The F Word – (the real truth about freelancing)

I was at a bank re-opening a few years back.

They’d remodeled and I had an in with one of the VPs, so I had an invite to their very fancy launch event.

I was running a very successful copywriting business and while working with local clients wasn’t my favorite, I figured it was a good opportunity to keep my networking skills fresh. And you never know, right?

I’m hanging with my wine and cheese and a guy came up to me and asked, ‘What do you do?’ It was just small talk, cocktail-party chit chat and I started talking about my work (because no one outside our world knows what we do) and he says – in a voice dripping with disdain, ‘Oh, you’re a freelancer.

Super judgemental and out – he walked away. 

I was pissed at him (still annoyed – he was rude). It wasn’t the first time I’d come across that attitude. Freelancers being seen as people who couldn’t cut it in-house or as sort of lazy part-timers. Certainly not the A-list. They’re who you call to fix a problem – and then you forget about them. Like getting your gutters repaired. 

But that was then and this is now and how freelancers are seen has come a long way. 

Companies are hiring more of us, paying us much faster than they used to (because they need us) and there’s an entire niche SaaS industry that provides services to help us run our businesses.

There has never been a better time to be a freelancer.

And yet… 

Being a freelancer still comes with brand baggage.

Think of bankers, lawyers, insurance agents. Positive or negative feelings? Well, freelancer has its branding issues, too. Here are some of the words I’ve heard clients use to describe their experience with a freelancer…

Flakes, geniuses, divas, godsends, PITAs, rip-off artists, treasures, liars, and on and on.

And all of that is true. I’ve hired brilliant freelancers who I adore working with and people I couldn’t wait to be rid of. Does that mean we are forever stuck with the reputation earned for us by others? No. In the last few years, massively accelerated by COVID, the way we’re valued and seen has shifted significantly. 

Business owners no longer see us as a sideshow or a resource they hope they never need. We’re now a major part of how businesses plan their future.

In fact, we’re making their future possible.

  • Google has more freelancers than in-house staff
  • 36% of the US workforce does freelance work
  • Writers are the biggest freelance sector
  • Over 70% of designers and visual arts professionals are freelancers 
  • 30% of Fortune 500 companies use freelancers on Upwork
  • 70% of small businesses use freelancers 

How does that translate into money in our pockets?

More than a third of freelancers make over $75,000 a year and more than one in ten are earning over $100,000. And that figure covers all freelancers, from designers to part-time Uber drivers.

Smart companies see us as highly-qualified experts who can help them solve their problems faster and cheaper than going in-house. And that’s great because it means more work for us, respect for who we are and a more professional relationship.

I stand by this: there has never been a better time to be a freelancer.

But there’s a price. 

Just as we used to be seen as flakes or PITAs or godsends or geniuses, there’s a new word in the mix, a new way that employers see us. 

For some of you, it’s exactly how you want to be seen. For others, like me, it’s the exact opposite. The word is this: TEMP.

Freelancers are the new temps and there’s no going back, because that’s what the business world wants us to be. 

Talent-hiring platforms like Toptal and Guru are popping up like mushrooms after the rain. And these aren’t Fiverr or Upwork alternatives. They promise only the very best talent on demand, no strings attached. In other words: TEMPS. 

Temps solve a lot of problems for employers. 

It’s easy to find a shortlist of candidates from a quality pool and it makes fees far more transparent and easier to benchmark. 

That sounds great for freelancers, too. You get connected with great clients without doing any of your own marketing. Which means more hours for client work and that equals more revenue, right?

For some freelancers, yes, it’s a pretty sweet deal. And it’s an easy mindset transition. 

You lose a job or you quit and then you think, well, how can I continue exploiting this skill set for income? Where can I just plug in? Former employers are a good bet. You already know what they expect and they know what you’ll deliver. Suddenly you’re back onboard – but as a temporary employee.

As I said, for some, it’s ideal because it’s a low-friction and quick transition out of in-house employment. It’s a familiar model, and the employer/employee relationship is still there – everyone knows the ground rules. If you play this game well and learn to juggle, you can make a very decent living.

But, it’s a trap. Please don’t fall for it.

Here are 5 reasons why…

  • You are seen as a commodity and that means you are interchangeable. Which in turn means you cannot charge the fees you would if you are seen as a category of one. That severely limits your earning potential.
  • You are presented in a literal gallery of candidates, many of whom will have years of experience over you and will have been employees of big tech names. When a client is hiring, it feels safer to hire an ex-Google designer than someone who worked for Smyth’s Roofing, regardless of skills or services. Not fair but just is. 
  • You don’t lead the dance. The client is not on your site and they can’t even reach out to you directly. That makes it very hard to build a relationship and do meaningful discovery work.
  • Never, ever build your house on someone else’s land. And never rely on a job platform to always be there. It won’t. Go ask MySpace and Blockbuster.
  • You have all the obligations of an employee but none of the perks.

But here’s what really matters.

You’re still an employee. Just with more bosses who don’t even have to fire you.

Is there an alternative to these talent platforms? 

Yes, and it’s actually a talent platform! But a rather unique one that has managed to flip every objection I could possibly have into a positive.

And so you know I can walk the walk…

Are you ready for clients who bring you interesting projects and higher fees? A bank balance that means you don’t have to worry about what happens in the next 12 months?  

Then know this…

Getting there isn’t luck. It’s the result of deliberate steps that follow well-proven paths to success.  

I know those steps and I know those paths, and I’m going to show you both, starting today.

As long as your business is client-based, your success – and the size of your bank account – is tied directly to the quality of clients you attract.

Hi, I’m Amy Posner…

  • I’ve coached hundreds of creative freelancers to success
  • I’ve built six businesses, all highly profitable
  • I’ve owned and run a micro and a full creative agency
  • As a freelancer, I’ve had multiple $200k+ years
  • My businesses have sailed through the worst economic shocks the last 30 years could throw at them

And now I’m going to share everything I know with you about building a resilient and rewarding business that delivers on the full promise of your talent.

LEarn more about working together  →

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