5 Stereotypes About Freelancers That Are Just Plain Wrong

By Aubre Andrus September 26th, 2014

I’ve been a full-time freelance writer since 2010, but I still feel uneasy admitting it when the dreaded “And what do you do?” question gets thrown my way. Sometimes I drop the “freelance” part and just say “writer,” but I’m not sure why that sounds any better.

This feeling is ridiculous because I’m good at what I do, and I make a good living doing it. Not only did I make a conscious and thoughtful choice to follow this path, I willingly left my corporate career in the dust and never looked back. Unfortunately, many people outside the industry don’t quite understand the legitimacy of a freelance career. And sometimes when I go to the gym in the middle of the day or spend an afternoon at a coffee shop, I see how the freelance life could look unusual from the outside.

But now that 53 million Americans identify themselves as freelancers, according to a survey commissioned by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk, it’s time 34 percent of the workforce earns a little more respect. Here are five stereotypes about freelancers I’d like to smash into smithereens.

Stereotype #1: Freelancers can’t find a full-time job.

Reality: Freelancing is the opposite of being unemployed. Some freelancers are so good at what they do, they are hired again and again by different companies. We have to constantly sell our talents, so if anything, we are continuously and relentlessly marketing what we can do to employers. These skills are actually perfect for getting hired, but many of us would rather work for ourselves.

Stereotype #2: Freelancing isn’t a “safe” career choice.

Reality: What could be safer than diversifying your income? The majority of my income is divided among four different companies. If one of them decided not to renew my annual contract, or folded, I’d take only a slight dip in my salary. Eventually, I’d find a new client as a replacement, and I’d work with my roster of remaining clients in the meantime to increase my workload and chip away at the loss. Meanwhile, with a traditional corporate job, I run the risk of having my entire salary erased at any moment.

Stereotype #3: Freelancers don’t work a full day like everyone else.

Reality: The truth is that freelancers don’t have to commute, spend time preparing for a day around other people, attend meetings, get interrupted by coworkers, or do busy work for a boss. Sometimes freelancers don’t need to work a full day. Those with traditional full-time jobs don’t always need to work all day, but they have to work all day.

And it’s worth noting freelance work ebbs and flows. So while one week might be a little slow, the next week could be filled with late-night power sessions. Freelancers also have to spend a lot of time attracting new clients, marketing themselves, and tracking their finances. So trust me, I can work a full day and then some.

Stereotype #4: Freelancers who work from home probably watch TV or play video games.

Reality: Although traditional corporate employees might “work from home” on occasional Fridays and spend most of the day sporadically checking email from their couches, you won’t find a successful freelancer in front of the TV. I work from a home office or the occasional coffee shop. I don’t have a boss breathing down my neck, but that doesn’t mean I want to catch up on Netflix when my income depends on disciplined habits.

Stereotype #5: Freelancers don’t earn a legitimate salary.

Reality: Here’s a statistic for the doubters: I make double what I made as a traditional corporate employee. Double. That’s with over a month of vacation time I took this year. And I’m working only on projects I like. Do you see why I don’t want to go back to a corporate career? Plus, the more I work, the more money I make. There’s no salary cap for a freelancer.

Image by Casey Rodgers
Tags: , ,