When someone tells you they’re a freelancer, what are your first thoughts? Does the freelance title give an impression of expert, or of someone picking up jobs to make ends meet?
While at first he didn’t want to admit it, Tony Clark’s realisation that freelancing is for suckers came when working on a web redesign for a real estate consultant. About five iterations had been produced, with not one to the satisfaction of the client, even though Tony considered the results to be beautiful, fitting the brief, and very user-friendly.
It turns out the client wasn’t at all interested in Tony’s expertise or knowledge of good design. All the real estate consultant wanted was someone to create what he thought was good design, even though he had no design education, and this became apparent to Tony when his client said:
“You’re a vendor, I’m the client. I don’t care what you think, just do it like I ask.”
At the time of writing (2007), I’ve been self-employed for just two and a half years, but I already know exactly the design client that Tony’s referring to.
When I started, I labelled myself as a freelance designer, but it wasn’t long before I worked with someone who disagreed with every alternative I presented, claiming that none were suitable for the job. I even took a hit and worked for a lot longer than I was being paid for.
In his piece, Tony adds:
“Freelancing is a great way to start out, but if you’re just doing it to cover the basic needs, you’ll be scrambling forever to keep up. There are options though — and I thought I found the perfect solution. Independent contractor.”
Today I think of myself as a graphic designer and design consultant, as opposed to a freelancer. I don’t know how much difference it makes, but every client since the change has been very happy with what I do.
Tony typically defines a freelancer as one person working on many short-term projects, and Jeanne of Writer’s Notes adds:
“It is an unfortunate reality that, very often, freelancers, like temp workers, get no respect. (I’ve functioned in both capacities.) Of course, there are many employers who treat their employees with zero respect, as well.”
What do you think?
As a client, would you consider a consultant more knowledgeable than a freelancer? Perhaps you think it takes time before a freelancer earns the right to be called a consultant, but in reality, a graphic designer already wears many hats.
As a designer, do you think the freelance title gives a negative impression of what you do? Have you ever called yourself a freelance designer? It’d be great to read your opinion.