Don’t Hate Me Because I’m a Freelancer

The freelancing lifestyle, while flexible, involves a lot of hard work.

But despite all that hard work freelancers get a bad rap sometimes.

So much so, that some freelancers have actually stopped using the word “freelance” to describe themselves because they believe that it has negative connotations. Instead they use terms like consultant, independent professional, and creative entrepreneur.

In this post, I’ll take a look at five common misperceptions about freelancers, explain why they are wrong, and take a look at the reasons why the misperceptions persist.

Five Misperceptions About Freelancers

Some of the negative (but mostly untrue) statements about freelancers include:

  1. Freelancers aren’t reliable. The truth is that most freelancers are very conscientious about getting their work done. Since their professional reputation depends on the satisfaction of their clients most freelancers can’t afford to be anything but reliable. Sadly, though, there are a few bad apples in the freelancing world that give the rest of us a bad name. This misperception persists because clients who have bad experiences are usually more vocal than those who have good ones.
  2. Freelancing is just another term for unemployed. Most freelancers work from home. Some freelancers keep unconventional hours. To a casual observer such as a neighbor or family member, it may appear that the freelancer isn’t really working because they are always at home. However, many freelancers spend more time “at work” than someone who is conventionally employed.
  3. People become freelancers because they aren’t qualified for any other kind of work. Another myth about freelancers is that people become freelancers because no one will hire them. According to this myth, they are either untrained or too difficult to get along with. Actually, though, most freelancers are freelancers by choice. Many choose to leave traditional employment and strike out on their own for a variety of reasons including greater flexibility and higher earning potential.
  4. Freelancers are lazy. This is similar to misperception number two. Those who believe this misperception think that the time that freelancers spend online is playing. This may be fueled because many freelancers have an active social media presence. To someone who only uses social media for fun a freelancer who is “always” on Facebook or Twitter may appear to be playing, when actually they are using these tools to network and contact clients.
  5. Freelancers always pad their estimates. According to this myth, most freelancers quote a price that is far too high for the amount of work that needs to be done. Lowballing clients in particular embrace this misperception because it helps them justify their actions in trying to get the price down. However, the actual truth is that most freelancers underestimate the cost of doing projects and wind up spending far more time working than they get paid for.

If you’ve been affected by any of these negative perceptions about freelancers, you may wonder if there’s anything that you can do about it.

What’s a Good Freelancer to Do?

So, none of those stereotypes apply to you. (At least, I hope they don’t.) They don’t apply to me either–that’s because, by and large, they are misperceptions.

What’s a good freelancer to do?

While you may not be able to totally combat the stereotypes (there will always be someone out there spreading them), there are some positive steps you can take to make sure that you aren’t lumped in with the “bad freelancers.”

Here are some of those steps:

  1. Make sure that you always behave in a professional manner. Be the reliable freelancer. Meet your deadlines.
  2. Keep your clients happy. Really listen to what they need and then deliver. Get good references from your satisfied clients.
  3. Don’t sit silently by when you hear someone spreading one of these negative stereotypes about freelancers. Speak up and explain that freelancing really is a good job and that most of us are professionals.
  4. Last, but not least, don’t panic. While some freelancers may fit these stereotypes, you know that you don’t. That means that you’re already ahead of the competition in this regard.

Your Turn

Do you think that the term “freelancer” has become negative? Have you encountered any of these negative stereotypes? Do you call yourself a freelancer, or do you call yourself something else.

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by A.M. Kuchling