More workers are freelancing full-time. How can you make the switch?

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More workers are freelancing full-time. How can you make the switch?

The strong economy has pushed more people to pursue freelance work full-time, according to a survey conducted by freelancing website Upwork and Freelancers Union.

This year, the share of workers who freelance full time is 28%, up from 17% in 2014, the survey said.

Upwork and the Freelancers Union surveyed more than 6,000 U.S. workers over the age of 18. The Freelancing in America study has been conducted annually since 2014.

Half of freelancers said they viewed freelancing as a long-term career choice rather than a temporary way to make money, the highest share since the survey started. But freelancers also said they faced challenges, like accessing health care, saving for retirement and student debt.

"This workforce continues to face significant challenges in being able to access affordable health care," said Caitlin Pearce, executive director of Freelancers Union.

Considering making freelancing your career? Here's how to make sure your finances are ready for the change.

Health insurance

Many of the freelancers surveyed said flexibility was one big advantage of freelancing. But leaving your day job also means sacrificing a steady paycheck and benefits, including health insurance.

Freelancers have options for getting health insurance. They can join a spouse's plan or, if they're under the age of 26, can stay on a parent's plan.

They can also buy a plan on the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace. Open enrollment takes place from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 in most states, but losing a job can qualify for a special enrollment period.

Medicaid is available to low-income individuals who need health care. Eligibility varies by state. Check out our state-by-state guide to Medicaid to learn the rules where you live.

Saving

Freelancers don't get a steady paycheck. One month they can have a ton of work, while the next is barren.

A healthy emergency fund is especially important for freelancers as a result. A good guideline is to have three to six months of expenses saved up.

Freelancers must also stay on top of their taxes. Full-time employees have taxes taken out of each paycheck, but freelancers have to set these funds aside themselves and pay their taxes quarterly.

Forgetting these responsibilities can lead to a surprise tax bill.

Retirement

Freelancers don't have to sacrifice the ability to save for retirement. They have a few options for setting aside their earnings long term, including a simplified employee pension, which allows you to contribute up to 25% of your earnings for retirement, a solo 401(k) or an individual retirement account.

Unlike full-time workers, freelancers have no human resources department to set up these tools. Read our guide to building your own benefits package to learn more.

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Image: Joseph Won