I Am Not An Infidel! (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive Blog)

Thoughts on “Freelancing.

In the past and occasionally here lately, I tend to “hire out” my skills in trade. That trade is advertising copywriting. During those times, I have been called a “freelancer” and I don’t particularly cotton to it! I prefer “independent contractor”, “outside representative”, “consultant”, or even contract laborer”. By it’s very definition, the word freelancer conveys a sense of disloyalty and infidelity. Among a certain crowd, “freelancer” has such a negative connotation. Plus, the reciprocal nature of the inherent freedom in freelancing isn’t often considered.

Please allow me to explain. My research of the word, which admittedly wasn’t exhaustive, reveals that it is derived from the medieval term “free lance”. A free lance was a mercenary knight whose lance or sword was not sworn to a particular king or lord. It’s sort of like “hired gun” in the westerns. I understand the term “free lance” was used way back in Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel, Ivanhoe. The implications is that these roving soldiers of fortune were only in it for the money and their loyalties lay only with the highest current bidder. Sometime “freelance” is even used synonymously with “rogue”. Is that how I’m viewed when I take a temporary/hourly or per-page gig? Well, I beg to differ! Once under contract (whether written or implied) I would like to think I am certainly dedicated to carrying out the terms of the agreement between the client and I. Like nearly any full-time employee (except for those with military commitments and the like). I also have the option of terminating the agreement, walking away and forfeiting contingent compensation. The client has the same option and many are mighty quick on the trigger to exercise it, with little or no advance notice.

Curiously, the freelancer label has been most-often linked to creative professionals; “freelance graphic artist”, “freelance copywriter”, freelance journalist”. Also the noun “free lance” has morphed into common use as an adjective (“a freelance artist”), a verb (“a writer who freelances”) and an adverb (“he worked freelance there”).

The client/freelancer relationship is characterized by the lack of long-term commitment. Sound familiar?

“DJ, we love your writing style and your penchant for alliteration. But, frankly, we want the freedom to see other writers.”

Ever hear that “see others” line in an amorous relationship? It’s usually the relationship’s death knell. It reeks of “Infidelity” and “Playing the Field”. Well, two can play that game!

The key is absence of exclusivity. Which is understood in this type of relationship. A client often doesn’t have as much invested into the freelancer — no benefits, no training costs, no guaranteed seat at the office Christmas party, etc. Thus, there is no real commitment. The advantage afforded both parties is flexibility. A full-time staffer isn’t likely to let the employer push their payday back even 24 hours. Whereas my “freelance” experiences often involved my 30-day-net invoice finally being paid after 45-50 days…often only partially, then. It’s the nature of the business.

Don’t get me wrong…and please take my observations in the tongue-in-cheek spirit intended. Mostly it was an opportunity to share with my peers, the history of the word. Most of my past freelance gigs were profitable, fruitful and even educational. Freelancing help me establish lasting relationships with people who have proven beneficial to our business. But remember, as a local auto dealer says in his radio ads (commenting on his vehicle inventory), “I ain’t married to none of ‘em!”

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