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Stop Labeling Yourself as a Freelancer! Seriously, Stop Now!

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What’s your title? What do you call yourself? A freelancer?

Have you considered the negative connotations associated with being titled a freelancer? Not only is there a stigmatisation among some people when they hear that you are a freelancer, but it is also misleading your inner confidence in a subtle way.

There is a broad range of individuals who have been raised to believe that a freelancer is a person who only works when they absolutely have to, in an effort to eat.

Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary is somewhat “off-base” with their definition of the word freelancer.

“A freelancer is a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.”

Did you see the word “employer” in there?

I don’t know about you but, I do not consider any of my clients as my employers. And, more importantly, I am not an employee.

The other negative aspect comes from the world of cheap labour. I think of various websites that allow so-called freelancers to offer their services for $5.

The individual spits out:

  • A logo that looks as if a 6th-grade student designed while ignoring a science lecture.
  • A web page that will do more harm to the client’s reputation than not having a website.
  • A flyer that my five-year-old niece could have put together in 20 minutes.

I know, because I’ve tried these services for my research. I’m not saying they are all bad, I’ve also come across highly talented individuals who are selling their craft at unbelievably low rates.

Often, clients do not bicker about the cheap service they receive because they know these freelancers are usually just starting out or are simply amateurs. This is why they charge so little for their services. That’s all good, but the problem is that those clients have that same picture in their mind when you call yourself a freelancer.

I’ve surveyed 21 business owners to see how much they would pay a freelancer, a professional graphic designer and a design agency for a logo. Do you know what the averages are?

Freelancer – $25.43
Professional Graphic Designer – $61.90
Design Agency – $310.90

If we are not freelancers, what are we?

The terms you use can change your mindset. I strongly suggest you try to stop calling yourself a freelancer, especially with potential clients. Sometimes, replacing the word freelance in your job description is all that is needed. You’d go from freelance web designer to professional web designer. But at the same time, there are much better titles: Business Owner, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Expert, etc.

You should then have a readily prepared elevator pitch or positioning statement to explain your title further. I personally prefer a laser-focused positioning statement, but for the purpose of this article, let’s talk about a simple elevator pitch instead.

An elevator pitch is simply a few sentences that you can use to describe the core of your business. It’s called an elevator pitch because it can be said in about the time it takes to ride in an elevator.

“I am a professional web designer, and I help real estate agents sell their properties faster. I make use of digital marketing strategies to reach a maximum number of prospects and reel them in for a site visit.”

That was just an example, but do you see how it would “cheapen” the message if I said, “I am a freelance web designer?”

Now that I explained why you need to stop calling yourself a freelancer, I really must delve into the business owner title you have.

First, you must treat your business like a business! Not a hobby, not a trial and error experiment.

So let’s look at a few steps you can take to treat your business like a business.

Get a business plan

The old adage holds true here. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Even if you are the only person in your business, you still need to have a plan to:
– Identify your long-term goal
– Set goals for growth
– Set your working hours
– Identify and set your processes and systems

Reconsider your financial structure

This is an area many freelancers slip up in.

You should really separate your personal finances from your business finances. I would suggest having a separate business banking account, Paypal account, and use business credit cards.

If you want to have additional tax benefits, you may want to consider incorporating or creating a limited company. However, if you choose to go that route, I strongly suggest you use the services of a trusted accountant.

Clean your social media profiles

Keep in mind that potential clients will definitely try to google your name. And, then they will check you on popular social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and others.

What impression will they have when they open your profile? An amateur freelancer, or a seasoned professional?

If you want to have success as a business owner, you will need to make sure that your social media image is upstanding.

Use Contracts

A wise business owner always gets contracts for the services he is committed to performing for the client. In all honesty, I have performed services without contracts, but that is seldom. Many clients have a tendency to add revisions or other extras. A contract will ensure that they understand that you will be charging for any additional features.

Plus, using contracts tell the client that you are a serious business person.

Invest in your business

To exponentially grow a business, a business owner must be willing to invest a percentage of profits back into the business. For example, you can look at software tools that can automate certain processes. Sometimes, you may want to invest in advertising.

You should always consider your equipment and check if it’s performing to optimal levels to keep your business ahead of the competition. For example, if your Photoshop takes 30 seconds to load a file, you might want to consider upgrading your computer.
These small time wasters add up fast.

Consider your work-life balance

As a freelancer, we can have a tendency to throw our work-life balance into chaos.

I mentioned planning earlier, and part of the planning should include time for yourself and your family. But most importantly, you need to make sure that you are managing your time well, and you’re not spending 18 hours per day, seven days a week.

When we first start, it’s tempting to work night and day. But for the sake of your sanity, don’t do it!

Learn to have fun and enjoy the business you have.

Your turn

Do you agree that you should no longer be labelling yourself as a freelancer? Perhaps you don’t agree at all. And that’s fine. But in either case, let me know in the comments.

About the author

Umar Bahadoor

Umar started freelancing over a decade ago, and he now helps other professionals start profitable businesses on the side without quitting their jobs. He has built his primary business from the ground up without any investment, and now he only focuses on managing the high-level activities. You can do the same, follow Umar for advanced tips and tricks on how to start your own side hustle the right way!