• Advice

Confronting the F-Word (Freelance)

What do you call yourself?

The independent workforce may be growing, but we still haven’t quite figured out how to describe ourselves: Freelancer? Entrepreneur? Self-employed? What’s the “right” word to use so that others will perceive us in the right way? (And does this even matter?)

That awkward “What do you do?” thing

According to this survey by MBO partners, of “non-traditional workers,” just 4% call themselves freelancers, while 36% say self-employed, 13% say business owner, and 9% say creative professional.

These terms all essentially describe the same work. But it seems some people shy away from the work “freelancer,” some embrace it, while others prefer to call themselves by their field (“I’m a writer” not “I’m a freelance copywriter”).

As freelance copywriter Katherine H. told me, “Honestly, I only add the ‘freelance’ word if I’m forced to. I definitely could use more confidence.”

Katherine and other freelancers who feel ill-at-ease with the word are more likely to be Hustling Freelancers -- one of 5 common types of freelancers outlined here. Often they aren’t quite comfortable with their skills, don’t network with other freelancers, and still feel like their 9-5 friends are more “professional” than they are.

For this perception to change, first we have to change our perception of ourselves by climbing the freelance pyramid and taking pride in our work.

The 10 Points of Freelance Pride

According to our founder Sara Horowitz, in order to be taken seriously as a freelancer, you have to address three key elements of stability in your own mind and life:

  • Identity (who am I?)
  • Society (where do I fit?)
  • Economy (do I have enough?)

You build this stability by coming to terms with the 10 points of freelance pride:

1. Know and grow your skills.

2. Pursue work you love.

3. Be excellent at it.

4. Attract the best clients possible.

5. Get your elevator speech down for the “what do you do?” question.

6. Be businesslike in how you walk and talk about your work.

7. Be a hub and a hive: connected, active, and giving.

8. Have some money in the bank.

8. Take the best care of yourself that you can.

10. Thoroughly enjoy your life.

A tall order, yes, but the more freelancers/self-employed/contractors/entrepreneurs talk openly about their freelance lives and bring passion and professionalism to each gig, the more confident we’ll feel. And the people around us will sit up and notice.