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How to Find Your Own Definition of Freelancing

Photo by Kaiyu Wu on Unsplash

You will find the definition of freelancing in the dictionary, but in reality takes many different forms. By this I don’t simply mean you can be a freelance x, y or z. I mean no matter what kind of freelancer you decide to be in terms of skills, you can choose to define the way you work as a freelancer using your own constraints, conditions and boundaries.

The Dictionary Definition of Freelancing

The Cambridge dictionary defines freelancing as “doing particular pieces of work for different organisations, rather than working all the time for a single organisation,” while the Merriam-Webster dictionary gives a few different definitions, with one being to “pursue a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.”

Now, which one sounds better? To me, the first sounds a bit more friendly, with the second definition implying I have commitment issues – this article was not meant to be an auto-therapy session!

Both of them are true in the broad sense, but even a freelancer can spend most of their time working for one client for extended periods of time. I wouldn’t classify them as employees of that organisation, but it also means they definitely have a long-term commitment to one client.

But this article is not about the grey areas of the dictionary definition of freelancing. Instead, it is about the interpretation of the situation you are in yourself. Essentially, freelancing is carrying out work for someone or some business without being formally signed on or hired as one of their employees. They may say that they have hired a freelancer, but this simply means that you are not entitled to the same benefits as their employees, but nor are you tied down to the same contractual obligations as their employees either.

Choosing a Skill

Usually, freelancers have a particular skill or set of skills that they put to use for their clients. This could be writing, programming or marketing, or pretty much anything else. You can find out the true wealth of opportunities that freelancing offers by simply scrolling through the search feed on a website like Fiverr.

My chosen skill is writing, and I write different things for different people, depending on their requirements. They then pay me accordingly, and the more work I do, the more I get paid. Obviously, this works in the other direction too, as the less I do the less I earn. This means freelancing truly is what you make of it, and thus is only suited to specific people. I think everyone can be a freelancer, there is no doubt about that. But that doesn’t mean everyone can be good at it.

Dealing With Failure

It requires a lot of hard work, networking, and resistance to failure to be a good freelancer. You don’t have to fear failure or be immune to it. Instead, you have to understand that it is just the nature of the beast. A lot of people will turn your offers down, and a lot of people will make life hard for you. But being a freelancer allows you to learn from these experiences, and the great thing is that you are not obligated to continue working for those kinds of people.

Sure, you might have to sign the odd NDA, or even a contract that defines the deadline for a project. If you do, then you simply have to abide by it, or you risk not being paid. As long as you don’t do anything too silly, you will usually never run into any serious trouble.

So, freelancing can be defined in this way, but you will realise yourself that this leaves plenty of room for flexibility. Your kind of freelancing might involve one client, while someone else may have 20 clients at any one time. You may be programming an app for somebody, while the other person might be creating the next marketing slogan for a big corporation.

This brings us to another piece of the puzzle: who your clients are.

Finding Your Clients

Freelancing allows you to work for individual people with big dreams, or massive enterprises with big wallets. There is a broad spectrum of potential customers and, depending on the skill you offer as your service, you can find clients at both ends of the scale. This means you can meet and connect with some very different people, and open lots of doors for yourself through freelancing.

Then there is the pay scale to consider. As I said, there are customers that don’t have much to spend but still need the help, and there are others that might want to just throw their money at you. It is all about finding the right kind of client for you and your skill set. Not every freelancer is destined to work for big corporations, as having a few reliable clients that give steady work is often the key to freelance success.

The definition of freelancing


Your definition of freelancing is exactly that; yours.

What Makes a Successful Freelancer?

This is the biggest factor to consider when defining freelancing for yourself, and when deciding if it’s going to be worth it for you. Do you need a bit of extra pocket money? Does your family depend on your endeavours? Are you looking to become a millionaire as soon as possible? These are all goal posts, and they can be moved at your leisure. If you set them far away, and make them very narrow, expect success to be hard to come by. If you don’t need to get much out of freelancing, and have an easy goal to reach, then you can expect to feel successful after a few projects.

This isn’t just about setting financial goals though, as equally important is the emotional side of things. This encompasses everything that your mind gets out of freelancing, not your bank account. Why did you start freelancing in the first place, or why do you want to? Is it to escape from the clutches of the man, and to work by your own rules? Or is it because you have a passion for drawing, and you really want to help small business visualise their own goals through their digital content?

Financial vs Emotional Success

If it is the former, then you will probably find emotional success fairly quickly, as you will find that selling just one pitch to a client will bring you the emotional reward of doing something for yourself, and not for your boss. If it is the latter, emotional success with freelancing might be a little further off. This is because you might not be happy with your first few projects, or you might not get the appreciation from clients that you feel you deserve. But this will make it that much sweeter when you do find the right client and put together the perfect drawing or design that you are proud of, they are proud of, and that you feel has made a difference.

Emotional success is harder to find than financial success in most cases, at least in the long term. I have been freelance writing for over a year now, and on multiple occasions I have felt over the moon as I land a massive (for me) client. I see the price per word sitting right where I want it, and I know I can produce exactly what they want. But conversely, I have also written long pieces for clients that have paid me more than ever and walked away from it wondering if writing is really what I want to be doing.

The Other Side of the Coin

As with most things, there is a flip-side to this. Some of the most emotionally rewarding pieces I have written for clients have been the shortest, and thus the least financially rewarding. And sometimes a piece feels great to write and also pays well. This is obviously the magic balance that you are looking for as a freelancer, but it shouldn’t be all you need to want to keep going. Use the challenge as a driving force, not just an obstacle.

Finding your own definition of freelancing is key if you want to be able to find both financial and emotional success with it. Find your comfort zone with clients and work out how many you would like to have at any one time. Find out what kind of client you want to serve too. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while, as you will need to grow as a person and as a freelancer all the time.

Finding Your Definition of Freelancing

Your definition of freelancing can evolve over time, as will your skills and experience. But having a solid foundation of who you want to work with, and what you want to gain from it, will make it much easier to keep going. You can be a freelancer for the money, and you can be a freelancer for the rewarding feeling of helping someone in need. You could also be both or neither, as you might want to start freelancing simply to try something new.

Quick Tips

  • Think about what you deem to be successful
  • Consider which of your skills align with your goals
  • Try to find clients that will allow you to reach those goals
  • Don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone!

The beauty of freelancing is that it really is a journey rather than a destination. You don’t apply for the job of freelancer and then try to get promoted on your journey to the top. Instead, you simply try to make the journey as useful for you and your clients as possible. There is no final destination, just a long road that evolves with you. Morph it into a road on which you are happy and proud to drive.

If you are interested in becoming a freelancer you are in the right place! Here at Sophical Content I share my personal story as a freelance writer in the hopes that I can inspire others to pursue their own entrepreneurial journeys. If you want to stay up to date with my posts, feel free to join the email list below. Alternatively, head over the to Sophical Blog for more articles like this one!

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