In my time working as a freelancer, and talking with others who work as freelancers, I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to be confused as to what a freelancer actually is. This is really unfortunate because writers (and freelancers in other industries, too) are really crippling their ability to grow and make money.
This might get a little ranty, so buckle up. I have some strong feelings on this one.
What the dictionary says a freelancer is
A freelancer is anyone who is self-employed, rather than being committed to a particular employer. At least, according to the dictionary. There’s sort of an unspoken implication that they will be in a creative profession, but that’s not part of the official definition.
Another way of saying this is “independent contractor,” which I personally think sounds much more professional and gives a nicer vibe. It’s not a commonly-used phrase outside of tax season, though, which is unfortunate. Us freelancers seem to struggle with maintaining a professional image, so any help we can get is welcome.
What a freelancer actually is
Freelancing is a business. Even if you’re only freelancing for a few hours a week, it’s a business. If you are selling your services and making a profit, you are doing business. Hell, even if you’re not making a profit. That’s all there is to it.
If you’re a freelancer—congrats! You own your own business.
A lot of freelancers don’t seem to grasp this, which unfortunately undermines all of their efforts at growing and expanding their client list and business. Freelancers undervalue themselves and handle their business in an unprofessional manner without even realizing their mistake. No wonder writers are constantly complaining about pay!
Why is this such a big deal?
The shift in mindset from freelancer to business owner has played an instrumental role in taking my business from a small evening operation to a full-time gig that earns me more money than any other job I’ve ever had. It’s a subtle shift, but it’s absolutely vital.
When you start viewing yourself as a business owner—in my case, the owner of a copywriting business—you begin to approach everything from client relations to marketing to bookkeeping with a completely different attitude. Everything is suddenly serious business. And it should be!
On the other hand, viewing myself as a freelancer caused me to take a more passive mindset and focus more on the writing part of my business and less on the business part. Yes, the writing is the thing I’m selling, and it’s the skill that’s making me money, but it is not the thing that is going to grow my business and continue to make me steady income and increasing profits going forward.
What your clients think of you
There is a certain stigma about their term freelancer, which is why I have stopped using it in my own branding. You can even see it in one of my testimonials: “Dave breaks the stereotype associated with freelancers.”
When your clients see you as a freelancer, they are making assumptions and judgments in their head before you’ve even started working together. You are fighting an uphill battle from day one to break those stereotypes and prove yourself.
Change the view
When you view yourself as a business owner, you conduct yourself like one. And when you conduct yourself like a business owner, your clients see that side of you. And they start treating you like a business owner. And that’s a good thing.
Too many freelancers are in the employee mindset. They feel like employees of their clients, rather than business partners working together to achieve common goals (sell more stuff and make more money).
This time of year there are a lot of surveys and blog posts floating around online talking about freelancer income. If you’ve never seen one of these surveys, let me tell you—they are enough to scare anyone away from trying to go out on their own. Freelancers—and especially freelance writers—are criminally underpaid.
If you’re unhappy with your freelance income, your clients aren’t to blame. It is 100% on you to improve your business.
Take this to heart. Make this shift in mindset. Trust me, it is absolutely worth it.
Has a subtle change of mindset had a major impact on your business? Find me on Twitter and let me know!