For years, I’ve called myself a freelance writer. A few weeks ago, however, something happened that made me rethink my stubbornness about referring to myself a freelancer.
I was at a presentation and the speaker was going around chatting individually with people about who they were and the work they did. I introduced myself as a freelance writer and we talked for another minute or so.
When one of my colleagues came and sat down, the speaker came over and asked her what she did. She replied, “I own my own copywriting business.” The speaker’s eyes lit up and she said, “Oh, do you have a card? I have so many clients who need copywriting.”
Needless to say, I was shocked. Two people who do very similar work but who framed it differently in that moment were seen as being entirely different. Granted, I’m more focused on feature writing than copywriting, but our conversation never even got that far. The difference in how the speaker responded to each of us was striking.
Us freelancers have cultural baggage we have to shake. There are a lot of misconceptions that being a freelancer means you either can’t find work or you’re lazily working from home in your pajamas.
Those of us in the new economy understand that freelancing means being part of the rising workforce—being people who aren’t tied to a location or schedule. It means being part of a vibrant, growing community, working on your terms, a greater sense of personal freedom. Outside of the circle of fellow freelancers, however, freelancing may still mean something very different.
So, if I don’t refer to myself as a freelance writer, what do I call myself? I could be a content creator or a feature writer. Or I could say, “You know those magazine articles that profile forward-thinking people or organizations? I write those.” Or I could lead with the benefit: I help publications tell stories and organizations get the word out about what they’re doing, through feature articles and blog posts.
I’m still working out how I want to approach this, but I’m thinking it’s time to come up with a new way of introducing myself. At a recent Santa Cruz Freelancers roundtable, one of the members reminded us that the term freelance is simply an employment designation for your taxes—that what you do isn’t freelancing, it’s whatever you do.
We then had a laugh that we’re a secret society—that among ourselves, we call each other and ourselves freelancers, but out in the world we have different, more marketable ways to describe ourselves. Regardless of what we call ourselves and each other, it’s great to be part of this exciting, freelance economy.
Do you introduce yourself as a freelancer? Why or why not? If not, how do you refer to yourself? In the comments, let us know.
Photo by wonderferret (CC-BY-20)