The Myth of the Bikini-Clad Freelancer (and Challenge for 2015)

If you’re a freelance writer, let me ask you a question. Do you find it difficult to convince people to take you and your work seriously? Maybe not the people you’re pitching to, but ordinary folks who wear suits and ties and go to jobs in big buildings. Do you get met with a “oh gee, lucky you” or what I’ve termed the “That’s so adorable” face?

Sometimes it’s very difficult to get people to take you seriously. But they can’t entirely be blamed for it. After all, whether in a Google search or while clicking through stock photography images, if you search “freelance writer”, you get a lot of images like this.

A mature woman working at home in the garden on her laptop.

Can I tell you the last time I grabbed a laptop and lounged in a chair out in my garden while working? No, I can’t. Because it’s never happened.

Or better yet, you get images like this one.

iStock_000018235006_Large

Oh, mercy.

There are so many things I could point out about this picture, but suffice it to say that I don’t think a great many of us have ever done our work as a freelancer like that. Pictures like this abound when you search “freelance writer”. And it makes me want to find a brand new key on my laptop’s keyboard. Like maybe this one.

Computer key - WTF

Yeah, that’s right. What the Freelance?! I mean for real, people. If you’re a freelancer, you know that your life looks a lot less like those idyllic pictures, and a lot more like…

iStock_000036576206_Large

So why, when we’re querying like crazy, cold calling like mad (if you’re not doing this you’re going to hate me next post), sending out mailers, pitching new clients, purchasing Hoovers lists, stocking your website with content, and getting four hours of sleep while powering your day with coffee…or green juice…or whatever…WHY do people think you’re laying out on a beach somewhere clicking a couple of buttons and going “Oh, look, there’s my next million.”?

It’s what I call the Myth of the Bikini-Clad Freelancer.

Society is broken down into two main groups. More recently we’ve wedged out a third group, Serious Entrepreneurs, not that they haven’t existed before, but they are being taken more seriously. Rather, WE are being taken more seriously, because you and I, as freelancers, are in that group.

But the other two groups are the Nicely Dressed Nine to Fivers and the Half-A$$ed Homebodies.

Wait you…you don’t think that’s accurate?

Maybe that’s because you have a brain. And you know that’s far too simplistic. And that most people who are working from home (and that includes moms and dads) work their tails off. Did you know the average stay-at-home mom works the equivalent of TWO full-time jobs? True story. So whether you’re working from home or working at home, you know that “home” does not mean “extended vacation”.

But isn’t that just the way that people see the world? Now I’m not knocking corporate structure or corporations. Let’s be honest; as freelancers that’s where the majority of our work comes from.

But I do think there’s a gigantic flaw in how the world has been programmed to see workers. If you’re not slaving away at a desk in a corporate tower or office, then you’re not working. Unless you’re Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but you know, those people are just the exceptions.

BULL!!!

However, I’m not just ranting here. Because I think that if you want people to take you seriously, you have to take yourself seriously and take responsibility for the image you’re portraying of a freelancer.

Think very seriously about how you’re portraying your business to friends, family, and those you know. Do you joke about being in your pajamas at noon? Do you set boundaries with people so they know that you have work to do between x and y times? Or do you cave to the ideas and demands people place on you because they think you have unlimited free time? 

That’s a very serious series of questions to ask yourself. And I’m guilty.

When I started out over a year and a half ago, I was a really slow learner. Up until just recently I was staying home in loungers, “working” really hard, but never getting a lot done. When people would say “oh you’re free, do this for me” or “oh you’re not at work, can you meet me?” I’d say yes. I didn’t establish boundaries. I didn’t tell people no, these are my business hours. I wrote articles for friends for less than a sixth of what I should have been paid because “well you’re my friend and you need the business, right?”.

And you might think that sounds crazy, but it’s SO easy to do. When most people are telling us that we’re either corporate or on vacation, it’s easy to start internalizing that.

But it doesn’t stop with attitude. What you do within your business says a lot about what you think of yourself and your role as a freelancer. 

  • Are you working for less than you should be earning?
  • Are you competing in race-to-the-bottom bidding sites?
  • Are you taking $5 articles off content mills?
  • Do you avoid the big fish work like querying publications and cold calling major companies?

I did all of those things. Up until really recently, sadly enough. I knew what the life of a full-time freelancer who takes themselves seriously looked like, but for some reason I didn’t go after it. I kept taking the low-paying work that was way below what I should be making, based on industry standards. Even if your friends and family never know that, the universe does, and if you’re using your time as a freelancer to do work like that, you’re telling the universe you don’t believe in yourself and you don’t value your work. And the universe will respond in kind. Read: Ramen noodles every night because I’m broke.

I was there. If you look at my older blog posts or you’ve been following me for quite some time, you know that I used to advocate those sites and that way of life as a freelancer.

But you know what…I know better now. And so do you. So…if we want people to start taking us seriously and banish the myth of the bikini-clad freelancer, then let’s start taking ourselves seriously.

CHALLENGE!

It’s 2015. It’s a new year. I’m launching what I’m going to call the Five for Freelancing in ’15 challenge. Five queries and five cold calls a day. That’s it! A query could be an email pitch, an actual query to a publication, a query for a book or short story, whatever. I know we all approach freelancing differently and have different goals, but it can’t be a content mill or low-ball, poor-paying job you’re pitching.

If you want the Super Challenge: Draft 5 new pieces of content a day that market your business somehow. It can be a tweet, or an article for your website, or even a chapter of an eBook.

Are you ready to make 2015 the Year of the Kick-@$$ Freelancer? Then let’s go!

Have you ever turned your business around by taking yourself seriously? Have you undercut your own progress by settling for less than you deserve? Tell us in the comments!

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. storydivamg says:

    You’ve made me giggle a bit, Courtney. I haven’t had any specific problems with people making fun of my job as a writer. In fact, most family members respect it quite a bit. This may have something to do with the fact that I started writing for money after losing several “day jobs” to department closings and other such things. This past year, when I started my own web content writing company, the respect from family increased. What hasn’t decreased now that I am busier than they can imagine is their willingness to call me “just to talk” in the middle of the day or ask out of the blue “what are you doing tomorrow?” when they know good and well that tomorrow is a Tuesday which means I’m working–just because I do it at home in my pajamas . . . yeah, you get the point.

    I guess I’m saying that I have a great job as a writer, and I’ve earned the respect of most of those I love. I’d just like for them to understand that I’m not superwoman who can get all that work done while they sleep so I can play, watch their children and go to lunch or coffee any time they call. LOL

    Cheers!
    Marie Gail

  2. Reblogged this on Interpreter of Inspiration and commented:
    Awesome article, Courtney!

  3. sheldonk2014 says:

    Sticking my toe into the cold waters of fear is something I don’t do on a regular basis, though I do do the small business thing and do have plans to do self publishing of my poems and art work, I too move slow but I am like the turtle I will finish the race

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