Freelancing is not a Dirty Word

Freelance. The word conjures a dichotomy of examples. On one hand you have the pajama-wearing, bed-headed, self-employed worker bee, spilling milky cereal on their netbook while sitting on the couch. On the other hand, you have the dedicated professional, full of confidence, giddy with the thought of never sitting through rush-hour traffic every day, fiercely independent. The former is usually envisioned by those unfamiliar with self-employment. The latter is enjoyed by those who thrive as independent freelance professionals.

According to Jinxi Boo, the term freelance originated way back in medieval Italy and France. “The original freelances were medieval Italian (condottiere) and French (compagnies grandes) knights, free men who would sell their skills with the lance to any master, whether his cause was good or bad.

The name freelance for these knights was invented by Sir Walter Scott inIvanhoe (1820).”

Some years after that, the term freelancer was applied to those individuals brave enough, or stupid enough, to seek fame and fortune in the realms of self-employment. So, when did “freelance” get a bad rap? Why don’t freelancers get the respect they deserve? Or do they? The term used to be applied to knights. Now it’s applied to people who can’t stomach office-grade coffee, cubicle potlucks and corporate employee handbooks. Where did we go wrong?

Let’s explore why freelancers may not get the respect they deserve:

People don’t understand what freelancers do.

Misinformed homo sapiens think the earth is flat. They also think the sun revolves around the earth. And, they seem to think that freelancers are unprofessional slobs who can’t return phone calls or deliver on promises. Oh how wrong they are. On several levels. Smart homo sapiens know that freelancers are some of the most reliable, trustworthy business professionals around. They have to be. If they aren’t, they’re out of business. It’s hard to fully grasp the nuances of self-employment if you don’t have direct experience with it. Multi-tasking is essential. Time management is required. Customer service is a top priority. Honestly is a virtue.

Business owners don’t accurately value freelancer’s services.

It may be due to bad experiences in the past. It may be because the business owner doesn’t value anyone’s services. Whatever the case, the onus is on us as freelancers to demonstrate our value, all day, every day. Prove to your clients, colleagues and community that you have inherent value.

Freelancers don’t charge enough.

Yes, this is a blanket statement. Some freelancers that I know charge upwards of $200 per hour. Others that I know charge $35 per hour. My point is that, as a whole, I don’t believe we are charging what we are worth. By charging more, and delivering solutions above and beyond the call of duty, we can garner the respect we deserve. Money isn’t everything. But in the world of business it’s a quick way to demonstrate that you are serious. Demand fair compensation and deliver more than you promise.

That’s a short list and I’m sure we could fill it with several dozen more examples. But, let’s quickly move on to why freelancers should get the respect they deserve:

Freelancers are flexible.

Staying small and nimble allows a flexibility that large companies can only dream of. The lack of bureaucratic red tape, layers of organization and policy manuals allows freelancers to respond and adapt quickly and effectively.

Freelancers are great networkers.

Need a service that your freelancer doesn’t provide? No problem. Have rush projects that were due yesterday? Okay. Want the assurance of being able to scale as necessary and keep an eye on business costs? We can help. Freelancers cast their net wide. They have to. This means that they know people. They have people in their arsenal who complement their services. They know who to call when necessary. Hiring a freelancer means you have access to a valuable collective of partners. Think of it as a virtual agency without having to pay for indoor bocce ball courts or platinum foosball tables.

Freelancers keep their eyes on the prize.

Freelances are motived like no one else. It’s in our best interest to see our clients succeed. We have a vested interest in establishing long-term relationships. These relationships are built upon effective communication, respect and trust, three qualities that every successful, professional freelancer has.

Freelancing is not a dirty word. Freelancers are professional, reliable and talented creative business owners. We can demand respect through our actions. We can show our value through our solutions.

"Eric created our company logo, website, business cards, and mailings. He also updated my other company's website. He is very creative and a pleasure to work with from the initial consultation to the final product. He has a unique ability to make the process smooth and efficient and is willing to take as much time as necessary to answer any questions or resolve any issue that may come up. I would highly recommend Eric for any graphic design or web development work. He is simply the best!"
Joshua Nehring, Operations Manager, McCool Development Solutions, LLC

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