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According to U.S. employment law, every freelancer is an "independent contractor," that is, someone who performs a specific service rather than being an employee of the hiring company.
However, in many companies, "contractor" or "freelance contractor" refers to a professional who comes to the client site to perform a specific, time-limited project, while a "freelancer" performs the work offsite. Many freelancers operate both ways, depending on the work available and their own professional goals.
If you work offsite, using your own equipment, there's no question about your status. However, a company employing you onsite must differentiate between contractors and full-time employees for tax purposes, and U.S. law seeks to punish employers who use "contractor" status to hire permanent workers without making required Social Security, Medicare and unemployment contributions.