working flexible hours. Many freelancers are able to set their own hours. This can be a great perk if you have the discipline to hold yourself to the schedule you’ve set. If you don’t, you’re likely to find yourself behind on work and over-stressed.
  • Gaining valuable professional experience and contacts. As a freelancer, you have the chance to work on a variety of projects with a number of different clients.
  • Waiting to get paid. Freelancers often have to wait until a project is complete to be paid, unlike working as a hired salaried or hourly paid employee where you get payment on a preset, regular schedule.
  • Dealing with taxes. Freelancers are required to pay estimated taxes four times a year, and must keep thorough records of business expenses all year long. Once you get the hang of this, it isn’t too much trouble to do it, but you will have to plan on spending some time researching your responsibilities. In legal terms, freelancers and freelance consultants are considered independent contractors.

Decide what to charge.

Some freelancers charge an hourly fee while others set a fixed amount per project. Whichever you decide, be sure your fee is set and agreed upon by the client before you begin any work on a project. Think about how you’ll track the time you spend and how you’ll invoice for work you complete.

You can also create a contract between you and your client. Contracts can outline caveats such as payment schedules and time frames for delivery of service. If a client wants you to sign one of its contracts, be sure to read it carefully and complete the work as agreed. If you have trouble getting paid for a freelancing job, you may need to take legal action.

Find freelance work.

You can begin your search for freelance work around campus and on websites like Freelancer, UpWork, Guru, and the Freelancers Union. Check out a client’s credentials before agreeing to work for it. And remember: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by CashCourse or the National Endowment for Financial Education. These courses and related resources may be used only for nonprofit, noncommercial educational purposes. CashCourse makes every effort to keep the information in these courses current, but, over time, new developments as well as legislative and regulatory changes may date this material. If you discover inaccurate information, please contact us.]

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