Should Freelancers Remain Freelancers?

For a long time, I’ve thought of myself — more than anything else — as a freelance writer. But I’ve made a conscious decision that I’m not going to refer to myself as a freelancer anymore. I’m a business owner, maybe an entrepreneur, and, of course, a writer. It’s just a name, but that name is important. I’ve been thinking about long-term plans and every so, often, I feel like freelancing is something of a dead end. You can freelance for years, but the odds of doing much more than increasing your income incrementally each year aren’t great. There are six-figure freelancers out there — but what comes after you hit $100,000 a year? I don’t know about you, but I’d like to one day hit seven figures in a single year and it doesn’t seem like freelancing will get me there.

Freelancing is a Good Gig, But…

Don’t get me wrong. Freelancing is great. If I’d actually gotten (and stuck with) a job right after I graduated from college, I would never have had some of the amazing opportunities that freelancing has given me. Even more importantly, it made it easy for me to explore running my own business and figure out which types of writing I actually enjoy. It let me quickly build a reputation that will stand me in good stead as I continue to develop my business. It’s been an incredibly easy way to launch into being a business owner, with a lot more flexibility than any other option. To be truthful, most of what I’ll be doing in the future is pretty much identical to what I’ve been doing for the last few years.

But the job title sucks. A freelancer, in the mind of most of the people you’ll meet, works alone. She takes on pretty narrow projects and has set rates. To a lot of big clients, a freelancer handles only a part of a project — preferably by way of an agency that handles all of the actual management work. That means that a freelancer doesn’t always get certain jobs. And the growth potential for freelancing seems limited. If you work alone, by definition, you can only take on the work that you yourself can do.

That right there is enough to make me think that ‘freelancer’ isn’t a long-term career title. Rather, it’s where you start. When you move up the ladder, maybe you become the owner of an agency or the head of a firm. You still walk into your home office every morning and start banging out work on the keyboard — just the job title is different.

Freelancing’s Income Streams

The other concern with freelancing, at least for me, is that you’re exclusively trading your hours for money. That’s it. If you want to release a product, you’ll almost certainly need a job title other than freelancer to get buyers interested. That fact is something that I’ve struggled with at least a little in selling my two ebooks — because I’ve marketed them under my freelance writing brand, I’m certain I’ve missed out on at least a few potential buyers. Both ebooks are certainly targeted towards freelance writers, but, if they weren’t, I think I would have sold far fewer copies.

Image by Flickr user Alexander Henning Drachmann