When it’s not Freelancing


Contractor Chained to Desk

Freelancing can be really interesting, you get to often do different types of work  that can vary widely, from very hands on mundane tasks, to consulting, research and report writing, and everything in between.  Sometimes you can even get a section of a project that you can work on  at your own leisure, as long as you meet the nominated deadlines.  Other times you are just an extra pair of multi-skilled hands.  It’s never a dull moment.

Now I  have found over the years that with most project you usually reporting back to a project manager or the firm owner. They act  as your central laision, controlling all the usual client communications and interactions.  Leaving you to focus on what you do best and provide maximum return for their dollar investment.

Now from time to time you may be have to work in close liaison with a client on an aspect of the project, but at the end of the day the profitability and final decisions on a project are not yours to make as it’s basically not your project.  You just need to bring your section of the project  in on budget and everyone will be happy.

So what really makes it freelancing, the key I’ve found is really two fold:

  1. You can do the tasks on your timetable, as long as they’re done in a professional manner, on time and budget. This is the key to freelancing, the being free to set your own agenda.
  2. You are not response for the project as a whole, but just a segment, for example the CSS design, the Information Architecture or the usability.  Again you are free or responsibility.

That’s Not Freelancing

So when is it not freelancing.  Well this really comes down where your start to draw the line in the sand on your own freedom as a freelancer.

Still let’s consider a few examples, these in general I feel are not freelancing at all but its sibling contracting:

  1. You are working 9-5 at the firms own or their clients offices filling in a role as directed. Just like an employee, but with none of the benefits.  No real freedom here, eh.
  2. You are in complete control of the project, client liaison, profit, the lot.  All your boss (client) does is bill for it.   Even queries after the launch are your responsibility.   It’s like having a pseudo client.  Would be interesting to see where the liability angle lies on this one.

Hence with contracting the freedom disappears, as you are just like  another employee, but with different hiring and firing conditions.

What do you think is there a difference in the way you hire or are hired as freelancers or contractors.  Or are they one in the same as far as you are concerned?

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  1. What about when a single person quotes on and then takes on a whole project – front end, back end, implementation etc? They may get other contractors/freelancers to take on particular roles, but they are taking control of the project until delivery of the final product to the client.

    I think the term “freelancing” has become trendy and people are using it regardless of whether it applies to them or not.

  2. @kay – Sure, but they are still project managing, the client is still ringing them as the primary, sure they are subbing out roles, but they are the main liaison. What if they take on the project then sub out all the functions and make the subbies liaise with client? What then?

  3. Freelancers should be considered guns for hire – they should come in, do there job and get out.

    What most of us do isn’t freelancing (even then though most of us call it that, perhaps out of habit) – it’s contracting or simply a really small business.

  4. @Myles – True we all do a bit of contracting and even just take on the odd client as a small business. But I also do freelance work as a IA, UX person from time to time. These jobs are in a way refreshing as you operate, as you say as a gun or hire, get it done and leave. Suppose Freelance is more a sexy title now.

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