Stop Calling Yourself a “Freelance Writer”

Rebranding Freelance WritingNo matter what your content writing rates might be, when you tell people you’re a freelance writer, you get one of two reactions.

Some think you have the coolest job in the world. They assume you spend the day sitting at a tidy desk, sipping tea and carefully crafting the next great American novel on an antique typewriter.  It’s an idyllic view of my profession and, even though it’s not an accurate picture of what I do, it’s the one I prefer.

In the other camp are the folks who either just don’t understand what I do or assume my work isn’t “real” writing because they can’t buy it at Barnes and Noble. The conversation usually goes like this:

“Oh, you’re a writer. That’s really interesting. Where can I find your work?”

“Hmmm. Well, I write for a bunch of different clients. You can check out my work on their blogs.”

“Blogs? People pay you for that? I write all the posts for my blog. It’s really not that hard.”

Actually, people do pay me to write their blog posts and articles and emails and press releases and eBooks. And I contend that writing for a digital audience is much more difficult than most people assume. It takes a very particular skill set to make a dozen different blog posts about breast augmentation or concrete form liners or college loans both unique and engaging.

Even so, people have their own notion of what a writer is, and if my work doesn’t fit that mold, I’m quickly discredited. It’s pointless to try and change people’s perception of what a “writer” is, so I decided to stop calling myself a “freelance writer” and see what happened.

Think about it. The word “free” implies something that is without value. So by calling myself a “freelance” writer, I automatically devalue my abilities and worth.

And the term “freelance” also hints that I can’t hold down a “real job,” so I earn cash by doing odd jobs that come along. You quickly lose others’ respect if they assume this to be the case.

To avoid the negative connotations that are sometimes associated with the word “freelance,” I devised a couple of different monikers for my job.

Now, I call myself either a professional writer or an editorial content provider. When people ask me what that entails, I say I write professional communications and marketing copy for small businesses and corporations.

For whatever reason, they don’t question this description of what I do. Their reaction is akin to me saying I am an accountant, a teacher or a nurse. I get an “Oh, that’s nice,” and the conversation moves on.

I really didn’t think this simple change would eliminate the raised eyebrows and judgmental inflection I received when I identified myself as a “freelance writer.” But it has made a world a difference in people’s perception of what I do. Try it—it might work for you too.

Chelsea A is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.

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