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Don’t use the F-Word.

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Before my grandma has a heart attack, let me explain. My F-word isn’t the same as others’ F-word. My F-word is naughty only because of how it impacts business, not because it’s used in rap songs and R-rated movies. My F-word (and I’ll only say it once) is FREELANCE.

When I lost my agency job in 2008, I went “f***lance” while scanning the Portland, Oregon scene for designer gigs. When people would ask what I was did for a living, I would answer, “F***lancing.” Their response? “Oh, so you’re unemployed.”

Truth of the matter was, yes, I was unemployed at the time.

But that time didn’t last long. I interviewed with several studios and when nothing came of it I chose to run my own studio over going back to work for someone else. That was the day my f***lancing life ceased and my self-employed life began. The distinction is important.

As a f***lance designer:
I was in-between things, grazing until something better came along.
I took whatever work people gave me.
I made money, but didn’t have a business account.
I was seen as someone who could fill-in, but wasn’t capable of big projects.
I had to cut my rates when working with agencies because they had to have room to markup my fees.
I didn’t have control over timelines.
I signed the back of the checks.

As a self-employed designer:
I am permanent. I am the something better.
I go out and find the work myself.
I make money and have several business accounts.
I take on big jobs and teammates to do them with me.
I have no middleman and can charge what should be charged.
I establish timelines.
I sign the front of the checks.

The distinction between the two camps is almost as much a mind-set as it is a technicality; I hope that’s clear.

A designer-friend of mine, Clint Walkingstick, has a similar take on the F-word. Here’s what he had to say in an article he wrote called Freelancing Ain’t Free:

The word freelance carries with it negative connotations that fail to capture the professionalism of the design profession.

When folks hear ‘freelancer’ they think:
• not serious
• part-time
• from home
• not professional
• not confident in abilities
• new to the biz
• untrained
• cheap
• student
• poor quality
• not knowledgeable
• house slippers
• unreliable

If you’re an independent designer, you are a small business owner. So, refer to yourself as one and never use the word ‘freelance’ to describe yourself or your business ever again.

Amen, Clint. 

If you’re a self-employed designer, don’t use the F-word. And take off those house slippers, stat.

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