Note: New Worker Magazine recently published this article I wrote on labels and why “freelancer” doesn’t work for everyone…
A few weeks ago at a holiday get-together I was catching up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a few years. We got to talking about when we all had to report back to the office – back to the grind, the boss, the desk. When I said that I didn’t have to, my friends responded with instant sympathy. “You’re out of work? We didn’t know…”
Then I had to explain (again) that I’m not out of work.
I just don’t have a “job.”
Working for yourself has a lot of upsides. You can make your own schedule and have much more control over the work you do. There’s no boss, and there are no arbitrary policies or mandatory company meetings. It’s an opportunity to have a life rather than making a living.
But there are downsides too, and surprisingly one of the most frustrating comes down to simple terminology.
If I say I’m a freelancer, people think I’m between jobs, trying to make ends meet. Or that I have a wealthy working spouse and choose to dabble rather than do “real” work. The idea of choosing to work independently, for myself, by myself, full-time, with no intention of having a traditional job is simply not something that most people expect.
Yet there are millions of people doing just that. Freelancer’s Union and oDesk partnered up last year to conduct a survey on Americans who work outside of the traditional employment marketplace. The results showed that 53 million people work independently, or one third of the total US workforce.