The word alone inspires visions of co-working spaces with white-washed brick walls, spartan surfaces, and rows of Monstera deliciosa plants.
But as long-term job security decreases and the gig economy takes hold, for some it is more about necessity than a glamorous lifestyle.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says there are more than a million independent contractors in Australia — though a 2014 study by research firm Edelman Berland put the number as high as 3.7 million.
Wollongong-based content marketer Rebekah Lambert, who co-ordinates a digital platform to support freelancers, says freelancer numbers are increasing, in line with a global trend.
Like many freelancers, she was prompted to make a change when she became dissatisfied with her day job — in her case, working in creative agencies.
"[I] thought if I could take my skills as a marketer and as a writer and use them towards other projects that I felt more passionate about or more connected with, then my working life would improve," she says.
"And that's exactly what I did."
Choice or necessity?
Ms Lambert knows not everyone is lucky enough to have the decision to go freelance left up to them.
"I've spoken to a bunch of women who have been made redundant while they were on maternity leave, or they find their workplaces are not family friendly," she says.
For Perth-based journalist and university tutor Carrie Cox, who has freelanced most of her career, it was the birth of her second child that made her pull the freelance trigger.
"It was financially essential. [I] really couldn't afford full-time childcare, nor did I want to," she says.
But while necessity drove Ms Cox's first adventure into "the freelance wilderness", over time she said it had become more of a lifestyle choice.
Some freelancers told Life Matters they chose to freelance, while others said the decision was made for them.
"I've worked successfully as a freelance creative director level copywriter in advertising and branding since my last full-time role ended in 2007. I realised long ago that I have greater security of INCOME than most full-time employees — given the fragility of the industry and 2-4-week termination clauses. But you have to be good and disciplined."
"I am an interpreter and translator. There are very few 'in-house' positions for this profession. If I want to practice the profession I love, for which I have trained and which is a vital community service, I have no choice but to be a freelance contractor."
Dealing with social isolation and stigma
Ms Lambert often hears contractors voicing concerns about the challenges of social isolation through her freelancer support platform, the Freelance Jungle.
That's something Ms Cox can relate to.
"It's a bit lonely; it feels like a long walk in the woods," she says.
"You are removed from all of the normal support that you take for granted in a workplace. You're your own HR department. You're your own IT department. You've got to pump up your own tyres."
Another common complaint on the Freelance Jungle centres on the stigma attached to the idea of working for oneself.
Ms Lambert jokes that her friends sometimes think she's "scratching my bum, eating doughnuts all day", but she considers it a serious issue.
She worries this stigma makes freelancers feel "small", and perpetuates the myth that they're less committed or able to take on big projects.
"You have this ability to craft the life that you want — whether it's for Instagram, or whether it's to manage life impacts better — but you still have to work pretty damn hard to be successful," Ms Lambert says.
"Yes, there's a bit of sexiness and glamour in freedom, but there's also a high price."