A freelancer or (freelance worker) is a self-employed person working in a profession or trade in which full-time employment by a single employer is also common. The word's etymology derives from the Medieval term for a mercenary soldier, a 'free lance', i.e. a soldier who is not attached to any particular master or government and can be hired for the task at hand.
Fields where freelancing is especially common include journalism and other forms of writing, and computer programming and other technical specialties. In the former, pay is usually on a per-job basis; the latter is more likely to charge per hour.
From an employer's point of view, freelancers are a flexible source of labor that can be easily added or dropped as needed. However, freelancers are often more expensive on a per-hour basis, and lack the long-term view of a business.
From the freelancer's point of view, greater variety of assignments or greater freedom to choose which hours, days, or weeks to work are important advantages. The major drawback is the uncertainty of work, and lack of benefits such as health care or retirement pay (see Precarity).
The Internet has opened up many opportunities for freelancers, especially those in low wage countries working in software development and information technology areas. See Freelancing on the Internet.