This Is The Difference Between Freelancing, Permalancing, And Contracting

The way we work is changing. The digital age has made everything from remote work to the side-gig economy increasingly more popular, so it’s no surprise that more people are becoming self-employed than ever before.

But what that actually looks like is different for everyone. Gone are the days in which you either have to own your own business, incorporate, or sell your work piecemeal, as traditional “freelancing” would involve. Now, there are more and more opportunities for long-term, albeit not full-time, work.

It’s essential to understand the difference between freelancing, permalancing and contracting if you want to understand what your options are, especially as a creative professional. Some people might use these terms interchangeably, but unfortunately, they are not the same thing.


Freelancing is the process of selling your work piecemeal. If you are an artist and not employed by one company in particular, you could create a piece of art (or get commissioned for one) and then be paid for it. Many photographers’ businesses function this way: they sell their work on a case-by-case basis.


As opposed to traditional freelancing, permalancing is a little different, in that it involves an ongoing contract or agreement in which there are clear terms of the regularly of the work. For example, this can mean that you are a writer working for a publication and writing the same number of articles each month.


Contracting sort of combines both freelancing and permalancing, in that it does offer a mutually agreed upon set of terms for which work and payment will be delivered, but with a bit more freedom than permalancing. An example of contracting would be something like an independent clothing designer who works with stockists that will sell their pieces. The individual is not actually working for the company that they are being paid by, they are just selling them a product or service.

It’s important to reiterate that amongst industry professionals, these three terms are very often used interchangeably — especially in that many people use “freelancing” as a blanket term for “not full-time work.”

Given that that is the case, it’s important to not only clarify the terms of your work for yourself and your business, but so that other people can better understand what you do — and what you can offer — as well.