Should You Ever Call Yourself a Freelancer?

Should You Ever Call Yourself a Freelancer?

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…


  1. First I’d like to say that the person who left the comment prompting this post doesn’t know her ass from a hole in the ground. Freelancers are paid for their work. That makes them professionals, not volunteers. Freelancing gives the writer the freedom (catch the free in freedom?) to set their rates, hours, choose their assignments (once they get to that enviable stage) and work from the comfort of their homes. I, frankly, love working in my bare feet, comfy clothes and no makeup. It’s extremely freeing. (Oh – there’s that word again – free!)

    Secondly, the beauty of freelancing is the client doesn’t have you on payroll, therefore their overhead is reduced greatly. No payroll taxes, unemployment taxes, paid sick and vacation days, computers, desks, or paying salaries during slow periods. Freelancing is a win-win situation for both parties.

    I quit my day job to live my dream as a writer. I have no boss breathing down my throat nor do I have to deal with inter-office politics.

    I’m a freelancer and damn proud of it!
    Shauna L Bowling recently posted..New Proposed Road Tax – Solution or Invasion?

    • Hi Shauna, I couldn’t agree with you more and I love that you read and shared your thoughts! The freedom that being a freelance writer gives me is something I appreciate every day and I loved that you caught the word “free” in that! 😉 Have a great day and keep up the great writing career!
      Valerie Strawmier recently posted..Book Review: Mai’s Wedding

    • Hi Shauna,

      First I admire people who quit day job to do the work they’ve always dreamed. It really takes courage, knowledge and faith to do that.

      I’m glad to hear you enjoy your work as a freelance writer, and you should be damn proud of it!

      Thanks Shauna for your great comment, I appreciate it.

  2. Hi Valerie,

    I don’t ever remember doing moonlighting when I was freelancing. To me, that is a regular job without the company’s benefit. Except I’m doing my own income tax.

    Anyway, a friend of mine post about a Freelancers vs. Business. He said Freelancers does a job and completes the project till the contract is finished. While Business owner makes money on their sleep. So, with the Graphic Designer nowadays, it’s hard to say I’m just a Freelancer. But I’m also a business owner, entrepreneur, writer….all in one here online.

    Angela McCall recently posted..Letter From Hostgator

    • Hi Angela,

      Adrienne said well in her comment, freelancer are talented people and that includes not just one talent but several. Interesting you just mentioned the graphic designer, my wife is finishing a course for graphic & web design and I must show her your comment. 😉

      Thanks Angela for stopping by, I appreciate it.

    • Hi Angela, I like how you mentioned about the difference in incomes too. If you freelance for certain sites, you can actually earn money continuously on your articles (while you sleep) and get a residual stream of money on the side. Have you tried this before? Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :)
      Valerie Strawmier recently posted..Book Review: Mai’s Wedding

  3. Hey Valerie,

    I’ll be honest…when I first heard the term I didn’t know what it meant but I didn’t jump to any conclusions. I just did some research and understood it to mean something similar to contract work. You don’t really work for any one company but can be hired out for services.

    I actually admire people who do that because that goes to show me that they are very talented and can pick and chose the work that they do. They aren’t someone who wants a regular day job or at least not with any one company.

    I guess ignorant people will think some of what you mentioned above but thank goodness for the person who prompted this post in the first place. I bet they feel kind of stupid now!

    Happy Halloween you two!

    Adrienne recently posted..Thankful Thursday: Blogging, Speed, Listly, Tweets, Old Content

    • Hi Adrienne,

      Let me be honest too… here in Croatia the term freelancer is still relatively unknown. Most of my friends have full time job (including me) and it’s hard to explain’em what we’re talking about here.

      Labor market is dynamically changing and I also see here the opportunity for talented people. Croatia in this moment has high rate of unemployment (especially young educated people) and freelancing can be a way to find the new job. I think the USA is a good example for that.

      Thanks Adrienne for sharing your opinion, I appreciate it.

    • Hi Adrienne, Thank you so much for reading and I love what you had to say. Freelancing is a whole new world for sure, but it’s a very exciting one! The freedom can be intoxicating if you’re responsible with it–I know I love it. It is something I look forward to every day. Thank you for reading and commenting! :)
      Valerie Strawmier recently posted..Book Review: Mai’s Wedding

  4. Hi Valarie,

    A freelancer should never work for free! My husband was a freelance writer years back writing educational books. He raised three children because of that. His daughter is a freelance designer. She is hired by some top notch companies and gets paid well. That’s my own personal experience with freelancers.

    It is a great way to make pretty good money only if you value yourself. I’ve seen others, who “give it away” and they are not free at all.

    I enjoyed your article!
    Donna Merrill recently posted..Blog Like A Superstar

    • Hi Donna, That is so great that your husband and daughter have seen such great success! It is very inspiring to others and it’s a career you can really call your own, because you call the shots from every angle. Thank you for sharing your story and for reading! :)
      Valerie Strawmier recently posted..Book Review: Mai’s Wedding

    • Hi Donna,

      I’m really happy to see your successful story with freelancers. This is so inspiring for others who are in doubt whether it’s worth the shot.

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your story. Have a great weekend.

  5. Hi, I’m someone who calls herself a freelancer. However, I’m still breaking into this world! I will say that my first paid gig is in the form of a guest post on Make A Living Writing (Carol Tice’s blog). It will be published within the next couple of months – I think.

    I also call myself a writer and an editor. I am an English teacher, too. (Yes, I’m certified, and have been since 1999.)

    Until this year, when I got a laptop (in January 2013), I had no idea that I would be pursuing a career in writing. Writing has always been a hobby.

    Now I know it can be different. For real, not just in my dreams! 😉
    Lorraine Reguly recently posted..A Special Featured Friday, Featuring Author Donna Jean McDunn, and A BOOK GIVEAWAY!

    • Hi Lorraine,

      It’s wonderful to see how you turn your hobby into a real job – yes I mean freelancer writer is real job. And as far as I can see you’re doing a great work.

      Congrats for that guest post at Carol’s blog, she has very popular blog and it’s a smart place to present yourself.

      Pleasure to meet you here at my blog and thanks for commenting, I appreciate. Hope to see you soon again. 😉

      • Hi, Valerie, nice to meet you. I’m still a bit new to this world, but have been blogging ten months and simply just jumped right in! I’ve made several personal strides since I began, and am thrilled that I had two other guest posts on blogs about blogging THIS WEEK. My whole time online has been exciting, and I am loving every minute of it!

        I still have not found out when my post will run on Carol’s blog, but if you subscribe to it regularly, then you will see it eventually, I’m sure. 😉

        Have a great day!
        Lorraine Reguly recently posted..20 Blog Post Must-Haves: The Ultimate Blogging Checklist

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