Stop Calling Yourself a Freelancer!

Stop Calling Yourself a Freelancer!

I want you to lose the word freelance: Take it off your business card, your website, stop referring to yourself that way. Why? Because freelance is low-rent. A “freelancer” is someone a company calls in to cover their bases—and save money. Because it’s cheaper than having a FT employee, simple as that.

A freelancer saves the company money and fixes problems—and that’s fine—but in order to value your own business more highly, you’ve got to promote yourself from freelance…to consultant.

That’s right. You don’t have to be some Harvard MBA grad working in a think tank to be a consultant. Not at all. A consultant is someone a company invests in to address an issue they don’t have the resources or skill set to handle on their own.

I used to think “freelance”—particularly “freelance writer,” for me, was so sexy. It meant: I can work for anyone, and do anything I want. I’m not committed to anyone! Yes—and guess what? They’re not committed to you, either. You’re on a list of other freelancers. You may be beloved, sure, but you’re replaceable, too. It’s not unlike romantic relationships: Sure, it’s fun to date a lot, date around, no commitment. That can be sexy, too, for a while. But after a while the one-offs can be less fulfilling, and you stand to reap far more from a relationship in which that person knows and wants YOU, not just “someone.”

The difference here is that as a solopreneur, you can have more than one significant client, and in fact, you should. Because if you just have the one, you’re going to be very dependent, and very much like an employee (sans benefits).

You may know freelancers who make lots of money, and have good businesses—no doubt they do. Some may say you can make far more as a freelancer. Yes—but not just because of the role you play. The illusion that you make “more” as a freelancer is not because you’re worth more to the company, but because you are in fact worth less—they don’t have to spend money on your benefits, on setting you up with an office or equipment, nothing. That “extra” money you make as a freelancer isn’t extra at all; it’s what you need to pay taxes, as well to cover all your other needs that fall onto your tab as a self-employed professional.

But that’s not why I’m telling you to stop calling yourself a freelancer. I’m telling you that because I want you to see yourself as more than just a hired gun (or lance, as it were, since that’s where the term came from, actually—mercenary soldiers whose swords would serve the highest bidder). Because in this market, freelancers aren’t competing for the highest dollar, but the lowest one. And that’s a lose-lose for you. As a solopreneur, you are always looking for new opportunities that can grow your business and your income—no doubt. But a freelancer is not in control of it; a freelancer is always “hungry,” and always available, and the people who hire freelancers know that. I want more for you. I want you to be sought out, not sitting there by the table like a labrador, hoping for someone to throw a scrap your way.

A freelancer says, “I’m here if you need me!”

A consultant says, “I have what you need. And I’m worth every penny.”

This is more than just about money, by the way; it’s about the value you bring to the table. You’ve worked hard to be as good as you are, and so you need to communicate that value. And it starts with recognizing that you’re not just someone a company or client reaches out to when they’re hemorrhaging on a project, but because they want and need the best.

Terri Trespicio is a writer, creative consultant, and host of Solopreneur on the Whatever It Takes Network. Visit her on Twitter @TerriT.

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