You can’t throw a rock without hitting a stereotype about freelancers. While they are mostly untrue, they sometimes help to shed some light on important issues in the freelancing community as well. One key aspect many of these stereotypes have in common?
Common Freelancing Stereotypes
1. Freelancers Sleep All Day and Rarely Work
While a well rounded set of income sources and a steady list of regular clients can go a long way towards offering financial freedom, few freelancers are living in palatial estates and working from their poolside cabana. Even fewer are getting rich with just a couple of hours of work per day.
2. Freelancers are just making ends meet until a ‘real job’ comes along
This seems to be common with friends and family that don’t quite grasp what freelancers do. While some might use freelancing for supplemental income, a large portion of freelancers make their living with their skills.
3. Freelancers sit around in their pajamas all day
Though this might be true for some freelancers, most of us wake up earlier, go to bed later and accomplish more in a day than we ever did at our “brick and mortar” jobs. When you’re the accountant, sales team, social media manager, writer, coder, mom or dad, appointment scheduler and support team, the day tends to be little hectic.
Promoting Professionalism while Combating Freelancer Stereotypes
When you are faced with these portrayals of your profession, it might be tempting to simply ignore them. On the other hand, you might want to fly off the handle.
Neither of these options will help to improve your position. Even worse, they could lose a profitable client or strain personal relationships.
Tactics to consider:
1. Explain Your Skill Set
Like any other professional, you have a set of highly honed skills. Briefly outline your knowledge and what you do on a daily basis. Explain with confidence and be specific. You are a writer, a coder, a transcriptionist, a graphic designer, a content marketer. Own it, be proud of it and shout it from the rooftops.
2. Provide A Brief Itinerary of Your Day
It seems anytime someone wants to hang out, needs a babysitter or wants advice I am at the top of the list. You’ve likely heard “I’m sure your not busy” more times than you would care to say. Explaining your daily schedule can help to reduce the interruptions from friends and family.
3. Stand Your Ground and Respectfully Decline
Unfortunately, you will run across clients from time to time that try to trivialize what you do, haggle prices into the ground or request never-ending customizations. When this happens, sometimes it is best to simply cut ties professionally and walk away. Never sell yourself short, compromise your values or allow your skills to be abused for the sake of a client. There are others out there that will treat you with respect and better deserve your time and talents.
5 Important Traits of a Professional Freelancer
Of course, if you are not promoting yourself as a professional, all bets are off.
These five traits are common professional practices for freelancers of any type.
1. Professional Freelancers Communicate with Clients
Sometimes, it cannot be helped. You will miss deadlines, forget about a project or otherwise encounter some sort of insurmountable problem. Communicating these issues in a prompt fashion to your clients will help to reduce backlash and minimize damage.
2. Professional Freelancers Keep Their Word
Just because you are working from home does not mean that it will not benefit you to operate like any other business. In fact, most clients will expect this of you. If you have a written contract or other agreement, do everything in your power to keep your word. Reliable freelancers are often repeat freelancers.
3. Professional Freelancers Separate Personal and Freelance Personas
Just because you are a freelancer does not mean you cannot have a good time. The trick is to separate your work and personal life. This includes social media, email and other potentially mingling aspects. You wouldn’t tweet your boss about what happened in Vegas over the weekend, clients should be no different.
4. Professional Freelancers Are Firm Yet Respectful
Being professional and being exploited are not the same thing. Sometimes, you will find yourself dealing with hostile clients or the occasional over-demanding micro-manager. When this happens it is important to stand your ground but remain professional. Think what you want, say what you want in the privacy of your office, just remember that anything you post, email, tweet or IM to someone else could potentially come back to haunt your business.
5. Professional Freelancers Are Understanding
Even with the best of clients, there will be hiccups and problems from time to time. Receiving notice that a payment will be late when you need the money right away or the sudden termination of a pending project is certainly frustrating, but how you handle the situation could be the different between a regular client and another bridge burnt.
When it comes to success as a freelancer, it can be hard to convince others that what you do is worthwhile and legitimate. Freelancing stereotypes do not help this issue. By exhibiting professionalism throughout your freelance endeavors, you can ensure that clients respect your business and potentially eliminate negative responses from others.
Do you have any stereotype horror stories? How do you deal with unprofessional clients? Any advice for other freelancers? Let me know in the comments below!