Should I call myself a “freelancer” (definitive answer)?

For a very long time, I’ve wrestled with the idea of what should I call myself. Should I ever use the term “freelancer.” Should I call myself a “consultant” or “web developer.”

In Episode 61 What is freelance?, I dove into the negative perception of the word what you can do to change that perception.

A lot of my friends online have said in some shape or form to never call yourself a freelancer. For a very long time I would jump on this to train as well.

Does calling yourself a ‘freelancer’ matter?

But to be honest, I don’t think it really matters all that much, and I’ll explain why that is here in a minute.

But before I do, I just want to say that I’ve had some amazing conversations about this with so many smart people that I absolutely respect. Because of these conversations and what resulted from them, is the basis of this episode.

The funny and ironic part of this is that when I’ve had conversations about this we always end up in the exact same place with the same exact point of view.

Showing up, acting professional and doing great work is what’s needed in order to be successful. And ultimately how you’ll earn more in the process.

Also, that we all wind up calling ourselves ‘freelancers’ at some point to someone.

What you call yourself is a matter of context

I’m a realistic person and I’m not going to say that it completely does not matter what you call yourself in business. Because it does, to some degree.

But I think that there is this over-emphasizing and over-analysis done in publications like Forbes and Fast Company that put a sense of fear into people who are starting out and distracting them from what truly matters.

That is how you conduct yourself, how you deliver on what you say you can deliver on, and ultimately start figuring out what your business is and how to build sustainability into it.

I’ll be the first to admit it that I spent way too much time worrying about what I should call myself. Especially early in my career. So much so that I looked up the origin of the word.

Being a generalist is why you are having this conversation

I was very much a generalist and looking to try and make myself stand out from among the crowd. Which is the wrong way to specialize your business and stand out from the crowd.

That time spent could’ve been better served had I spent it learning about sales, building out processes in my business to make myself more effective, or simply having some conversations with my clients learning why they hired me and what is it about me that I do for them better than others.

The thing is what you call yourself really comes by way of the corporate world. Junior Developer, Senior Analyst, Director of Marketing, etc all stem from the corporate world.

It’s something to say when introducing yourself.

As your business grows and evolves, you’ll no doubt call yourself many things to many different people. This is especially the case as you start to specialize your business.

The object of niching down is so that you are recognized and known for that one thing.

You become the expert in what it is that you do and your clients and your results define what it is that you call yourself.

In this circle of a conversation, because I don’t even see this as a debate, it really comes down to this.

The definitive answer to calling yourself a ‘freelancer’

We are business owners and we will call ourselves many things in many different contexts:

  • Our friends and family
  • Our friends and colleagues
  • Our prospects
  • Our clients

All of which could be, and probably will be, different.

Stop spending time trying to differentiate yourself with semantics, and focus your energy on allowing your results and clients to differentiate you.

If you want a definitive answer to this question, here it is.

Call yourself a ‘freelancer’ if you are talking among friends and colleagues or looking for answers to business-related questions online.

Call yourself a ‘consultant’ if you are talking to prospects and clients when you are helping them with some level of strategy.

Call yourself a ‘designer’ or ‘developer’ or whatever if you are talking to prospects and clients when what you do is more implementation.

Combine the last 2 if you are talking to prospects and clients while you are evolving the business and niching down. Since during this process you are working through what you do for your clients and how it relates to their big business problems.

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You rock! 🤘


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