Today’s question comes from Reese J., who asks, “What’s the difference between freelancing and contracting? Is there one?”
Yet another excellent question. To answer your second question first: “Weeeeell, kinda.” “Contracting” and “freelancing” are often used interchangeably, though there can be some subtle differences.
Before the differences, though, the similarities: In both freelancing and contracting, you are not employed by the people for whom you write copy. Usually you will invoice this company or the recruiting company that got you the work. (Very occasionally, you will actually be technically employed by the recruiting company and they will take out taxes. Be sure you know whether they will or they won’t. I digress.) You’re not a member of this company’s staff and they can generally bring you on to work and also end your service for them at will.
And now the very grey-area differences. “Contracting” most often means that you are working in the company’s office, usually at an hourly rate. (“Oh, I’m contracting at Agency XYZ for April through June. They just love my work.”)
“Freelancing” covers this scenario,too, but freelancing is also the term copywriters use when they do most of their work from home. (“I’m doing a freelance brochure project for Aerospace Sneakers. They also love my copy.”) You don’t use the term “contracting” when you’re working with a small independent client and only going into their offices for client meetings or presentations.
So…yeah. Kinda different, but really similar. The key takeaway, though, is to make sure you know what the situation is going to be before you begin the work. Do they expect you in their office every day? How many hours do they expect you to put in? Are you billing by the hour or the project? Are you sending your invoice to this company or, if applicable, to the recruiters that found you the gig? And is anyone taking out taxes, or is it up to you to save your money? Whether you’re “freelancing” or “contracting,” be sure you know what the expectations are. You might be thinking “wearing pajamas, working from home” and they’ve got an IT guy setting up a cube for you. And footie pajamas are never a good look in an office.
Your turn! Have you worked as a freelancer or a contractor? Which one do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!