5 Popular Mischaracterizations of Freelancers

Raise your hand if someone’s assumed that for you, freelancing is just a phase. Or made you feel like you don’t actually qualify as a “real” worker. Maybe someone’s told you how lucky you are that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want with limited responsibility.

The list of generalizations and myths about freelancers goes on and on, and like most myths, these five can be easily busted.

1. Freelancers aren’t legit.

Your judgmental friends and family aren’t the only ones who think this—there’s oodles of jokes about how ‘freelancer’ is just another word for someone who’s loafing around and “finding themselves” while mooching off their parents. But contrary to all the skeptics’ beliefs, freelancers are in fact actual workers for real clients and produce tangible results. We might not have a fancy title or need to sport a business suit on the daily, but just like anyone sitting at a cubicle, freelancers get things done.

2. Freelancing isn’t a long-term plan.

For many independent workers, freelancing is the real deal. There are 2.8 million freelance business owners and 21.1 million independent contractors in the U.S. alone who rely solely on a freelance income. Technology and lean organizations have empowered more than 55 million people in the U.S. to go out on their own, and for many of these people, freelancing is a choice—not a temporary “fix”—that they intend to pursue for as long as they can. It’s a risk and leap they make for the opportunity to have more freedom in their careers, and in their lives.

The way people approach freelance has changed dramatically over the past several years. People aren’t looking at gigs as temporary paychecks to get them by until the next one rolls in. Instead, savvy solopreneurs are building brands for themselves and operating as personally-managed businesses. This means that freelancers today are so much more than specialized workers. They often hone and sell a range of skill sets, you might call them “Slash Workers” for this reason, and when it comes to their careers they function as the CEO, COO, CFO and CMO of their business.

3. Freelancers can’t hack it in the corporate world.

The stereotypes of corporate jobs made famous by movies like “Office Space” have changed with the rise of the internet and startup scene. Corporate cultures vary across cities, regions and industries. What’s more, remote work has made culture more “digital” than ever before. Today, a company’s culture might be more apparent in its Slack channel than it is at headquarters.

Conforming to culture, therefore, is becoming less about fitting a behavior mold and more about aligning with the mission and objectives of the company. As a freelancer, you’ll likely be asked to work within multiple cultures across your various clients, and that’s an empowering and inspiring benefit that can make you a more well-rounded collaborator. Embrace it!

Today, a company's culture might be more apparent in its Slack channel than it is at headquarters. Click To Tweet

4. Freelancers are more (or less) successful than everyone else.

“The most common myth I think is that we don’t make a ton of money,” says Danielle Corcione, a freelance writer and founder of The The Millennial Freelancer. But this one is more of a case by case situation. There are certainly freelancers who’ve done well for themselves and earn a six figure salary, and there are others who scramble by with yearly earnings equal to that of someone making minimum wage. Ultimately it depends on a number of variables like the type of work you’re doing, what your experience level is, where you live and who your clients are. There’s really no way to generalize freelance salaries.

What is true of freelancers is the freedom gained by setting your own career agenda and driving yourself as a business. The rapid rise of the digital nomad movement is one piece of evidence that points to the fact that above financial stability (in some cases), freelancers are favoring lifestyles that afford greater freedom and mobility, both geographically and within the confines of a “traditional” career path.

5. Freelancers are more (or less) stressed than everyone else.

This one also has a wide spectrum of answers rather than one specific conclusion. While freelancers don’t necessarily share the same work stressors as their traditional counterparts, they do have their own supply of challenges that make life far from easy-breezy.

So yes, freelancers can often set their own hours, work from exotic locations (or from home) and have the ability to select their client base to their liking. But they also have to chase down payments, track and manage expenses, deal with more complex tax situations, actively build and maintain a client pipeline and manage the expectations of not one “boss,” but many. Not exactly a low-pressure situation, but a rewarding one nonetheless.

The bottom line: The stigma traditionally attached to the term “freelancer” no longer applies to the contemporary gig economy. Independent workers are more empowered than ever to carve out their own career paths and increase their freedom. With the Freelancers Union estimating that 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be “freelance” by 2020, it’s time to shake these myths and redefine the way we view freelance.

Any myths and accusations that really get you riled up? Share them in the comments below!

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