The Difference Between an Employee and a Freelancer


Employee vs. freelancer. You’ll have times where contracting freelancers (in any profession) is more beneficial than hiring employees. And of course, you’ll have times where the reverse is true. I’ve worked in both roles, so here’s a quick run-down of the differences. (These are mostly practical differences, though there are also legal ones. Check with your relevant government departments and/or lawyer for any legal advice.)

When You Might Need a Freelancer

A freelancer is generally a person who offers a specific skill set for hire. In other words, they work on contract. There are several situations where hiring a freelancer instead of an employee can benefit your organization, because they can step in when you need the extra help:

  • You’ve just received a large grant, award, or investment and need help ramping up marketing efforts as your business grows.
  • An employee has moved on and you’d like help with mission-critical duties so you don’t have to rush to find the perfect new team member.
  • Your company is restructuring and you don’t want to commit to full-time employees at the moment.
  • You’re running out of physical space and can’t hire new people yet. (Freelancers work in their own space and cover their own operating costs.)
  • You’re expanding into a new country and want to localize your marketing efforts, but a full-time employee would be overkill at this point.
  • You started your business in the last one or two years and revenue has been good, but you know it could be better if you freed up some of your time.

Employee vs. freelancer: In these situations, the freelancer is usually less expensive than a full-time employee and doesn’t require the same amount of commitment. Whether you need a few projects done throughout the year or 10 hours of work every month, you can save yourself tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, if your situation changes and you no longer need the extra help, you just have to abide by any cancellation clauses in your contract with your freelancer and you can move on.

When You Might Need an Employee

However, a freelancer is not always the best answer because a freelance writer is not an employee. Here are some situations where a freelance writer may not be your best bet:

  • If you regularly need something written up at the last minute, a freelance writer may not be able to shift the day’s work around to accommodate you. Remember, they have other clients they’re working for, too.
  • If you need someone on-site most of the time, a freelance writer may a) charge you for their time, possibly including travel time, and/or b) may not be available to be on-site that often.
  • If you need someone in your office full-time, you need an employee, even if it’s one on a limited contract. Freelancers do not work for only one client, and some jurisdictions may even frown upon such a contract relationship,  judging it to be an employer-employee relationship and then charging both of you back taxes.

Employee vs. freelancer: Generally speaking, an employee is required to do what you want and when you want it done, so long as it falls within your employment contract.

A Few More Points to Keep in Mind

Excellent freelancers will also have excellent customer service. However, they still won’t always be available exactly when you need them, because they have a roster of clients they answer to and therefore many deadlines you won’t be aware of. Be very clear on what kind of relationship you want with your freelancer. If you’re paying by the project, then any work you request outside of the project scope may be charged to you on top of the project price. If you’re paying by the hour, though, you’ll have more flexibility with the tasks you can ask your freelance writer to do. If you expect fast turn-around, let the freelance writer know at the beginning, too.

About the author

Lori Straus

Lori Straus is a freelance writer. She has written for tech companies, non-profit associations, and small businesses. She also writes novels under Lori Wolf-Heffner.


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By Lori Straus

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