Freelancers will relate to this, whether you freelance as a techie, graphic artist or writer, most of you have experienced the outside world’s skepticism of your chosen profession. Whether it’s that friend who constantly emails you job listings, or a father-in-law who seems unsure that you actually work for a living, freelancing is highly misunderstood.
Personally, I’ve always had a problem with the word. The word free within the word freelance is misleading. The word itself seems to indicate that what we do for a living doesn’t actually result in any money.
According to my Google searches on the matter, the word originated in the Middle Ages from the knights whose lances were free for hire and who were not pledged to one master. It makes me think of the sellswords in Game of Thrones. As if we freelancers have no loyalty and go about selling our work to the highest bidder. Wait… okay, I guess there’s some truth in that.
Ultimately, freelancers might be better off if they simply referred to themselves as small business owners. It’s a business of one, but still, a business. We have to do everything a big business does just on a smaller scale.
In addition to our friends and family not completely understanding how we make a living, the outside world is often confused as well. Freelancers are often asked to do work for free or their work is undervalued.
First, this is because many freelancers are in creative industries fraught with a “work for a byline” mentality.
“If you do this, we’ll put your name on it and won’t that stroke your ego enough to make you forget that you are hungry and will need to buy groceries with real money sometime soon?”
Second, people undervalue the work of freelancers because they don’t understand what it is they do and how long things actually take.
For instance, if someone wants a logo and they hire a big firm, they expect to pay good money to have a logo created. However, if they go to a freelancer, for some reason the expectation is that the freelancer’s work isn’t worth the same as the big firm.
And sometimes people just don’t understand what they are asking someone to do. For instance some people have no idea that a logo is part of their larger overall branding, and can be an extensive process for a graphic designer. It’s our job, as freelancers to educate people on what it is we do, and why a job will take X amount of hours.
The fact is, freelancing is a real job. And most of us who sell our knowledge and our creativity in exchange for real paper money wouldn’t want to do anything else, even if our own extended families think we are unemployed.
Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a freelance writer and founder of HeidiTown.com, the entertaining source of information on Colorado festivals and travel. She has been coworking since 2010.