Stop Calling Yourself A Freelancer

  Photo courtesy of  Dr. Shordzi

Photo courtesy of Dr. Shordzi

By Melanie Padgett Powers

I don’t hate the word “freelancer,” but I try to avoid it when I meet someone or during conversations with clients. Instead, I introduce myself as a business owner—“I own my own business”—which often intrigues and impresses people. It causes them to ask about my business and what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.

On the other hand, the phrase “freelance writer” often conjures up images of a frazzled woman curled up on the couch or in bed, still clad in her PJs, typing away on her laptop before she’s even had a chance to shower. This certainly does not describe me and is not the image I want to portray to current and potential clients. Do you?

Here are 4 tips to get you to start thinking like—and becoming—a business owner:

1. Create A Business Plan

Don’t just pitch article ideas or haphazardly contact potential clients. What are your goals, professionally, personally, financially? What do you need to achieve them? Write down your goals, strategy, and tactics with deadlines, and review your document every quarter to see where you’re succeeding and where you need to re-focus your energies. 

2. Embrace Networking

As a writer, I’m an introvert. I’m happy to be in my home office for several days on end, working in the quiet. I often have to force myself to attend networking events, especially the non-educational, “happy hour” ones. But once I’m there I remember that meeting new people can be fun and interesting, especially when I’m talking about something I am passionate about—my business.

Prepare ahead of time by developing a list of three potential questions you can ask people if you are not sure what to say. And give yourself goals and permission to leave early. For example, tell yourself you are going to meet five new people, and when you hit that goal, you can leave. Make sure to write people’s descriptions and what you discussed on their business cards and follow up with them the next day, even if it’s a short email to say it was nice to meet them.

3. Diversify Your Services 

What do you love to do beyond writing? What else are you good at? Diversifying expands your income stream, prevents boredom, and leads to new opportunities and clients. Perhaps you’re an amateur photographer who can take headshots of local business leaders and colleagues. Maybe you love copy editing, proofreading or managing social media, or you have experience writing resumes, or you can offer services as a virtual assistant or tutor. Brainstorm about your interests and skills and figure out how to incorporate those into your business.

4. Read About the World of Business

Beyond reading about writing and editing, I read blogs, magazines, and books about being successful in business. I become inspired and motivated, crafting new ideas for my business and the services I offer, as I read about better productivity, marketing tools, and social media strategies.

I believe when freelancers think of themselves—and introduce themselves—as someone who owns a business, it shifts their brains and even makes them stand up straighter. Words are powerful, as we well know. And the words you tell yourself are the most powerful of all.

Over the past three years, I’ve met with several would-be freelancers who want to know how to get started or be more successful. It’s visible in their body language and the tone of their voice whether they are prepared and eager to be successful or fearful and nervous they’ll be hustling for $50 articles every week. I encourage all of them to reframe their mindset to become business owners. Freelancing isn’t a hobby. The more you think like and become a business person, the more growth and success you will have. 

Melanie Padgett Powers is the owner and founder of MelEdits, in the Washington, D.C., area. She is a long-time health writer who provides a variety of writing, editing, content marketing and social media services. Previously, she was an editor/writer at membership-based health associations and a newspaper reporter and editor. Learn more at MelEdits.com.

Essays Archive