When I first started as an independent contractor, I didn't know anything. As I'd had a considerable amount of experience with in-print media, I didn't think there could be much difference. Perhaps some of my experiences can benefit others who are just starting out.
I was in this line of work for a couple of years before I found out about networking. Whether you have a few people who work for the same company as yourself or join work-related forums, there are numerous benefits. At its best, freelancers stick together rather than behave in a competitive manner. First, you will find job leads, and possibly even be offered jobs. Second, you will hear about scammers so you will be less likely to waste your time on them. Third, you will hear what is and is not acceptable pay rates for various types of work. Fourth, you will meet many interesting, good people with whom you have much in common.
When I started out, not knowing anything, I didn't even know it was acceptable to look for other jobs while working for one company. I worked exclusively for one company for more than two years before I branched out to other companies and individual clients. The second thing I didn't know was not all companies and clients are upfront and honest. Although I have never been ripped-off, I did experience both companies and clients who neither took their jobs nor mine seriously. As anyone in this field knows, wasting time equals wasting money. It also took awhile to learn that there is a huge difference between on-staff jobs and working as an independent contractor.
This line of work is time-consuming, exhausting, and stressful. I, personally, would not choose to do anything else; but I believe only people who are prepared to take it seriously should consider it. There is one similarity between freelancing and jobs out in the everyday world: as a company or client is paying you to do something, it should be done well, right, and on time. All in all, in my opinion, the rewards are much greater than the drawbacks.