2023 Guide | What Does It Mean to Be a Freelance Social Worker?


Top 2023 Guide for Becoming an Independent Social Worker. Everything You need to Know

Disclaimer

Becoming an independent social worker has many benefits, such as flexibility in working the way you choose and the ability to run your own private therapy practice if you are a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW).

However, running an independent social work agency or freelancing as a social work expert means that you are responsible for generating your income each month and must manage your business operations.

So, what’s involved in becoming a licensed independent social worker (LISW)? We’ll explore the options, typical responsibilities, estimated income potential, and independent social worker fees in this article.

Let’s jump into it.

certified independent social worker

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

One of the career paths that experienced social workers take is to go solo. In other words, to go into independent social work. This is akin to freelancing in other types of jobs, only independent social workers provide their knowledge and expertise in the social work field on a contract or private practice basis.

Rather than being employed by a non-profit organization, for-profit company, or government agency, social work as an independent discipline is done on a per-client or project basis. The social worker works for themselves and sells social work services.

Social-Work-Practice-Toolkit

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Table of Contents: Independent Social Work Practice

Keep on scrolling down this page to read each section or click any link below to go directly to that section.

  1. What Does an Independent Social Worker Do?
    1. Types of Independent Social Work Services
    2. Responsibilities of Independent Social Work
  2. What Are the Benefits of Becoming an Independent Social Worker?
  3. What Are Types of Freelance Social Work Jobs?
  4. Potential Salary for Independent Social Work Practice
  5. How Do You Become a Freelance Social Worker?
    1. Independent Social Workers Educational Requirements
    2. Licensing Requirements for an Independent or Independent Clinical Social Worker
    3. Independent Social Worker Fees
  6. Conclusion | Guide to Independent Social Workers
  7. FAQ | Independent Social Work Agency

2-All-in-One-Social-Worker-Case-Management-Portal

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What Does an Independent Social Worker Do? What is This Important?

Social workers that want more control over their work/life balance and the autonomy to be their own boss can become a licensed independent social worker and take jobs on a contract or freelance basis.

Someone offering independent social services has the flexibility to work in many different areas of social work. For example, if they have become certified as a clinician and are a licensed independent clinical social worker, they may open their own therapy practice. They could choose to work with children, couples, geriatric patients, etc.

Another career path might be in research as an independent practice educator social work freelancer. This would enable them to do research, partnering with universities or social work organizations to create new methods of assessment or treatment recommendations.

Independent social workers can also be brought in as experts by government agencies, companies, or non-profit organizations to help assess communities and shape social work policies to address needs.

Types of Independent Social Work Services

  • Psychotherapy & mental health support
  • Hands-on counseling
  • Crisis intervention
  • Serious incident reviews
  • Disability services
  • Bereavement counseling
  • Social work research services
  • Policy and program consulting
  • Independent practice educator social work with schools
  • Telemental health specialist
  • Special guardianship assessment
  • Guardian Ad Litem support
  • Medical social work consulting
  • Other types of social work consulting services

Responsibilities of Independent Social Work

Independent social workers have the same responsibility to uphold the Code of Ethics that other social workers must adhere to. The ethical values according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) include:

  • Service
  • Social Justice
  • Dignity and Worth of the Person
  • Importance of Human Relationships
  • Integrity
  • Competence

The specific job duties that a freelance social worker has will depend on the type of social work practice they are working in. For example, if they have a clinical certification, then they may be involved in mental health diagnosis and treatment.

If they are working with schools as a crisis intervention consultant, there will be travel involved to the various schools. A telehealth counselor or social worker with a private counseling practice may instead be working mainly from their home or office.

Some common responsibilities of independent social work in general include:

  • Assessing patients/clients to identify their needs
  • Diagnosing mental health disorders (if a clinical social worker)
  • Making treatment recommendations
  • Implementing treatment/intervention plans
  • Coordinating between patient family members and other care providers
  • Monitoring and following up with patients/clients
  • Keeping detailed case notes
  • Creating progress reports
  • Making referrals to other resources
  • Self-employment responsibilities (taxes, licensing, reporting, etc.)
  • Marketing to promote independent social work services
  • Costs and management associated with an office
  • Setting up a bank account/method of receiving payment
  • Doing accounting and insurance billing related to the independent social work agency or practice

Social-Work-Assessment-Software

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Do you have questions on how to have your services visible when people search for “independent social workers near me?” Would you like to know more about social work as an independent discipline? If so, contact the Social Work Portal Team.


What Are the Benefits of Becoming an Independent Social Worker?

Going out on your own to do freelance social work can be scary at first. You don’t have the safety net of working for an agency or organization, which can mean that your monthly income may vary unexpectedly.

However, there are many advantages to being your own boss. These include:

  • The ability to set your own schedule
  • You can end up making more money being a freelance social worker
  • More control over what you spend your time on each day.
  • Ability to specialize in a particular social service area, such as policy making
  • Fewer restrictions on career advancement
  • Flexibility to work where you want

Social-Work-Practice-Toolkit

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What Are Types of Freelance Social Work Jobs?

What types of jobs might be available when you decide to become an independent social worker? You can open your own private practice and offer mental health counseling and therapy, for one. But there are also other types of job opportunities you can find on job posting and freelancing sites.

For example, here are a few freelance social work jobs we found listed online for independent social workers:

  • Grant writer for a non-profit organization
  • Expert advisor in behavioral and mental health
  • Instructional designer for social work training
  • Licensed mental health clinician
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • Writing behavioral health research briefs
  • Psychotherapist
  • Substance abuse training design
  • Human services consultant

Social-Work-Assessment-Software

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If you have any feedback on how we can improve this licensed independent clinical social worker and freelance social worker career overview, please let us know. Contact the Social Work Portal Team.


Potential Salary for Independent Social Work Practice

Whether or not you have a certification as a clinical social worker will be one determiner of salary potential. Clinical social workers have accomplished the requirements to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

For a licensed independent social worker (not clinical), the average salary is $63, 883 per year ($31/hour).

For an independent clinical social worker, the average salary is $72, 602 per year ($35/hour).

Social-Work-Toolkit for Case Workers

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How Do You Become a Freelance Social Worker?

Whether you want to become a certified independent social worker or licensed, but not certified for clinical work, you’ll need to know the education and licensing requirements.

Licensing will typically vary by state or country jurisdiction. So you’ll need to check for independent social worker licensing requirements for your particular place of residence to ensure that you get the license you need.

Independent Social Workers Educational Requirements

In most cases, you will need to have a Master’s degree in social work or a related human services field of study. Your degree should be from an accredited college or university.

If you plan on specializing in a particular area, such as education or being a clinical social worker, then you’ll need to obtain the proper certifications.

Learn more about degree programs by reading our article, “Best Social Work Degree Programs for Social Workers.

Licensing Requirements for an Independent or Independent Clinical Social Worker

Independent social workers need to be licensed in their state or jurisdiction. The licensing requirements will vary, so please check your state’s or other licensing jurisdiction’s requirements. Most will have a degree requirement, which is usually a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

Freelance social workers must also complete a certain amount of training (e.g., 45 hours for the state of South Carolina) as well as a certain number of hours of supervised social work experience (e.g., 3,000 hours).

Earning a licensed independent social worker designation also involves passing a licensing exam.

Independent Social Worker Fees

There are fees associated with becoming an independent social worker. Freelance social workers need to pay a license fee and a licensing exam fee in many states.

General ranges for independent social worker fees for licensing are about $45-$100 for the license fee, and $230-$260 for the exam fee, depending on state or jurisdiction.

Social-Work-Practice-Toolkit

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Conclusion | Guide to Independent Social Workers  

Independent social workers may have more responsibility and risk on their shoulders than social workers that are employed by a government agency or organization. But the freedom and income potential are big benefits that drive social workers to go into private practice on their own.

It’s important to become familiar with the specific licensing requirements in your area for independent social work, as well as the types of jobs available – both online and in person. We recommend you visit a job listing site and search for freelance social work positions to learn what opportunities may be out there.

Social-Work-Assessment-Toolkit

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FAQ | Independent Social Work Agency

How do I become an independent social worker?

To become an independent social worker, you will need to have a degree in social work (most states require a Master of Social Work (MSW).

You will also need the prerequisite number of training hours and supervised social work. Next, you would need to obtain an independent social worker license in your state or other jurisdiction.

What does an independent social worker do?

Someone offering independent social services has the flexibility to work in many different areas of social work. For example, if they have become certified as a clinician and are a licensed independent clinical social worker, they may open up their own therapy practice.

Another career path might be in research, partnering with universities or social work organizations to create new methods of assessment or treatment recommendations.

Independent social workers can also be brought in as experts by government agencies, companies, or non-profit organizations to help assess communities and shape social work policies to address needs.

What are examples of freelance social work jobs?

Here are a few freelance social work jobs examples:
•Grant writer for a non-profit organization
•Expert advisor in behavioral and mental health
•Instructional designer for social work training
•Licensed mental health clinician
•Marriage and family therapist
•Writing behavioral health research briefs
•Psychotherapist
•Substance abuse training design
•Human services consultant

What kind of salary does a certified independent social worker earn?

For a licensed independent social worker (not clinical), the average salary is $63, 883 per year ($31/hour).

For an independent clinical social worker, the average salary is $72, 602 per year ($35/hour).


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