Stop Thinking Freelancers Are Poor—We’re Not
It’s time to change the way we think about the word ‘freelance’.
Right now, there’s a connotation that freelancers are just out-of-work [insert vocation here].
55 million people freelanced last year, according to a study by Upwork and the Freelancers Union. That’s 35% of the American workforce. And almost half of us earned more on our own than at our previous employers. In fact, we generated over $1 trillion for the U.S. economy. That’s not chump change.
A gentleman on LinkedIn thought I was an ideal candidate for a “work from home” opportunity. One of those gigs where I buy or sell something, then recruit two friends to do the same and make money off them. Then they recruit two friends. No offense to those who choose this type of work but it’s not for me.
I was initially just annoyed that my LinkedIn inbox was yet another place where I needed a spam filter. But I grew angry when I thought about what made me an ideal candidate. He was looking for people who presumably didn’t make much money and wanted to bump up their salary. He assumed I was broke and needed a side income. I rejected his offer.
“Why not do both?” he asked. “I have a full-time job as well, I do this part time.”
My answer: “My passion is writing. I’m able to do it full time so there’s no need to do anything else. I’ve already spent 11 years of my life doing jobs that don’t align with my passion. I won’t do it again.”
He quickly learned I was not the ideal candidate for this side job.
I’m not simply looking for a way to make money. I am looking for ways to earn income…as a writer. I’m not a freelance jack of all trades. I don’t have my mind fixated on a certain salary; I’m not chasing a number. I’m a freelance writer. A creative. A storyteller. An author. At that, I’m a freelance writer who works upwards of 50 hours a week. I’m not your typical starving artist. And it’s offensive when people automatically assume ‘freelance’ is nothing more than a pseudonym for ‘poor’.
It’s hard for people who’ve been raised in corporate culture to understand the unpredictability of freelancing. The lack of a safety net scares them. The hustle, the constant shaking of the tree, the grind, the fact that no two days, let alone hours, are the same—all of this frightens people. That fear manifests itself as judgment. If you don’t have an employer, that means you don’t have regular work. If you don’t have regular work, that means you’re broke. So, you need this side job.
These people, who pore over LinkedIn profiles assuming freelancers are desperate for a buck, have it all wrong.
I don’t know about the rest of the 54,999,999 freelancers out there but I chose to work for myself because I had a very specific vision of how I wanted to live my life. How I wanted to work, what I wanted to work on, where I did that work, when I worked, the joy my work brought me. The professional life I live now would’ve been impossible with a boss looming over my shoulder and employees tugging on my shirt hem.
Yes, the beginning was hard. There were weeks where my income was literally $0. But even then, when I was frustrated and struggling, I still had a clear vision of where I wanted to end up. If I would’ve started selling products or subscriptions or whatever the hell else people are selling from home, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Where is that, you ask? I’m a Top Rated Seller on Fiverr, Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and I have a host of clients I work with on a regular basis. Plus, I was finally able to get over my fear of writing my first novel. I love where I am right now, and that wouldn’t be the case if I had split my focus.
What I want people to understand is this—freelancers can earn just as much income as anyone else in a more traditional line of work. We may not do it the same way. We don’t have the set hours or a predictable workload. But we love what we do and we can still put food on the table.
When you message us about an opportunity that’s based solely on earning money and has nothing to do with our chosen industry, you’re assuming we’re not successful and that we share the same definition of success. If we’re basing success on income and nothing else, then sure, a lot of freelancers wouldn’t consider themselves “successful”. But we think about more than what can be bought in our lifestyle. We think of the quality of it. And we think about the fact that we get to do exactly what we love every day.
The last guy who bothered me with this shit got a nice, yet stern answer. The next one might not be so lucky.