Is it worth my time to freelance at Upwork

Working as a freelancer - you need to know that

Freelancers can be found in almost all industries. They are considered to be flexible and highly qualified and are therefore in demand as external specialists in the majority of companies. But what exactly is a freelancer? What do you have to do or have done to be able to bear this title? Are there special training courses for freelancers that may also be funded? All of these and many other questions are to be answered comprehensively in the following article.

1. What is a freelancer?
2. Beware of bogus self-employment!
3. What else does a freelancer have to consider?
4. In which areas do freelancers work?
5. How do freelancers get jobs?
6. What is the work of a freelancer worth?
7. How and where do freelancers work?
8. Further training for freelancers - who pays?
9. Little helpers for everyday freelance work

What is a freelancer?

The German term for Freelancer is freelancer (not freelancers, but more on that below). It is a person who works on behalf of another company, but not on a permanent basis, but self-employed is. Such an outsourcing (English: outsourcing) certain fields of work is widespread in the world of work and has advantages for everyone involved. While the freelancers can process several orders and thus act very flexibly (at least in theory), companies benefit from the expert status of freelance workers, for which they do not have to calculate any social security contributions.

Freelancers can both freelancers and traders be. Which categorization applies always depends on the field of activity. Anyone who works as a freelancer has one of the so-called "catalog jobs". These include, for example, journalists, notaries, doctors and lawyers.

Important: The term freelancer must not be translated across the board as freelancer. These are basically two different pairs of shoes - even if many freelancers work as freelancers. Others - for example notaries and doctors - can certainly not be described as freelancers.

Beware of bogus self-employment!

Freelancers have to face various hurdles in their everyday work. One of them is the so-called bogus self-employment. This is the case when the freelancer is integrated into a company like an employee, but still works as an “external” or “freelancer”. In this case, the suspicion arises that the client is definitely interested in a long-term and extensive cooperation, but does not want to pay social security contributions for a permanent employee.

When determining a pseudo self-employment, the factor also plays a role Addiction a major role. Freelancers should always make sure that they are never dependent on a single client. This works best if you land several orders and process them in parallel or alternately. If a bogus self-employment is discovered, this has the following consequences:

  • The client has to pay social security contributions retrospectively
  • The freelancer is deprived of his or her self-employed status

The tests of possible bogus self-employment have increased significantly in recent years and have also been tightened. They can be carried out by different actors. These are:

  • The tax office
  • The German Pension Insurance Association
  • Social insurance
  • The labor court

When examining bogus self-employment, it is important to find evidence of the following aspects:

  • The freelancer works for a single company
  • The freelancer works almost exclusively on the company's premises
  • The freelancer does not employ any employee
  • The freelancer generates 5/6 (or more) of his turnover through a client

Note: The majority of freelancers do not have employees. However, this fact alone is not an indication of pseudo self-employment.

What else does a freelancer have to consider?

It has already been mentioned: in order to be able to work as a freelancer, you have to take the step into self-employment. You have the choice between two options:

  • Registration of a freelance position: You send an informal letter to the tax office in which you state what you do for a living and ask for a tax number. You will then be sent a free questionnaire on tax registration, which you fill out and return with other requested documents. You can then start your freelance work.
  • Registration of a business: The trade is registered with the local trade office, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry or the Chamber of Crafts. The costs involved vary from city to city. The process of registering a business is generally a bit more complicated than registering a freelance work. Additional steps are, for example, the choice of a business form and entry in the commercial register.

Tip: You can find even more about freelance and commercial (e.g. what exactly the differences are) in this article.

In which areas do freelancers work?

While the field of activity of freelancers is very limited, freelancers cavort in almost every industry. The freelancers have managed to establish themselves as an important building block in the economic structure and have therefore become indispensable. No matter where you look in the world of work, freelancers can be found everywhere. Particularly popular industries for working as a freelancer are:

  • Information technology / programming / software development
  • Graphics / design / media creation online and offline
  • Copywriting / content production / journalism
  • Social media
  • Search engine optimization
  • marketing
  • Advice / coaching
  • Editing / proofreading
  • Music / art
  • Lecturer / teacher activities
  • Interpreting / translating

How do freelancers get jobs?

As a freelancer who does not want to be suspected of being self-employed, you are almost permanently on the lookout for new jobs. Customer acquisition is therefore part of daily business and must never be ignored. How freelancers get new jobs naturally differs from case to case. The most common routes are presented here and briefly assessed.

Freelance platforms

The number of freelance portals on the Internet is huge. A simple Google search is enough to uncover a number of results. Among the most famous platforms in the German-speaking area are, Twago, Project work, Gulp and Freelancer Map. In addition, there is an extensive range in the English-speaking and international area - above all oDesk (According to its own information, it is the largest intermediary between freelancers and clients worldwide). In general, you should always differentiate between the following points with freelance portals:

  • nationwide or worldwide?
  • industry-specific or cross-industry?

Of course: The more targeted your search, the faster you will likely get a suitable job. However, freelancer portals should always be used with caution. Global platforms in particular are repeatedly confronted with criticism of price dumping. Freelancers have to assert themselves against a vast number of competitors. Many of them are willing to do the same job for a lot less money. It is not uncommon for freelancers who generate their orders via various portals to work below the minimum wage level.

Social networks

Facebook, Twitter, Xing, LinkedIn and Co. offer numerous job opportunities for freelancers - if they know how to use social networks. As a general rule, keep an eye out for appropriate ones groups and follow the job offers there regularly. In addition, you should always also use the different channels as Presentation platform Use your work and thereby attract potential customers. This works better in some industries (such as graphics or text creation) than in others (such as information technology).

Acquiring customers via social networks is time consuming. It doesn't always bear fruit straight away. Of course, that can be demotivating. Do not let yourself be dissuaded from your goal and stay on the ball. Those who present themselves well and are well networked can certainly land good contracts.

Recommendations / word of mouth

In the age of digitalization, it is almost nostalgic to claim that the "good old" word of mouth is still worth its weight in gold. The principle is simple: a freelancer who does a good job and was also able to convince people (uncomplicated communication etc.) is recommended. This form of customer acquisition costs you neither time nor money. It should therefore always be in your interest to work at a consistently high level and thus to stimulate word of mouth.

Own homepage

Anyone who decides to work as a freelancer should definitely set up their own homepage. This not only provides information about how you can be reached, but also what your core competencies are. In many industries it is also advisable to name references and provide a few work samples. This enables interested parties to get a first impression of your work and assess whether a cooperation is worthwhile or not.
Tip: Have your previous customers been very satisfied with your freelance work? Then let them "have their say" on your homepage. Brief evaluation statements, which are authenticated by name, picture and company, can definitely influence the decision of a potential client.

Networking events

Similar to the recommendations, it is also important to get in contact with people at the networking events and to present yourself positively. Business events (which are ideally tailored to your industry as well) are an excellent opportunity to get your work out in the open.

It is important that you do not regard such events as sales events. The point here is to start a conversation and introduce yourself. If you have one here and there Visiting card can distribute, that's great. In this environment, however, acquisition should always be passive and should not be at number 1 on the list of priorities. Anyone who approaches the matter in a relaxed and relaxed manner usually leaves the best and, above all, a lasting impression and is happy to be contacted later.

What is the work of a freelancer worth?

One of the most hotly debated topics around working as a freelancer is yours Reward. Or to put it another way: What is the work of a freelancer worth and how can he calculate an appropriate payment?

You probably already guessed it: Of course, this question cannot be answered in a generalized manner. When it comes to freelance fees, two factors generally count:

  • In which industry does the freelancer work?
  • How many years of professional experience can the freelancer have?

The general rule: Never sell yourself below value. Companies use freelancers because they are experts. Don't be afraid to get paid for your skilled work accordingly. In addition, freelancers often work in a similar way to salaried employees, but in contrast to them they work for various employees Social contributions, insurance, travel expenses, etc. have to come up. An hourly wage that is at or just above the minimum wage level is therefore absolutely unthinkable in purely mathematical terms. Instead, it is recommended that you do the following:

  • Research what an employed person earns in your field of activity
  • List exactly what additional expenses you have
  • Hit this on the "employee salary"
  • Always think of reserves for tax payments, retirement provisions, etc.

Tip: A rule of thumb is that the hourly rate should be at least 1.5 times as high as the hourly wage of an employee in a comparable field of activity.

As a freelancer, you should always think about several sentences (for example hourly, daily or even weekly rates). In some industries, it is also common to bill on a flat-rate basis or on a project-by-project basis. If you work as a freelancer in the text field, you should think about a word price.

Tip: In Germany, people are extremely reluctant to talk about salaries. This applies to employees as well as to self-employed freelancers. Nevertheless, an open conversation with “like-minded people” can help to find a realistic equivalent for one's own work. The major difficulty is to find a freelancer from the same industry who will speak openly about his earnings.

How and where do freelancers work?

Anyone who works as a freelancer for several clients is their own boss. This means that you can usually decide for yourself when, where and how to work. The majority of freelancers enjoy this freedom by testing different work models. These include, for example:

Freelancers who can work from any location and who do so on a regular basis are often also called digital nomads designated. The stereotypical image of a digital nomad shows a young person with tanned skin sitting on a tropical beach, sipping a cocktail and working effortlessly, almost on the side. Of course, this is the dream of many. However, a few really manage to live and work like this.

According to the freelancer platform Twago, most of Europe's freelancers live in Madrid - closely followed by Berlin in second place. The Spanish metropolis Barcelona made it to third place. It is also interesting that two other German cities made it into the international top 15 of the ranking. These are Hamburg and Cologne. In general it can be said that Europe is still a hotspot for freelancers. But Latin America and Asia are catching up.

Further training for freelancers - who pays?

The world of work is constantly changing. This is not only felt by large companies, but also by freelancers. Anyone who always wants to be up to date with the latest developments would do well to attend further training courses on a regular basis. These refresh existing knowledge and convey new information.

Unfortunately, it has to be said that freelancers are at a disadvantage compared to employees when it comes to further training. While salaried employees usually get these financed by the company, freelancers often have to dig into their own (business) coffers. However, there are also opportunities to receive funding at a municipal or even nationwide level.

For this purpose, an application must first be made, which is exclusively based on professionally relevant training may relate. If the application has been approved, the freelancer can at least be happy that 30 percent of the costs are taken off him.

Note: The best way to find out which funding programs are suitable for you is through individual research. To show all federal states and industries here would simply go beyond the scope of this article.

Little helpers for everyday freelance work

The everyday professional life of a freelancer can certainly not be described in general terms at this point. Everyone who works as a freelancer knows that no day is like the other and that something new can always cause surprises and restructuring. Order coordination, working through to-do lists, customer discussions, bookkeeping ... Keeping a cool head is not always easy. Fortunately, the World Wide Web is full of little technical helpers that can make the freelancer's work easier. A few of these are presented below.

Self management

Some call it time management, others call it self-management (because time is difficult to manage). Whichever term you prefer, the following tools will help you get the most out of your day-to-day work.

Evernote is available both as a smartphone app and as a desktop application. The program is the perfect choice for quickly and easily recording thoughts, ideas and to-dos. You also have the option of bundling different notes in notebooks and thus sorting them.

As a freelancer, you should always be up to date in your field. That means: read, read, read. Unfortunately, interesting specialist articles and blogs are always tempting to leave the actual work behind. If you can't read interesting articles straight away, but still want to save them, it's best to use the app Pocket, a kind of bookmark function for the smartphone that can also be linked to a browser plug-in.

The freelancer's greatest enemy is distraction. The problem: she's waiting on every corner. Smartphones, music and the hustle and bustle on the street are just three of the countless distraction traps that need to be eliminated. In the case of smartphones, this is the solution Forest - an app that prevents you from using it by planting a virtual tree. Simple and ingenious.

Did you know that (good) habits can help you achieve goals? Processes that run the same every day help us to work in a focused and, above all, structured way. An application that can help you with this bears the name Goal tracker.

Do you have any idea how much time per day you waste using your smartphone? The app Quality time tells you - and shows you exactly which application is the biggest time waster. The browser application follows a very similar principle RescueTime.

For freelancers, it's almost good form to run their own blog. If you would like to flexibly edit this or your own homepage in general from your smartphone, you should definitely use the app from WordPress to install. This offers numerous convenient features and makes it possible (with a little practice) to put complete blog posts online. In general, the application is good for quickly eliminating small typing errors.

Order management

The more complex and / or larger an order is, the more important it is to talk to your client in detail and to keep asking about their wishes and ideas. You probably already guessed that this area is made for using various little helpers.

With Trello have a really simple and rudimentary solution to project planning. The app and browser software have a clear number of features and that is precisely why they are so popular with their users.

It's a little more extensive Podio to. Here the user has the option of installing various apps and thus setting up the program according to their own individual wishes.

The arrangements with the customer are only made by phone or email and you just need a data exchange program? Then we recommend you Dropbox. The service is suitable for creating various folders and sending them to specific people in the form of links. The function of sharing a folder with several users is even more practical. This means that everyone has access to the documents and can edit, move, rename, delete, etc.


As a freelancer, you will write a lot of emails - a lot. Means of communication number 2 is the telephone. Behind this, however, there are a number of other communication channels that could be of interest to you.

Skype is one of the veterans on the Internet. The program is a mixture of instant messenger and video service and is therefore perfect for use in business. The conference function in particular is appreciated by many freelancers.

If you are looking for a pure chat program, you should Slack take a closer look. The tool is one of the newcomers on the World Wide Web stage and is therefore still quite unknown. With Slack you have the option of creating different topic channels. This form of communication is perfect if you are working on a large project with other freelancers in a team.

Do you have any questions about being a freelancer or suggestions that we can add to the article? Bring it on, we look forward to your comments.

Photo credit: Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash


DO IT is the newsletter for everyone who always wants to be UP-TO-DATE in JOB and BUSINESS. From career planning and salary negotiations to exciting studies and valuable expert tips. Once a week, free of charge and straight to your mailbox.

You have successfully registered!

Also interesting and worth reading