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I must confess, when it comes to landing writing jobs, I never thought too much about the “freelance” title. At least, not in terms of whether or not it was “harmful” to my career goals. Practically every writing job I’ve gone out for specifically asks for freelance writing services. It was simply a label or job title — like “content writer” or “social media expert.”
You can, therefore, imagine my surprise when I happened across an article suggesting I should rid myself of the “freelance label.” In fact, if you perform a Google search, you’ll find numerous articles on the topic. All insist for one reason or another that it’s in your best interest as a writer to hide your “freelance” identity.
In the case of the Fast Company article, the author claimed, “Clients too often see freelance arrangements as low-cost line items instead of strategic partnerships.” And this is the point where I raised a yellow card.
What Speaks For You: A Label Or Your Abilities?
I’ve had the privilege of calling myself a freelance writer for a little over four years. After working (and rejecting work offers) consistently during that time, I noticed something important:
Some people will look for any excuse available to avoid paying you a fair wage!
I cannot tell you how many jobs I’ve either avoided or walked away from became pay was an issue. I can, however, tell you something VERY interesting.
Most of the time, I did not have a freelance writing job title when associated with these jobs. I found those issues arose whether I called myself a freelancer or consciously omitted the term (I often try to answer ads according to the requested job title). I also noted that when I did land a job I wanted, what often stood out to clients was (1) my resume and body of work or (2) my unique and personable cover letter.
Because of this, I believe that focus on an alleged label stigma is a waste of time. Freelance writers should instead be asking themselves if they’re placing the onus to be treated appropriately entirely on themselves and not the people hiring them.
If you’re a good writer with a great resume who is capable of performing outstanding work, you can call yourself “Chicken Liver, ” and it wouldn’t matter. Some clients are going to treat you well and pay you fairly. Others…not so much. The “freelance” title is a red herring; what matters is how you mentally condition yourself to deal with undesirable behavior.
Things To Do Instead Of Dumping Your Freelance Title
You are certainly well within your right to drop the “freelance” label. If you feel the change works for you, great! Even so, there might be other ways of stacking the odds in your favor when dealing with potential clients. If you want to avoid mistreatment, low wages, or not being taken seriously, here are a few helpful tips:
- Read the ENTIRE job ad/description! Please don’t do that thing where you skim through for the basics, and then fire off a cover letter pretending you read it all. Instead, take the time to read the ad from start to finish. The wording can often tell you a lot about the person or company you intend to work for, so pay careful attention! The language of the ad or job description might contain red flags that indicate you should walk away — and fast!
- Have a minimum pay rate. Determine the least amount of money you’re willing to earn per client. After that, make it a goal to ask potential employers for MORE than that when you can. Also solely seek out job opportunities that pay at your minimum or better. Preferably the latter. It’s hard to underpay you when you are firm upfront about your earnings.
- Work on your self-esteem. Writers are naturally some of the most self-critical people on the planet. I mean, you have to get out in front of your editors, amirite? Ba-dum-TSH! But in all seriousness, you should work on building up your self-esteem as a writer and person. Appreciate who you are and all the wonderful things you’ve accomplished. That way when people attempt to put you down or otherwise disrespect you…your instinct WON’T be to validate their mistreatment or rudeness by automatically assuming you’ve somehow justified their behavior.
There are more things you can do, and I welcome readers to share advice in the comment section. In defense of the freelance writing label, I submit that these steps are far more important than abandoning the title altogether. Be proud to call yourself a “freelance writer!” Don’t throw away your unique status in the world out of fear.