Since when did the definition of “freelance” become, “Unemployed starving artist?” Does anyone know how this happened? I discontinued using the term “freelance,” as it relates to my business and occupation a few years ago when I discovered that it has, “I’m a starving artist,” written all over it. In conversations with non-industry people the word unknowingly had negative implications of the success of my business. Was it the way I was SAYING it? Was it the tone in my voice? Was it just the people I was talking to that just didn’t understand?

Here is how the conversation would go. (P.S. it’s just a tad exaggerated, but you get the idea.) haha.

PERSON: “Well, what do you do for work?”

ME: “I’m a freelance graphic designer.”

PERSON: OOOOOOh (surprised look)… gotcccchhha. (cue the Oh-man-I’d-hate-to-be-in-your-shoes facial expression)…Well, my great aunt is part of the small business networking club and surely she can get you more work. Do you want her card?”

ME: “Oh that is really kind of you, thank you, (trying to recover the SOUTH headed conversation), but my schedule is really full.”

PERSON: “OHH! (surprised look again) WOW! So, you’re successful then?!?!?”


ME: “Ummmm, uhhhh…hmm…Yea, I guess so.”

Haha. That’s a tad awkward, right? After I had one too many of those types of conversations I discontinued using the word “Freelance” all together, and changed it to, “I own my own graphic design studio.” I have found that for some reason the change in language and presentation has saved me from having to recover a socially awkward and uncomfortable situation. It surprises me how wording things can change so much in a conversation.

Have you ever used the word or something similar and got the same response? How do you describe what you do to people? Do you have a one-line description decided upon a head of time?

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  1. [...] Freelance=Unemployed starving artist?!?!? – A great post by Promise Tangeman, I can so relate! [...]

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