An American Editor

September 29, 2016

Should You Be Calling Yourself a Freelancer?

I just read one of the most intriguing essays I have read in years and it raises a question I hadn’t thought about in my 32 years of professional editing as owner of my own business. And now I recommend it to you:

Why I Hate the Term “Freelance Proofreader”
– A Letter to Newbies
by Louise Harnby

As editors, we know that words matter. Yet how many of us have considered the import of calling ourselves freelancers instead of proprietors or business owners or something similar?

What would you call yourself if not a freelance editor? How would you market yourself absent the word freelance?

Richard Adin, An American Editor


  1. A few years ago, someone pointed out to me that the term “freelancer” might make people think I was part-time, temporary, even fly-by-night, or other interpretations that put me at a professional disadvantage. Since then I’ve switched to either “self-employed editor” or “independent editor.” I’m not sure what difference this has made to other people, but to me the difference was major. I started thinking of myself as a business, even though I’d been going through the motions of same for several years.

    Changing my self-identity changed my attitude and confidence. I entered freelancing involuntarily and expected that someday I’d come out the other side, back into regular employment. But that hasn’t happened, and now it’s my intent to never return to a conventional job. That realization helped me change my self-description to something that suggests choice and permanence: self-employed or independent editor, a business enterprise.

    I’ve noticed that more editors have started using these terms. Maybe we all read the same article or forum discussion, or attended the same conference session, that put the same awareness into our heads.

    Liked by 3 people

    Comment by Carolyn — September 29, 2016 @ 5:50 am | Reply

    • Carolyn, I concur. I use “professional,” “self-employed,” and another term you mentioned, which should appeal to An American Editor: “independent.”

      A Canadian Editor

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by canadiancopychief — September 29, 2016 @ 6:23 am | Reply

    • I like that better independent or professional…. thanks!


      Comment by Shandean™ — September 29, 2016 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

    • Carolyn — Your first paragraph should sum it up for anyone trying to decide ‘who’ they are professionally — when they perform as an independent entity. Plus the point about self-image! You are what you ‘think’ you are — see yourself as a professional and a business person, and you will begin projecting that confidence, and then will operate from that point of stability.


      Comment by TigerXGlobal (@TigerXGlobal) — September 30, 2016 @ 10:40 am | Reply

  2. I usually tell people simply that I’m an editor, as an intro sentence to that getting-to-know-you conversation. If they ask something along the lines of “What company do you work for?” I follow up with “I run my own editorial services business.”

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — September 29, 2016 @ 10:09 am | Reply

  3. What do I call myself? I am an independent contractor and/or sole proprietor providing editing and indexing services to the publishing field.


    Comment by Caryl Wenzel — September 29, 2016 @ 10:21 am | Reply

  4. I’m a publishing professional, a communications professional, or an editing professional. I offer editing or editorial or communication services. I run an editorial services company or a communications company. There are lots of ways to emphasize that I run a company that offers editing and related services without using “freelancer.” It’s not a bad term, but it can put the wrong idea in clients’ minds, so I chose my words carefully with clients.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Erin Brenner (@ebrenner) — September 29, 2016 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

  5. Interesting question. I’ve recently began using the term for myself as well and while it doesn’t quite sit well, what other adjective is accuratel. I am a proprietor as well


    Comment by Shandean™ — September 29, 2016 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  6. I’ve never had any concerns about calling myself a freelance writer/editor, and I haven’t seen any indication that using “freelancer” or “freelance” has hurt my business life. If I had to market myself without using freelance/freelancer, I’d probably use “independent,” but I think that might cause more confusion than freelance/freelancer. I sometimes use language like “owner of a communications business” for actual conversations.


    Comment by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter — September 29, 2016 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

  7. I used freelance many years ago, as in freelance copywriter or freelance editor, but didn’t refer to myself as a ‘freelancer’. I made the change to independent contractor around the year 2000, then moved to regular use of independent copy writer or editor. When my business began to solidify into developmental editing, I added ‘developmental specialist’ to qualify my primary skill set.

    I never really liked ‘freelance’ and was glad to switch to ‘independent’, as I felt it conveyed a stronger image. After all, I was a business owner, not someone who was just ‘winging it’. No judgment in that, just my take on things…


    Comment by TigerXGlobal (@TigerXGlobal) — September 30, 2016 @ 10:34 am | Reply

  8. In answer to the question “What do you do for a living?” I reply that I’m a scientific technical editor with my own editorial consulting firm.


    Comment by Elaine R. Firestone, ELS — October 4, 2016 @ 11:53 am | Reply

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