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When referring to a person who is self-employed and not necessarily dedicated to a specific employer for the long term, the words freelancing (also known as free-lance or free lance), freelancer, and freelance worker are frequently used. A business or a temporary agency that represents freelance employees on behalf of customers may resell their services to clients; others work independently or via professional organisations and websites to get employment.

Even so, while the term "independent contractor" is used in a different register of English to designate the tax and employment classes of this class of workers, the term "freelancing" is most commonly used in the culture and creative industries, and use of this term may indicate participation in those industries.

Freelancing is prevalent in a range of fields, professions, and industries, including music, writing, acting, programming skills, web design, graphic arts, translating and illustrating, film and video production, and other forms of piece work that some cultural theorists consider to be essential to the cognitive-cultural economy, among others.