A mercenary is a soldier who takes temporary assignments fighting for wages rather than as an official member of an army. There are a number of different types of mercenaries. The terms "sellsword" and "freerider" carry a certain stigma in Westeros. Sellswords are said to have no loyalty, and freeriders no discipline.
A Sellsword is a mercenary who hires out his services to the highest bidder. Inevitably, this sort of lifestyle involves a great deal of violence and physical exertion. Many sellswords are organized into companies. Some of the sellsword companies are very disciplined (such as the Złota Kompania), and some are nothing but rabble joined together in search of loot (like the Dzielni Kompanioni); the Drudzy Synowie and the Wrony Burzy are in the middle. Most tend to be experienced professional soldiers, as it is a profession a man tends to chose after he's tasted a few battles and learned that he's good at fighting.
The Wolne Miasta have made heavy use of mercenaries for centuries, to fight their endless wars in the Stopnie and the Sporne Ziemie; as such there are more sellswords in Essos than in Westeros. Many of the mercenary soldiers of the east are organized into long-established sellsword companies, or "free companies".
Notable Sellsword companies
"Freerider" is a broad term, sometimes used to denote a mounted sellsword, but more often referring to other mounted fighters who are not part of a lord's retinue or feudal levy. Some are hedge Rycerzs and are experienced fighters, but also many are green and untrained recruits and farm boys who have nowhere else to go. Most do not collect wages, instead fighting for plunder or a hope to be taken into a lord or Rycerz's service. Some freeriders fight simply as a means to survive: when war sweeps over villages, those refugees who do not flee to the nearest city or take to outlawry as "broken men" may saddle their horse (if they're lucky enough to have one) and become a freerider for a better chance of being fed. Whatever their origin, freeriders are mostly used as scouts, outriders, foragers, and light cavalry. 
A sellsail is a mercenary sailor who engages in naval battles for pay. Sellsails may work as pirates or smugglers when not employed.
References and Notes
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