On a recent post, we had a very intriguing comment, where a reader said you should “NEVER describe yourself as a freelancer.”
This post was triggered in reply to the point he made and whether or not it’s acceptable to call yourself a freelancer.
True Definition of a Freelancer
First, let me share the following:
Merriam-Webster definition of Freelancer (noun):
a) A person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization
b) A person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer
Merriam-Webster definition of Freelance (adjective):
Earning money by being hired to work on different jobs for short periods of time rather than by having a permanent job with one employer.
Now, if a person was going to look at the visual etymology of the word “freelancer,” it could be assumed that you work for free.
There is also a misconception having to do with blog-epreneurs or online startups regarding free products or services, as they may sometimes call themselves freelancers as well.
According to our reader:
Describing one’s self as a freelancer is psychologically effective as it means too many things to too many people.
Myth #1: You Can’t Find a Real Job
In my experience, you can only become a freelancer after you have experienced the corporate world and learned what is acceptable and what is not. It’s very difficult to start out as an inexperienced freelancer because you don’t have the knowledge or experience to back up your service claims.
The fact that someone becomes a freelancer means they have chosen to give up the 9-5 corporate world where other people determine their schedule and responsibilities, and instead take the reins themselves. It means they are probably sick of making other people money and settling for the bread crumbs they are offered.
The skills that a freelancer has are often more advanced than those of a regular employee because they work on such a variety of jobs. This kind of experience is not gained by sitting at a desk working in one area of expertise all the time.
In fact, many of the 9-5 corporate structures will hire freelancers because they don’t have the time or money to train their employees on special projects and need someone to get the job done right away. It might also be an area where they are branching out into new mediums and want to see what the results are going to be.
The myth that a freelancer “can’t get a real job” is just not true, and there aren’t very many who really believe this anyway.
Myth #2: You Have a Real Job and You are Moonlighting
Isn’t it funny how when you do something you love and really enjoy it, people assume you have a “real job” on the side and only do this for side income?
The myth that freelancers are only moonlighting in these positions is crazy considering the number of freelance opportunities that are posted every day.
It’s absolutely possible to freelance and earn a regular, sometimes great, income without pursuing a corporate or structured job environment. I do it every single day of the week, along with many network colleagues and we don’t have a backup in the form of an office or retail job.
Just because something is short-term doesn’t mean it’s “moonlighting.” There are several contracts that business people write every day that only involve selling their services for a short time.
Then, they move on to the next customer/client and keep the business going. In fact, this is how word-of-mouth referrals spread and build similar businesses.
It doesn’t have to be a long-term relationship that you’re building with one client in order to be considered real business. If that were true, how would consultants, energy efficiency experts and general contractors ever move on to other projects?
Freelancing by definition is working “on different jobs for short periods of time rather than by having a permanent job with one employer.” The fact that professional freelancers prove this every day eliminates the possibility of the “moonlighting” myth.
Myth #3: You Can Be Persuaded to Work for Free to Prove Yourself
This has to be the most damaging myth in the world of freelancing as it implies that clients should expect to pay pennies for professional work that is going to give them real world financial benefits.
Yes, there are methods a new freelancer can use to get started in this creative world, and it’s possible to get your name on the boards by selling your work for scraps.
Is this recommended? No!
Certain bidding sites online seem to perpetuate the belief that you must sell yourself short if you ever plan on getting work. This is a huge mistake because a quality client will appreciate and respect quality work.
They also know what quality looks like and should cost. If you price yourself below this figure, they are going to assume you’re doing so because you don’t measure up.
A good example is a freelancer who sells 30 eBooks for $300 versus a writer who sells one book $100. Which of those do you think is going to put more thought, effort and professionalism into the final product?
These clients are smart enough to know when their money is being spent well and they recognize the value of hard work.
Pricing yourself below the market price doesn’t just devalue your work but it actually hurts your chances of getting the better jobs.
I’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts
Please share your thoughts below as I’d love to hear your general thoughts about being called a freelancer.
What is your first impression of the title and what reaction do you get from colleagues in response to the title?
We look forward to reading your comments…