23 responses to “Are you a freelancer writer or journalist entrepreneur?”

  1. Marci Diehl

    I’m right there with you, Michelle. I’ve been writing freelance for 29 years in magazines, and writing (and developing projects) for marketing communications for 16 years in my own business.

    When I first started my business, I was considered an entrepreneur and even spoke to groups on entrepreneurship — but I’ve never been comfortable with that term. Since I never wanted to become an agency, and I currently write and edit on contract for a magazine, I associated “entrepreneur” with big growth in a business — like a staff, a building…

    I think of myself as an independent writer/editor and project consultant/developer. I have known for a long time that no matter what I call my business by name (DoubleVision Creative) — I am the brand.

    Thanks for this most intriguing question on our business today.

  2. Craig Silverman

    A great post, Michelle. When I speak to journalism students or discuss freelancing with other writers, I often explain that I run a writing business. This helps drive home the point that freelance journalism is a mix of journalism and small business management. Of course, my business is about much more than writing these days, and that’s why I absolutely think of myself as an entrepreneur.

  3. Ann Marie

    Although I am a freelance editor, I have an ongoing relationship with enough clients that I haven’t been recruiting in a couple of years–I haven’t had to test how the word goes over in the workplace. On the street, though, it seems to imply an inconsistent amount of work (rather than “busy” and “busier”), so I don’t usually call myself freelance unless people know the industry. Working at home is enough of an impediment to people recognizing that I am indeed working!

  4. Delia Lloyd

    Hi Michelle

    So glad you posted on this. I go through a regular anxiety attack over whether to call myself a “writer” (I’ve written fiction and non fiction), a “journalist” (I used to produce a show for public radio and now contribute to an online magazine) or “blogger” (I have my own blog). Usually I settle for writer/journalist/blogger but that is awkward…and (correctly) reflects my ambivalence about title. I’ve never liked the word “freelance” b/c I think a lot of people think it secretly means “unemployed.” But maybe entrepreneur is the way to go? I’m going to try it on…I’ll let you know!

    Delia Lloyd
    http://www.realdelia.com

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  6. Darrell

    I go with “freelancer” or, more precisely, “freelance writer.” I do that partly because I want to convey that my work continues a time-honored tradition and partly because I like to project slightly curmudgeonly image that clients associate with diligence, knowledge and wisdom that comes from extensive experience in the field. I dislike the term entrepreneur primarily for two reasons. First, it carries a connotation that the writer or supplier (the “entrepreneur”) is responsible for figuring out how he or she will profit from the endeavor, in fact willing to take the chance that the work may not result in profit at all, and in that case willing to flit about until finding an enterprise that does produce profit. “Entrepreneurs” write for content mills, with the hope of profit down the line flowing from a variety of sources. “Freelancers” know how much they will be paid and expect payment for each “project” from a “client”. Secondly, on a somewhat facetious note, “entrepreneurs” are the people you see picking through trash bins for treasures they can take to the recycling depot, at least in the public’s eye. The folks making a killing in Web 2.0 or as investment bankers rarely use the term “entrepreneur” to describe themselves, unless preceded by some kind of qualifier.

  7. Maya Payne Smart

    I think of myself as an entrepreneur because I run a business that is concerned about growth, innovation and wealth creation. Journalism just happens to be the product that I sell to publishers and directly to consumers.

    That said, I call myself “freelance writer” when I’m talking to editors, a “journalist” when I’m cultivating sources and an “entrepreneur” when addressing my financial advisers. You don’t have to choose one to the exclusion of the others. You just have to learn which to adopt when.

    Some freelancers have gone broke because they never grasped the business concepts or market awareness that allows many entrepreneurs to thrive.

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    This post was mentioned on Twitter by PublishingGuru: Are you a freelancer writer or journalist entrepreneur? http://bit.ly/3i8E1

  9. Meryl K Evans

    Some excellent points here from Michelle and commenters like Marci and Craig. “Freelance writer” sounds like it’s missing half of the story — unless you’re one of those who can just write write write and not worry about marketing, connecting or managing the business. So I believe writers are entrepreneurs in that sense. I consider myself a small business that happens to focus on content — hence, using “content maven.”

  10. Susan Johnston

    Michelle, this basically describes the rift between freelance writers who see themselves primary as writers and those who see themselves as small business owners whose product happens to be writing. I fall into the latter camp and I think that’s why I’ve been able to support myself entirely on freelancing even during a recession.

    But I still call myself a freelance writer, because terms like “journalist entrepreneur” seem pretentious. Like calling a dog walker a “pet fitness facilitator” or a nanny a “home childcare provider.” Maybe once the phrase “journalist entrepreneur” becomes more common I’ll start using it myself.

    Until then, I don’t worry about getting lumped with the other type of freelance writer because once people see my website or my list of clips, they know I’m a professional.

  11. Sarah Graham

    Lately I’ve been saying independant contractor since I’m spending more time on that than anything at the moment. I started out in poetry and still write in that genre, in addition to doing essays and contract proposals. If you want things to get really awkward, just tell people that you’re a poet!

    Thanks for the article. Interesting stuff.

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    […] Are you a freelancer writer or journalist entrepreneur? Great words for thought. I consider myself a small business that provides writing services. Writing isn’t all I do — I still have to do marketing, networking and all that fun stuff. […]

  13. Kim Priestap

    I was at the University of Michigan/Penn State game on Saturday and sat next to a very nice and, I must say, a very devoted Penn State fan. We struck up a conversation (At least while our teeth weren’t chattering. It was a blustery and rainy afternoon.) when he asked me what I did for a living. I replied, “I’m a writer.” He became immediately interested and asked if I wrote for a particular publication or if I worked freelance. I answered freelance since that is what I do; however, your post, Michelle, now has me thinking about my answer.

    What if I had answered, “I am a journalist entrepreneur”? I have to agree with Susan that it would have sounded pretentious. Not only that but freelance writer is a recognizable descriptor to almost everyone, including Mr. Penn State. Journalist entrepreneur, not so much.

    @Susan, as a new freelance writer, I appreciate your advice about seeing yourself as a small business owner whose product is writing.

  14. Carson

    My business card has my name on it. No title.

    If I had to pick one I’d consider “factotum”.

    I never liked “freelance .” When a doctor has an office, he doesn’t call himself a “freelance physician.” Attorneys put their names on their shingles, not “freelance lawyer.” When you’re self-employed, you’re running a business.

  15. hope

    What about ‘writer?’

    As a longtime self-employed person who started out in corporate communications and then branched-off into journalism, I’ve always had a mix of assignments (marketing materials, custom publishing work, straight journalism), so I’ve always ‘tweaked’ my job-description to suit the situation.

    Any adjective can be pre-pended to writer, you know. If I’m in a situation where it’s called for–or seems to be–I’ll sometimes call myself an independent contractor, since that’s how I am thought of by longtime clients and it correctly conveys a level of professionalism (and capability) that maybe “freelancer” or “freelance writer” no longer does.

    That said, in most situations I also don’t automatically assume that everyone needs (or wants) an immediate summary my capabilities/services. In other words, I don’t treat everyone like a potential client. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m at my best when I’m gathering information rather than dishing it out, and that seems to work for me. After all, most people can tell (just by talking with you) if you have something to offer.

  16. Bob McDonnell

    Great question.
    My card says Writer and Blogger. I like the term independent writer, and may use this in the future.
    It seems that some seem to take the FREE in freelancer too seriously.
    Never heard of journalistic entrepreneur before.

    I had a fellow writer do a guest blog post for me on how the term freelancer came about. http://tinyurl.com/2enqe2r

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