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What is a Freelancer?

By J.Gunsch
Updated May 16, 2024
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A freelancer is a person who is self employed. Freelance work is used in many different professions, but most commonly a freelancer works in the fields of writing and editing, photography, web design, graphic arts, or computer programming. In any given profession, freelancers sell or contract their work to a client rather than being employed by a business.

A freelancer's career commonly begins with a business or agency at which the freelancer gains experience and contacts in a particular field. Often, talented freelance professionals leave their place of employment because their services are in great demand and they can receive better pay as a freelancer. A freelancer can work at home, in the community, or at their client’s place of business.

Businesses find many advantages in using freelancers. A business that needs particular work done, such as copywriting, can use the services of the writer only as needed. This is ideal when the business requires sporadic work or a one time project. The company is not obligated to provide steady work as it would be for a full time employee. Hiring a freelancer is also economical for a business because the business does not have to provide benefits such as health insurance, personal and sick days, or retirement benefits.

There are also many advantages for a freelancer. A person who is self employed can usually choose their own work schedule. Income may be greater than when working for an employer. A freelancer is his or her own boss and has the freedom to work independently, usually from the comfort of home. Freelancers also have the opportunity to pick and choose which jobs are of interest.

The down side to being a freelancer is that one must keep track of one's own books. This requires a lot of self discipline in order to fulfill tax requirements, time management and health and retirement factors. Another disadvantage is that it may be difficult to maintain a steady stream of work. A freelancer is responsible for finding and winning projects. Sometimes, convincing a client to hire a particular freelancer can be a job in itself.

There are many websites that offer to connect clients with a freelancer. These services often have many freelancers who bid on particular projects that clients post. Other services simply post projects and allow freelancers to submit a resume and samples of previous work. A freelancer often can find projects through word of mouth, from a former employer, or from classified ads in print as well as on the web.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon190990 — On Jun 27, 2011

To: anon177654, post 16. Unless you're receiving at least $600 per year net earnings from the sale of your baby toys, then there is no need for the Baby Store to report what you've made from them. If indeed you have received more than $600 from the Baby Store in under a year's time, then they're not out of line for requesting you provide them the information that allows them to report the money paid to you on a W-9 form.

By anon190989 — On Jun 27, 2011

To: melgar1222 Post 9. If you are a sub-contractor (i.e., 1099 recipient, as opposed to receiving a W-4 as an employee), then your "client or customer" has no rights to such specificity, unless you actually signed a contract with them agreeing to such requirements.

However, I suspect that you already suspected they're not allowed to do this to a 1099 contractor. Therefore, I suggest you get yourself to an employment lawyer for a free review of your case and get that "employer" to buck up and get you retroactively employed as an employee of their organization or suffer the threat of a lawsuit that could be very likely to cost them a bundle defending.

Keep your situation well-documented, facts straight and do not be intimidated. Otherwise, look for another job if you are too unhappy to desire to stay.

By anon177654 — On May 18, 2011

If you consign baby toys to a baby store do they need to fill out a 1099 for me? They take a certain percentage and give me a percentage.

By anon86294 — On May 24, 2010

will working on a 1099 affect supplemental security?

By klofland — On Apr 15, 2010

I have been freelance writing for a corporation since February and have received conflicting advice on whether I need to file quarterly or wait until the end of the year and file with my regular taxes. The first quarter was barely over $500, but I do expect this next quarter to be three times that.

By secure1 — On Feb 01, 2010

I currently do security for an apartment complex and am compensated by having a free apartment. I have been doing this for six-plus years and have never done any tax documents. The complex is now wanting to 1099 me. It is a stipulation of my employment that I live on site.

Is there something in the tax code that says your residence (or compensation) cannot be taxed if you are required to live there?

By anon60531 — On Jan 14, 2010

I do performances at assisted living facilities. I don't charge, however donations are given to me. Do I need to give the donor a W9?

By anon39184 — On Jul 30, 2009

I will be starting to perform work for a small business owner. In order to operate legally, we have agreed that I will receive a 1099 at the end of the year so that I can include it in my income tax and she can deduct it from hers. I did not consider how this would affect my social security. Can you advise me as to what steps to take or whom to contact? Thank you.

By melgar1222 — On Jun 22, 2009

I have worked at a medical office for 3 1/2 years, first i started as a medical assistant with the W2 form last year they promoted me to billing and coding they paid me 1/2 a year of 2008 with W2 and the next 1/2 with 1099 form and this year they said that they were going to stay with the 1099 form. I have a punch card i have to be there at 8.45am and leave at 5pm and have one hour lunch, they also said that i have to wear a uniform which they are providing 2 and if i want more i need to buy them exactly and how they want and they also are saying the color of shoes i need to wear.

Is this legal for them to do this? They have mentioned to me that i'm a self-contractor. Do I need a tax id # for me to be a self contractor? please give any advice. what do i need to do? I do not want to be on a 1099 form.

By anon32661 — On May 25, 2009

Does a non-profit townhouse association have to give a 1099 to the individual who mows our lawn if he has a tax ID# for his lawn-mowing business?

By anon28358 — On Mar 15, 2009


If you have been there 3 years and he has always paid you cash with no tax docs filled out or given to you, you were obviously an "under the table" employee. While not legal for either of you, I would not accept this for any past work.

If he wants to "start" reporting your future income and giving you a 1099, tell him that's fine. But understand he will save money because your income has now become a deductible expense for him. Meanwhile, you will lose money since a 1099 will require you to claim this income and pay SS and income taxes etc...

You should demand the approx equivalent of taxes (25%) in the form of a raise so your "bring home pay" will not decrease. Anything less would be a cut in your pay.


There is nothing to worry about as long as you are given the "1099-S" form. This form is used so the Payer can claim reimbursements, they aren't necessarily taxable to the payee. Much like your scenario.

By anon22261 — On Nov 30, 2008

I have worked part time at a small coffee hut for approx 3 years and have never filled out any type of employment papers including W2, I-9 or 1099, I have only been paid cash and now the owner wants me to fill out either an I-9 & or a 1099. I am afraid I will now have to pay taxes that I wasn't planning for or is there an amount earned where you don't. Again I never received checks indicating taxes have been taken out it's only been cash and this all seems a bit strange now. Any advice?

By olittlewood — On Jan 17, 2008

billf54: i believe they can do that, however, consult your accountant if possible. if they choose to report it that way, be sure to retain copies of all receipts as you can deduct those expenses as business expenses. you'll need all the deductions you can get at tax time!

By billf54 — On Jan 17, 2008

I'm working as a freelancer for a doctor. To make things easier i have been purchasing materials for the work needed. I turn the receipts over to them and give a billing statement to be reimbursed for the money I've spent. Now I'm being told that I will receive a 1099 not only for the wages I earned but for the materials as well. Is this legal?? I will be paying taxes on income i never earned!!! Please help.

By anon4916 — On Nov 06, 2007

i want to be a freelancer. what steps should i take for this purpose> what are the things should i do?

By anon3414 — On Aug 28, 2007

I am currently employed as a freelance-to-hire for a major corporation. I am rather new to this and haven't really kept track of my income from the company. My problem is that I have had to use the money I had saved for taxes for vehicle repair costs. My concern is what happens tax time if I do not have enough money to cover my taxes? Does the IRS offer a payment plan? I am fairly certain that I won't have the money and want to do my best to comply.

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