Veterans’ Guide to Freelancing: Benefits, Careers, and Resources

As military members leave the service and enter civilian life, they find career options for veterans. Some veterans will translate their military experience into a full-time job. Others may follow their passion or interest and start their own business. Still others choose to adopt the flexible schedule and the ability to work for multiple clients that are offered by working freelancing jobs.

Freelancers work at one or many companies at a given time, in a full-time or part-time capacity, but they are not employees, so they don’t receive the standard employee benefits of paid time off, health insurance, and retirement benefits. For example, a marketing firm may hire a graphic designer to work on a specific project but make no offer of permanent employment. The designer is not guaranteed any work once the project is completed. A freelance writer may contribute articles and other written materials to various publications for years without being hired by any of the publishers to work in a full-time, permanent capacity.

The flexibility to work in different roles for many organizations over time makes freelancing a strong option for veterans seeking employment. According to Forbes, more than one-third of workers in the U.S. economy are working in “gig” positions, most of which offer only part-time work with no guarantees of future assignments.

Veterans who are interested in freelancing will find the resources presented in this guide helpful as they seek out freelance opportunities to begin a new chapter in their careers and their lives.

Benefits and Challenges for Veterans Looking for Freelance Jobs

Freelancing jobs can be a viable and rewarding career option for members of the military after they leave the service. Here are answers to some of the questions veterans may have regarding freelance work, the challenges of a career as a freelancer, and the benefits of working as a freelancer rather than as an employee.

What Is the Difference Between Freelance, Contract, and Full-Time Employment?

A full-time employee is hired to work for a company on a permanent, forty-hour-per-week basis (or whatever number of work hours the company considers full time). Many employers restrict the ability of their full-time employees to work elsewhere in the same or similar capacity, such as a full-time copywriter for a healthcare organization being prohibited from writing for a competitor.

Full-time employment often includes certain benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid vacation time. Full-time employment ends when the worker leaves the job willingly, the person is terminated from the position due to poor performance or some other reason, or the position itself is ended.

In contract employment, an employee is typically scheduled to work for the contracting company for a predetermined amount of time, such as three months or one year, or for the duration of a specific project. For example, a teacher who takes on additional work during summer school may be hired as a contract employee by an educational institution for two or three months, or a ski resort may employ staff on a contract basis for eight to twelve weeks each winter.

Contract positions may be full time or part time; they may include health insurance and other benefits, and they sometimes lead to full-time employment. Initially, however, the employment contract stipulates that the employee is to work at a particular job only for the specified time.

Freelance work is sometimes project based or short term, such as a web developer building a site for an organization over the course of a few weeks or months. Payment for freelancing jobs is typically handled through the submission of an invoice after the work has been completed rather than via a standard payroll check. Freelancers can take on as much work as they are able to accomplish (unless the freelance contract states otherwise), so a freelance editor may work for several organizations and total more than forty work hours a week, for example. Freelance work often requires specific skills, so a freelancer must demonstrate competence in that area before being awarded a contract.

Do Freelancers Work at an Office or Remotely?

Some freelancers work in an office or a remote-work environment, while others work out of their home. A freelance project manager may need to go to an office every day or once every few days to meet face-to-face with staff. Conversely, freelance writers may work remotely for years and never meet in person the staff members they interact with remotely.

Remote freelance work can be completed in many different ways. Some companies require that remote workers log on to a collaborative office chat platform, such as Slack, at a certain time. Others mandate that freelancers be available to field calls and emails starting at a particular time every workday. In some remote work situations, there is no set schedule or regular communication necessary between freelancers and their clients. The only requirement is that the freelancer complete the project by the deadline. In addition to working from home, freelancers may complete their assignments at a library, a coffee shop, or other public location.

For some assignments, a freelancer may have to speak with multiple parties, whether in person or over the phone. Such situations require a quiet environment. Many times, a remote worker can be more productive than one working on-site. “As long as the job is one that can be performed from home, most people are more productive when working from home, but that productivity is strongly subject to the policies put in place by the employer,” Larry Alton writes for Forbes.

How Hard Is It to Get Freelancing Jobs?

Finding freelancing clients is easier for people who can demonstrate skills in a particular subject or trade. Often freelancers spend many years as a full-time employee before pursuing freelance work. This gives them the opportunity to develop an extensive portfolio illustrating their accomplishments and abilities, which helps them be taken seriously by employers. Additionally, freelancers need to develop a strong professional network and have solid contacts within the specialty in which they want to freelance.

How difficult it is to find freelancing jobs depends in part on the pay rate the freelancer is willing to accept. If a company is in need of a freelance software developer, for example, an experienced candidate may request $100 per hour while another candidate with a lighter portfolio may offer to do the work for $45 an hour. Even though the first candidate is more experienced, the company may choose the candidate who is willing to complete the assignment for less pay. Conversely, the firm may decide to pay the first candidate, whether to ensure high quality or because the person can complete the assignment in less time.

Freelance Industries/Types of Freelancing Jobs

Many different industries offer veterans the opportunity to find freelance work. These are among the popular freelancing jobs for veterans and others:

Writers and Editors

Freelance writers and editors prepare copy for businesses, organizations, and individual clients in a range of industries beyond print and online publishing. Freelance writing and editing assignments include creating and correcting copy for articles for news or entertainment publications and sites, print and digital marketing and support material produced by businesses, and advertising and promotional publications for nonprofits.

Programmers and Web Developers

Programmers and web developers write the code that powers systems software, applications, and websites. Typical projects include designing a mobile application for a company, maintaining a SQL database or other business program, and helping to design and implement the interface of an interactive web page.

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers create the imagery and visuals that brands, businesses, and organizations use to promote their product and services, and themselves. The designs they create include large banners, logos that allow a business to stand out from its competitors, and the images used to help market the company’s products and promote itself.

Accountants

Accountants manage the sensitive financial data of individuals and businesses. They help families and individuals prepare their taxes, participate in short-term accounting projects for large accounting firms, and manage the financial records of businesses.

Marketing and PR Professionals

Marketing and public relations professionals help shape the public perception of a person, product, brand, or company. They write press releases and prepare promotional material intended to increase public awareness via various media. The position also is responsible for devising and implementing marketing strategies and campaigns to promote company initiatives. PR pros maintain relationships with the press and other key marketing partners.

Teachers and Tutors

Teachers and tutors help students gain knowledge in academic and other subjects. They may work privately with a student in their own home or the student’s own home, teach lessons for students in a classroom, or provide instruction through remote-learning platforms while working full-time or part-time in another job.

Consultants

Consultants typically possess a great deal of knowledge about a particular business, market, or subject area. They conduct research, develop business strategies, and offer their opinions to companies regarding the best ways for the firms to reach their goals. Consultants may assist clients in devising strategies for expanding into new markets, provide insights on planned advertising campaigns, and help inform the company’s financial decisions.

Success as a Freelance Requires Perseverance

One skill nearly every veteran acquires during their time in the service is persistence. It can take a great deal of time and effort, not to mention failed attempts, to reach important goals. As with any job skill, finding success as a freelancer entails some trial and error. Some sources of freelance jobs work better than others. As the challenges and rewards of the work become apparent, freelancers are able to spend more time doing the work, and less time drumming up freelance business.

Originally posted as a blog by WSU Carson College of Business and adapted here at the author’s request.