A freelancer or freelance worker is a self-employed person working in a profession or trade in which full-time employment is also common. The word’s etymology derives from the medieval term for a mercenary, a “free lance,” which literally described a knight who was not attached to any particular lord, and could be hired for a given task.

Fields where freelancing is especially common include journalism and other forms of writing, computer programming and graphic design, consulting, and many other professional and creative services. But the practice is widespread: for example, bounty hunters and mercenaries are freelancers, with their full-time counterparts being, respectively, the police and the military.

Freelancers generally enjoy a greater variety of assignments than in regular employment, and almost always have more freedom to choose their work schedule. The experience also allows the opportunity to build up a portfolio of work and cultivate a network of clients in hopes of obtaining a permanent position.

A major drawback is the uncertainty of work – and thus income – and lack of company benefits such as health insurance or retirement pay.

As a cultural phenomenon, freelancing exists both below and above the system. In Germany, for example, among other countries, creative freelancing is considered one of the most socially elevated fields of endeavour one can pursue. In Japan, freelancing is generally associated with an inability to find work with a major company, and is held in low esteem.

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