Are You a Freelancer?

“I own and operate a one-woman design studio.”

“I own and operate a one-woman design studio,” that is part of my elevator speech, when people outside of the freelance community ask what I do – this is usually what I tell them.

As time goes on, I steer further away from using the word “freelance”, because of what it communicates. Freelance refers to a self-employed individual who does not have a work agreement with any one company, but has free range to work for multiple businesses for varying lengths of times. This does not describe me, I do work for only one company — CMD+Shift Design.

I know some of you who are involved in the freelance community are not working as true free agents, but running small (but well oiled!) design firms. What do YOU think of the word “Freelance?”


  1. Great post, Liz.

    To me, ‘freelance’ means that you are free to take on the kinds of projects and challenges that appeal to you personally, or that suit your level of expertise or skill – as opposed to working for an employer who may not give you the freedom or flexibility to make those kinds of decisions.

  2. I am not a big fan of the word “Freelance” since it includes the word “free”, which can have either have a positive or negative connotation to it.
    I’d rather go by “Consultant” or “Contractor” as far as “Freelance” work is concerned.

  3. Great thought.

    I absolutely dislike the word “FREELANCE”. I have never called myself a Freelancer or referred to my work as Freelance… The word sounds so unstable and unprofessional.

    I own a Business /Small Studio, therefore I am like any other Business out there.

  4. I’ve been using the term “freelance” out of sheer convenience, and because it’s an easy shorthand that I think most people can quickly understand. But after reading the comments and thinking about it a bit, I think I’m going to start using “run” or “operate” along with “design studio”. Feels like it legitimizes the business a bit more and takes away some of the “lone gunslinger, roaming the wild west” image in the process.

    BTW– glad to see things are clean and operational, and I hope the server-related foibles are resolved soon!

  5. Rafael – It’s true, i kept using it for a long time since when you say “freelance web designer”, people nod their head and “get it” — but i found many times it was followed up with them asking stuff like “so you just work in your pj’s all day right?” or “wow, thats cool – i wish i didnt have to get up for work in the morning and could just do whatever.” *SIGH*

    Instead of trying to dispell all the freelance myths, i tried answering the “what do you do?” question with “I own a one-woman design studio!” The response has been people understand what i’m saying just as easily, but their perception of my work is MUCH MORE “legit”

  6. Hi Liz,

    I too, own and operate a one-woman design firm. I market myself as a full company. Most my clients know it’s only me, but for some reason the term “freelancer” seems so just-out-of-college…like you working as a designer as a side job. When I started my business I wrestled with how to go about marketing myself, would I be a freelancer? or a web design company? Being a company seems much more stable. I feel I can offer the same things most larger companies can. I have many talented people at my fingertips for whatever project may come my way. I feel like my clients are more comfortable knowing I am an established business rather than a free agent.

    1. Well said, Kim! Positioning yourself as a business instead of a freelancer also opens you up for evolution. If a couple years down the line you decide to hire a couple employees and expand, you are already established as a firm – instead of growing your brand as a freelancer and then having to start again to grow your design firm.

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