Freelancers vs. contractors

June 19, 2023

Definitions of freelancers vary widely, and there are many nuances to understanding even the most common terms such as freelancer, contractor, independent professional, etc.

Stephanie Whalley wrote a short article What is a Freelancer? for Freelancer News about the differences between freelancers and contractors — as these terms are commonly used in the UK:

“A freelancer is somebody who works independently, for themselves, as opposed to working for an employer. This means that freelancing is classified as a form of self-employment, even if the person only freelances part-time to supplement their main full-time job (also known as a ‘side hustle’). The term ‘freelancer’ isn’t actually a business structure in its own right, so a freelancer might run their business as a sole trader or as a limited company. A freelancer will often work for multiple clients at once, juggling various projects simultaneously. As a result, freelancers will charge for their services on a task-by-task basis or by the day, hour, or something even more granular – a freelance copywriter could charge per word, for example.”

Note: One questionable assertion in the article is that freelancers “fall neatly under the umbrella of ‘gig work’ or the ‘gig economy’” — the fact is that the gig economy is widely understood as an online phenomenon, while freelancing also includes a huge amount of “offline” work and professions. Watch Robert Vlach’s popular talk European Freelancers & Where to Find Them for a detailed explanation of why freelancing and the gig economy are merely overlapping:

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