The Bitch Slap: You Whiny Little “Freelancer”

bitch slap whiny freelancer

Enough is enough. I’m exhausted with the incessant whining I’ve heard lately from the herds who refer to themselves as “freelancers.” You whiny little bitches.

You’re not freelancers – you’re business owners. So stop pulling the woe-is-fucking-me game and start acting like it. I don’t care if you’re sitting in your house working in your bunny slippers, in the middle of a co-working space or a coffee shop devotee. It’s time to cowboy the fuck up and start acting the way you want people to treat you.

Like a business.

I’m going to give you some words to live by that someone shared with me (and not so long ago), along with a few of my own thrown in for flavor. We never give ourselves great advice, so maybe you’ll take my mashup of experiences and rub the lotion on your “freelancer” skin and be all the better for it.

You are a business owner, not a “freelancer.” I don’t care what you have to do to lend a sense of legitimacy to whatever it is you do, but get out there and go do it. Get an LLC, rent office space, have business cards made with your business moniker on them. Hell, GET a business moniker. But when you stop calling yourself a freelancer and start owning a business, you might be surprised in a whole lotta shifts that trickle down. I know I was. You can get your LLC setup online in most states through the Secretary of State office. Easy-peasy.

Get a business bank account. The fees you receive from clients aren’t your own little personal piggy bank. It’s income. It is taxable and subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes as well. If you think you can handle all of your business accounting on your own, I sure shit hope you’re a “freelance” CPA. Otherwise, get a CPA, business formation papers and get thee to a blessed financial institution to open a business account. You need to put aside money for taxes, pay them QUARTERLY (yes, quarterly) and pay a few hundred bucks a year to a qualified tax professional to keep your shit straight. Oh, and get an invoicing program. I personally use GetHarvest, but know several others who adore Freshbooks. Keep your shit straight. Oh – and both integrate with PayPal.

Make it easy for people to pay you. If you only take checks, you’re stuck waiting for the mail. If you don’t take credit cards (a merchant services account or PayPal), you’re making a huge mistake. If you’re not charging a 50% deposit to commence, you’re a moron. The easier you make it for people to pay you, the more likely it is…they’ll actually pay you! If you’re pissed about PayPal or merchant account handling fees, add a surcharge on your quotes – visible or invisible. Doesn’t matter. And by the way, if you had a CPA, he/she would probably tell you those service fees are tax-deductible. Just sayin’.

If you can’t make a living, something is wrong. Until a dear friend and colleague told me my pricing was as out of whack with market trends as GM stock prices, I was oblivious. I was taking more and more work and making barely any more money. Pull your head out of your freelancer ass and do some research like a business owner. Dig into rates that others who provide similar services charge. If you’re in the creative space, know what agencies are charging. If you’re a writer, you need to subscribe to Writer’s Market and download their annually-updated ‘What to Charge” guide. If you don’t price your services so you can afford to eventually outsource the slew of work that will be coming your way, you’re doing it wrong.

You need to invest in your business. I was recently at a conference where someone complained about the $30 ticket price for 8 hours of focused information sharing. I stood up and said, “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me. This is a steal! You just got 8 hours of info – actionable info – for $3.75/hour.” If you’re not willing to invest in your business, what ARE you willing to invest in? $30 is an investment if you’re buying a pool floatie toy or a hamburger. It is a scam if you’re talking about buying a house or a car. Everything in between is negotiable. We go to Target and walk out with $100 worth of crap we didn’t need (but it was ON SALE), and you complain about a $30 (or $300, for that matter) investment in your business? Shut…the front door.

You need to network. And it needs to be outside of your own backyard. There are conferences nationwide, no matter what industry you’re in, and you need to do your research and figure out which ones to attend. There’s going to be some trial and error, and some of the experiences are going to suck. But you’re going to meet people. And those people are even more valuable than the information you receive. So when you’re thinking about investing in your business, conferences need to be on your radar.

You can’t do it on your own. You need allies. Colleagues. People you can trust. McDonald’s buys their “beef” from a vendor and their soda from Coca Cola. Who are you going to leverage to get business done? Ah – but there’s that B-word again. It’s because you run a business. When you take the time to invest in your business and network, you’d be surprised how easily these trusted resources come along.

It’s okay to be frugal, but cheap can suck it. Not everyone can afford a Bentley (and not everyone that drives one can afford one). But if you run your car on the cheap and ignore things like…oh, say oil changes, you’re going to kill the life of the car. It’s the same with your business. It’s time well-spent to find a $9.99 oil change but it’s shitty money saved to skip it all together. Keep your business running lean – but don’t ignore what it takes for it to keep running.

And for now, that is all fellow business owner. Consider yourself slapped.

246 comments
marcellaandre
marcellaandre

Erika I LOVE your writing and your mind.  Thanks for the slap.  

marcellaandre
marcellaandre

LOL!!! I just LOVE you Erika.  I have been slapped. Thanks.

trib
trib

I managed to make most of these mistakes consistently in the first six years of owning my business. Having fixed that now, 2012 was better and 2013 is about to turn awesome.

Random Chick
Random Chick

Damn! You don't mince words do you? But I already know that. I am a freelancer and I'm not gonna whine at you but I just lost my biggest client (due to a merger). Now I'm working my ass off to try and land another big one. I hate this life sometimes. THANKS for the fucking advice!

Darien Goldman
Darien Goldman

Funny you say that. I have business cards that say "Freelance Mortician, Rogue Taxidermist" on them.  I freelanced as a writer the last time the economy took a shit on America, and I survived because of  it (and the 'freelance domination' sessions), but that ceases to be appropriate after you've had a real job and a career path (and you're out of your early 20's). It's selling yourself short to present yourself without a one true passion, but have a lot of little interests. It's passion that draws people to you, as something you truly enjoy enough to be knowledgeable about it and not just trudge through. I'm gonna go stuff something now...

Craig
Craig

How poorly have I been running my business? It's taken me eight months to read this! I'm now in major overhaul mode (website, etc.), so thanks for the slap.

Financial Samurai
Financial Samurai

Love it! But damn, the State of California said it will take 2-3 months to get incorporated. WTF! lol We're bankrupt.

The Redhead
The Redhead

But of course and thanks for stopping by today :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Welcome to Legit - we are a nation of awesome!

Kareema Beema
Kareema Beema

Dear Redhead, You are my new hero! I just got into this "freelancing" game when I decided to stop being a complete wuss and walk out on the job I hated working for a bunch of assmaggot lawyers. Of course, having ridiculous amounts of law school debt and only $100 to my name makes it difficult to get off the ground, but that is no excuse for me to be less willing to invest in my business-art-passion. Your Bitch-Slap has opened my eyes and has motivated me to do what I knew I needed to do for MY BUSINESS. So, I'll ask my family for a small loan, get my shit together and get legit! (bows down in worship) I'm not worthy!

Sydney Owen
Sydney Owen

You are fucking brilliant. This is probably the first of several disqus notifications you'll see from me as I thoroughly stalk the living shit out of your blog tonight. I put in my notice on Friday. I've paid for the LLC and the papers are on the way. I'll be a skydiving gypsy consulting princess complete with pet unicorn starting February 4. This is out-fucking-standing advice. Thank you for gracing the interwebs with your shenanigans. I'm going to go vomit love all over your other posts now.

Johan
Johan

Thanks for the bitch slap. I needed it.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Great additions, Katherin. Thanks for stopping by for a gander!

Kathrin P. Ivanovic
Kathrin P. Ivanovic

I love this! I would add one more thing to this and it probably falls somewhere between "invest in your business" and "get your shit in order"....don't expect to get services for free. You get what you pay for. Not only does it help provide legitimacy for your business but it also sets a tone for your potential clients. Don't expect to receive something for free that you are then going to use to produce income for yourself. It's shady!

joshcanhelp
joshcanhelp

Great advice served like a punch in the mouth!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Glad you enjoyed and thank you for the "required reading" compliment :)

Kimberly Kinrade
Kimberly Kinrade

This post kicks ass! Thank you. Every "freelancer" should be required by law to read this.

Alex
Alex

Nice slap. No tickle, but nice slap.

Kellie J Walker
Kellie J Walker

So glad you brought this out of the archives. Great info!

Joseph Gier
Joseph Gier

Thank goodness for Mondays and thank goodness we have you Erika, to take us to task if we aren't motivated enough to get our asses in the game and do what needs to be done. This is not snark in any way. I appreciate your good advice(.. I haven't heard your bad advice yet)

MichaelEdits.com
MichaelEdits.com

I probably shouldn't just quote your blog entry and call it a comment, but I can't help myself. It'll never happen again, unless it does. "You’re not freelancers – you’re business owners. So stop pulling the woe-is-fucking-me game and start acting like it. I don’t care if you’re sitting in your house working in your bunny slippers, in the middle of a co-working space or a coffee shop devotee. It’s time to cowboy the fuck up and start acting the way you want people to treat you. Like a business." I swear, I am framing that shit.

Alison Preston
Alison Preston

Thanks for the bitch slap! I have recently let go of my day job to pursue my business full time, and your post was just the fire I needed under my butt. I'll have to keep you posted in my developments. :)

Stephen Conley
Stephen Conley

Great rant/post here. Totally agree with the notion that you need to make this a business!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Kristen, you go with your business-running self, girl!

Kristen
Kristen

What a refreshing post! I figure let them whine--less competition for those of us who are running businesses!

Kim Tracy Prince
Kim Tracy Prince

Does this apply even to part-timey bloggers? Is that who you're talking about? (couldn't possibly apply to ME, could it?!)

Libby Taggart Unwin
Libby Taggart Unwin

I had to laugh because years ago, this was so me. Ha. And looking at it now, I wish someone had said this to me. Not sure why I tried to play the sympathy card back then, but now that I am a Business Owner, the whole perspective has shifted. I went from doe-eyed "I'm a fweewancer..." [awww] to "Pay attention, World. I own a business." How that morphed, I don't know, but reading this, I am glad it did (and glad I've moved cities since my doe-eyed phase -- how embarrassing). Great post.

Bhaskar
Bhaskar

Oh you are so singing my tune. Here I am, a newly minted freelancer but know what? I don't introduce myself to contacts or even myself like that. My profile on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn does not have the word freelancer. My business card (yeah that's the first thing I got) says copywriter and a marketing strategist. You won't find any mention of me being a freelancer in my about me page. I haven't yet done a LLC (have to ask someone what is it's equivalent in India) and opened a business account but those are hot ones on my list, as soon as I can get some decent cash flow. And you struck gold on networking. At a recent online conference for freelancers (don't bitchslap me here, that's how it was named) I met a ton of people and some of them are already my business partners. See, I used business, not freelance partners. You can pat me now :) Also while the conference was good, I felt that the real value didn't lie in what the speakers were saying but in networking with like minded professionals. Haven't got around to sticking a PP button yet but I am aware that this needs to be done fast.

Trish
Trish

OMG! Get the machine that goes "PING!" someone has just had a heart attack reading this...personally I am laughing my ass off and adore your candid style! I love it when what needs to be said, gets said...and not seasoned with a load of politically correct bullshit. Thank you!

Kathleen Scanlon Esq
Kathleen Scanlon Esq

My first job after I graduated law school I worked for this attorney and I took away two important lessons: 1) You have to spend money to make money and 2) if you are not handing out 5 business cards a day you are doing something wrong. Excellent post!

Simon Gornick
Simon Gornick

One of the biggest watersheds in this economy is the shift towards home based businesses, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in the creative fields. All your points are great, Erika, but more than ever overwhelming competition and diffentiation of offering are key. Equally vital is the ability to gain visibility in a a crowded marketplace. Then there's the minor question of talent. It still matters that you're good at what you do.

Chris, LEED AP
Chris, LEED AP

News flash - former Marine says,"I've fallen the fuck in LOVE!" I'm copying this URL to give to every whiny panty waste I know. You're going to save my breath. Wanna go skydiving? :) rock on!

Carrie
Carrie

"You’re not freelancers – you’re business owners. So stop pulling the woe-is-fucking-me game and start acting like it. I don’t care if you’re sitting in your house working in your bunny slippers, in the middle of a co-working space or a coffee shop devotee. It’s time to cowboy the fuck up and start acting the way you want people to treat you." This is going to be hanging on my office wall, starting today!! While I still do freelance writing to pay the bills, I pretty much gave up on really trying to promote and better my business. I even stopped blogging! I truly needed to be bitch slapped, and stumbling across your blog today gave me the beating I deserve! Now, I am off to market my business!! Thank you!

Laubazz
Laubazz

well thinking, it sure does help to keep track of the work done and see it over from time to time.....i do it whenever i can....good point...laura

Laubazz
Laubazz

agree, first get the title degree and study....alll you can, everyday, then put your business like a real office, it doesn´t matter were, and be professional. good comment, we are not freelancers, we are REAL CERTIFIED TRANSLATORS....

The Redhead
The Redhead

Why, thank you, Monica. Thanks for stopping by!

mmangen
mmangen

Your last paragraph, Erika, is the one that frustrates me so much with people (aka freelancers).....sometimes you have to spend money to learn something...when you learn a new skill you can charge more for it than what you probably spent on the seminar. I had another VA ask me last year if I would do sub work for her at $25/hr. I flat out told her no. What she was asking me to do, the brain cells of mine that contained the knowledge to perform those tasks? I had spent money in numerous places to obtain the knowledge with one being a conference in Reno that cost me about $2000 to attend....there was no way I was pimping myself out for a measly $25/hr. I'd rather learn something else than to work for a pittance.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Sara - careful. I might hire you :) Thanks for stopping by! (and welcome)

Sara Brown
Sara Brown

OK! No whining or whinging as my Australian daughter would say!You haven't mentioned, or I've overlooked, a part of a translator's business that I consider essential:1-Keeping track of accounts: Gross monthly income: Am I doing better or worse this month than last month, this year than last year? Why? What can I do to get my income up? Once I¡ve done that I will worry about getting my expenses down.2-Keeping track of clients: Do I have faithful clients, new clients, ...? Do I keep clients, do I lose cients? Why? What should I be doing to retain my clients and increase their number or get clients that pay higher rates?3-Feedback from clients: Do I get any, do I ask for any, do I want any...? Am I better, worse, than last month, last year? In what? Why? How to improve?Great advice! Keep up the good work! Sara

Trackbacks

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