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.

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269 replies
  1. Angel K.
    Angel K. says:

    I am picturing you holding a pair of soft (and fashionable) calfskin gloves and whipping us repeatedly about the face and neck with them!

  2. Bear Files
    Bear Files says:

    Sometimes salty language hides a lack of insight, but NOT here! You have so completely nailed it. A “freelancer” should go through every day thinking and acting like a “real” business, if she/he ever wants to become one.

    I love Vernacular Ninja’s point about undercharging – it not only hurts the freelancer by making them work late late nights, but also creates false expectations in the marketplace for the quality providers in the industry to deal with.

    It’s also interesting to see the home-office-with-bunny-slippers approach becoming much more acceptable to the business community. I have been running a home-based creative biz for 16 years and clients attitudes about home offices have changed a lot.

    Thanks for this, it’s absolutely making my day.

  3. theVar
    theVar says:

    Ha! You are a piece of work, miss lady. <3 It's amazing how the semantics really changes point-0f-view. In your face, freelancers.

  4. Cali Harris
    Cali Harris says:


    This should be The Business Owner's (formerly known as The Whiny Little Freelancer's) Manifesto.

    It comes down to this line (at least for me): “If you’re not willing to invest in your business, what ARE you willing to invest in?”

  5. Janel Torkington
    Janel Torkington says:

    FABULOUS. “Freelancer” always left a bad taste in my mouth; it conjures up too many cheeto-encrusted images of nerdboys on the couch, scheming scams and whining that they can't pay the bills.

    I'm a BUSINESS OWNER, BITCHES. … will be soon anyway…

    (by the way, this post alone convinced me to follow you in the future. some of us DO like the naughty language)

  6. Rune
    Rune says:

    Meh, pretty self evident imo. Anyway, that’s what I did.
    Dropped my accountant though, pretty easy to do the taxes yourself – in this country anyway.

  7. Dan Hutson
    Dan Hutson says:

    I think I'm in love.

    I've done the freelance thing and always just assumed I was in business. Had a banking account, business cards, paid all my taxes and – this one will make freelancer brains hurt – even had a business plan. Grew it from me and another guy sitting in our homes (no bunny slippers) to an office (where we owned the property) with a small staff and a good stable of regular clients. Closed it when I got burned out and decided to do something else, somewhere else.

    If I ever do it again, I'll do some things the same and some things very differently. But I'll ALWAYS treat it as a business.

    The problem in the freelance creative business is, like in real estate, 80 percent of these people shouldn't be doing it. They should go get jobs. If you're not going to treat it with the seriousness it deserves, you shouldn't be wasting anyone's time. Not your own and certainly not mine as a prospective client.

    Keep slapping 'em until they get it, Erika.

    The fact that you have to point out the obvious

  8. Jacqui
    Jacqui says:

    I loved it! I tell people I’m a small business owner and they laugh, saying that I’m just one person sitting at home all day working by myself for publishers and authors all over the country. They just don’t understand, but heck I need to send them here to realize I’m not a goof-off sitting in jeans and tee-shirt spending my days on the computer not doing real work and running a business for profit.

  9. Guest
    Guest says:

    I loved it! I tell people I’m a small business owner and they laugh, saying that I’m just one person sitting at home all day working by myself for publishers and authors all over the country. They just don’t understand, but heck I need to send them here to realize I’m not a goof-off sitting in jeans and tee-shirt spending my days on the computer not doing real work and running a business for profit.

  10. danperez
    danperez says:

    So this is where a former sales clerk at T.J. Maxx, waitress at TGIFridays and Red Lobster, cocktail waitress at a titty bar, theatrical stagehand, professional rigger, site engineer for a telecommunications company, financial advisor, executive assistant, rep for a hard money lending firm, freelance writer, copywriter, and personal trainer ends up…as a social media consultant! Surprising? Heck, not to me. God bless social media!

    PS – good advice for the really stupid, though.

  11. Vernacular Ninja
    Vernacular Ninja says:


    Holy hell, you've hit that proverbial nail once again. I'll add to the bucket:

    Stop under charging and making it next-to-impossible for those of us trying to make a living ACTUALLY do so. It sets an expectation that we are under valued, therefore perpetuating this notion that content isn't important.

  12. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    It's funny where 17 years of doing what you think you *should* be doing leads you, isn't it? And while yes, I do make a great living at social media condulting and online strategy, I'll always consider myself a writer first and foremost.

    A writer with a bookkeeper, CPA, assistant and attorney (when need be).

    And thanks for the left-handed compliment in your PS line! Appreciate you dropping by to up my web stats 😉

  13. danperez
    danperez says:

    Oh, I get teary-eyed (not to mention inspired) when I see another human being living the American dream. Especially a former cocktail waitress. You go girl!!!

  14. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Oh, heavens. Now, that's just not nice. I haven't said anything of the sort to you. But thanks for stopping by anyways 🙂 Everyone takes a different path towards their respective goals. And as a father, I hope you embrace that sooner or later. Nasty remarks are well, just nasty. At least I thanked you for stopping by. Breath wasted, apparently.

  15. RebeccaOsberg
    RebeccaOsberg says:

    Fantastic post and picture. Most of the freelancers I work with are fantastic, but I do get the odd few who I work with once and never again. Because they don't understand that I can find people who will do what I ask for and do it timely and do good work. Next time instead of just never calling again, I'm sending this post.

  16. Matt Meeks
    Matt Meeks says:

    Once again, right on the money. I hate being called a freelancer, and I correct people (politely) when they call me that. Also, outsourcing the the things you DON'T do, like accounting (unless you're a CPA of course) lets you focus on what you're good at. It's still important to learn the basics, so when your CPA shows you the balance sheet your eyes don't glaze over and you don't start nodding your head just to get the hell out of there.

    The networking this is crucial, too, and seems to separate business owners from freelancers in a big way. Most of the people I know who call themselves freelancers seem to think that waiting for the phone to ring is a marketing tactic.

  17. Laura Scholz
    Laura Scholz says:

    This kicks so much ass. We need more of this straight talk in our lives. And you're so write– start treating your business seriously–with contracts and formal bank accounts and focused, strategic approach–and it will treat you seriously back.

    So glad I stumbled upon your blog today (as the daughter, sister and best friend of other sassy redheads!).

  18. danperez
    danperez says:

    Nasty??? Hollywood makes movies about that kind of story every month! Your story is indeed an inspiring one (I went too far with the whole “teary-eyed” thing, didn't I?) and as a father to a very sassy and spunky 12-year-old girl (I wouldn't have it any other way), I am inspired by your (pretty darn remarkable) story and your snarky outlook on things. Really. Beats the heck out of 97% of the junk I read online.


  19. danperez
    danperez says:

    If she loves what she's doing and has a bookkeeper, CPA, assistant and attorney (for the right reasons!), I think I'll be a happy dad, even if she's a bit much on the sassy side.

    Hug 🙂

  20. Carolyn Snyder
    Carolyn Snyder says:

    Best thing I’ve read all day. I’m gonna disagree with you on the LLC thing, though. It really depends on the type of business. My husband and I are both self-employed (my preferred term) in unrelated professions. He has a car repair business and I’m a user experience consultant. He owns commercial property and a bunch of expensive equipment. I own a laptop. He’s an LLC and I’m a sole proprietor, and both our accountant and attorney are fine with that. The best advice I ever heard about incorporating is to not do it until you know why you need to. My accountant also doesn’t mind that I don’t have a business bank account because I am meticulous about categorizing my business/personal expenses in Microsoft Money. Bottom line, there are many ways to run a proper business once you’ve been bitch-slapped into realizing you gotta do it.

    And thanks for the kick in the pants to sign up for that conference I’ve been eying…

  21. Anita Harkess
    Anita Harkess says:

    Thanks. I needed that. I've always known on some level that I am a business owner, but I've been acting like I'm an employee of about 37 companies at once–confused about all the paychecks (and sometimes PayPal deposits) coming in from everywhere, and dreading figuring out the mess that my taxes are each year. It's time to get more organized.

    I'd add a level of specificity to the advice about networking: Find mentors. This means fabulous people who've been doing what you want to do for longer than you've been at it. Watch them. Read their blogs. Work with them if you can. Thank them profusely. (Yes, Erika, this means you! Thank you! Thank you!) Then keep paying attention.

    I've stumbled accidentally across some great mentors so far. I still have a lot to learn, but they have a lot to teach me. I'm still more in the “whiny freelancer” realm than the “savvy business owner” one, but I have my eyes open, and I'm improving every day.

  22. Megan Carpenter
    Megan Carpenter says:

    Thank you! I've been so frustrated hearing about everyone debating between freelancer, self-employed, etc., that it's nice to have someone simply cut through the bullshit and call it what it is – a business!
    And I see a couple to-do's that I need to add to my list.
    Thanks again for the extra bitch-slap!

  23. Charlie
    Charlie says:

    Right fucking on! I haven't subscribed to a blog in months because it's all the same shit over and over. Vapid advice about “psychological blocks you have about business” and “feast and famine and fear” and all this shit. It's so tired.

    If you're a businessperson, make business. Do your shit, do it well, put it out there for the people who need it and sell it to them. If you're having a fucking famine, it's because one of those steps is out. Psychological factors can get fucked. Man…this stuff kills me.

    Anyway…(climbing down off your blog's soapbox which I just raped for my own purposes)…you're telling it like it is and I'm subscribing now, thank you very much. Goddammit.

  24. DGW II
    DGW II says:

    Profanely poignant. I actually cursed my friend out while reading this. He cold-called me to see if anyone needed his services, but wouldn't give me a price to quote. I explained that no price will elude to underpricing if you have not set a price for yourself. Just know, I have been guilty of this myself….for most of my career as a Graphic Designer. Not being “whiny” per se, but just being a garden variety chump when it comes time to serve the client my BOTTOM LINE.

    Excellent read. Good Job. Keep it up.

  25. @keithprivette
    @keithprivette says:

    Absolutely love it! From top to bottom real world practical tips. Been thinking about this for awhile using this as my guide posts for sure. The Frugal but not cheap is key! Invest wisely just like a BUSINESS should. Yes Cali Harris a Manifesto is dead on!

  26. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Yesssss! This business owner fully agrees, except with the LLC. Why on earth an LLC? If –no, when!– my business grows according to plan, I'll start a corporation and then I'll have a CPA, an attorney, the whole shebang. I don't see the point of an LLC.

  27. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    An LLC places you at arm's length from your personal assets. As well, you can't open business banking without an LLC or a C-corp. Taxation on an LLC is also lower than a C-corp 🙂 If there's an attorney in the hizzy – feel free to chime in!

  28. John
    John says:

    What an eye opener !! I could have used this chastening 4 years ago, but have since learned that you are absolutely correct. Listen up people (read business owners), do the research recommended, attend the networking functions, as recommended, get out of your own back yard, as recommended. You will be surprised by the results; i was.

    Signed: Now able to feed myself – @willisetech on Twitter –

  29. Chris Jordan
    Chris Jordan says:

    This is the first time I've seen your site and I'll surely be back! This is so spot-on. I just had a conversation about this with someone last week. I think freelancers confuse the term with freeloading, ya know? Anyway, as a business owner – many thanks for telling it like it IS!

  30. Miranda C. Spencer
    Miranda C. Spencer says:

    Right on, Redhead. I finally figured out about acting like a business, and it's made a difference. I registered as a small business with my city. I have a website ( I have business cards. I advertise in a local paper. I take PayPal. And most of all, I rarely call myself a freelancer. I'm an “independent journalist and editorial consultant.”

    Not that it will make DemandMedia pay me any better, but then again I'm a business. I don't work with sweatshops.

  31. Bret Phillips
    Bret Phillips says:

    Awesome article.

    I love that you do not sugar coat anything. I find it hard to sugar coat things myself, but I also appreciate someone that will not BS me and just give it to me straight.

    That said, upon reading this I've realized that just recently I had decided that I was running a 'business' and no longer just a 'freelancer'.

    After that mind set a whole slew of chain reactions have started.

    I am making more progress with my current clients.

    I am making connections with more people in the industry as well as people that need my services.

    Lastly, I am seeing growth to the point that I am ready to either start outsourcing, or bring someone on to be able to finish all of the work that I now have on my plate…with more work always pending in the future.

    This post is a really good motivator, going to bookmark it(lol, yes, I said bookmark) for future motivational reference 🙂


  32. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful words, Bret. It's always comforting to hear I'm not the only one who had the living bejeezuz shook outa me with regards to business! Way to make it work and please proceed to kick ass 🙂

  33. Leon Noone
    Leon Noone says:

    G'Day Erika,
    Go get 'em Erika. Lots of things about the web astonish me. And the “whining freelancer” is one of them. I've been a consultant for 32 years. It's never crossed my mind to demean what I do by calling it “freelancing.”

    You're either in business or you aint. And if you can't handle that, you aint. For all it's high-powered pizzaz, there's more than a faint tinge of self-indulgent amateur about many of the denizens of www.

    Anyway, I'm off to sell something to someone. Make sure you have fun.



  34. Jim Thomas
    Jim Thomas says:

    Thinking and acting like a business owner is a necessary step toward being a successful business owner. I know this because I am a business owner, and the business I own is business law firm. I would like to address a misimpression apparent in Sarah’s comment. An LLC is a perfectly fine choice of entity for most businesses. Some of the largest, most successful businesses I work with are LLCs. The liability protection of an entity, whether it be an LLC or a corporation, however, depends on you treating your business like a business, and not an extension of your personal bank account. Invest in yourself—work with a good business lawyer or accountant to select the right entity for your needs.

  35. Jim Raffel
    Jim Raffel says:

    I'm slowly but surly falling in love with you (not that way I'm married sheesh). Truly love your stuff and it's even better at the end of a long day. I've run my own business for 16 years and wouldn't have it any other way. You points are all fantastic ones. 🙂

  36. Liz S
    Liz S says:

    Good advice here my dear. But the advice about getting paid? There is an assumption that everyone you are talking to is doing the same thing as you. And until you understand other markets and other freelance clients, well, giving advice on how to get paid is a slippery slope. I've been at this game a long time. You can set some rules; others? You go with.

  37. davinabrewer
    davinabrewer says:

    FLOVE this. I'm a freelancer.. ahem, independent marketer who has a dedicated business domain with real email, an S-corp and the other requisite trimmings. I'm frugal, but not cheap (looking at you crappy perforated business cards from OfficeMart). It's a business, can't treat it like a hobby. FWIW.

  38. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Carolyn – of course. The entity has everything to do with how you treat your business and the business you're in. I think if you see Jim Thomas' response, (he's an attorney with Minor & Brown here in Denver), you'll see that he concurs!

  39. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Liz – First, thanks for stopping by! I'm well aware that ever industry has it's kinks. I've done work for Fortune 500 and 100 firms and their billing procedures? Like mountains: immovable. My point being that never make it HARD for people to pay you. And what I've come to find is that if companies *truly* want to work with you, they *will* bend the rules. That is not the rule, merely the exception. But know that it's possible (and I have no doubt you do 🙂 ).

    Always lovely to see you 'round my blog!

  40. Ruthexpress
    Ruthexpress says:

    The problem with doing them yourself is home businesses are a red flag for the IRS. When I eventually get caught in an audit, I want to know I have my CPA backing me up. (of course, he'll only work with the figures I give him, so if I lie to him he won't be of use in an audit)

  41. Cherry Woodburn
    Cherry Woodburn says:

    Another good one Erika. Done all the things you said but needed the reminder about cheap vs. frugal. Money's tight right now and I can fall into being cheap but masking it in prideful frugality.

  42. Liz S
    Liz S says:

    Totally agree – never make it hard for people to pay you. But bending the rules – depends on the company. Too much bureacracy = no rules can be bent. HOWEVER, having said that, and as a fan of outside the box/rebel always, I have made a life's rule to set my own rules whenever I can. I've been burned way too often. Like changing the 45 day pay policy to 30 days. Being flexible can work on both ends, and that's where the relationship comes in, right? BTW, this post was causing quite a stir over on the NASW-Freelance list last night, after someone posted a link. I defended it, mostly. But there were a few good points that folks raised. And I still believe that the market you are freelancing in will partially define some of the ground rules. Love ya tons.

  43. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Shame I can't get in there to defend my own work. But alas, I stand by my words and encourage that folks remove their asshats and put on their thinking caps. If this caused such a stir, then perhaps it's a good thing to stir some things up and get folks thinking. And I'm assuming this is the National Association of Science Writers, not Social Workers. It's great they have a section called “All About Freelancing.” I applaud their openness regarding resources for their members. Writer's Market has much the same, yet is applicable to a broader range of writing, production, technical and entertainment industries. I'm sure the nuances from industry to industry vary greatly.

    The responses to this post weren't just from folks in the online, tech, or writing spaces. They ranged from engineers to marketing consultancies. I'm just glad people got pissed enough to start a dialogue. Your market will always define the rules. Your experience and talent will define how you break them 🙂

  44. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Hi Jim

    Yes, “an LLC is a […] fine choice […] for most businesses.” *Most* being the operative word. I'm a translator, so I don't think it would work for me. My next step will probably be an S Corporation; in the mean time, sole proprietor works fine for me.

  45. Susan
    Susan says:

    BB&T has Free Business Checking that they point out is “ideal for sole proprietorships, start-ups, and small businesses with limited monthly check transactions and deposits.” [] No, I don't work for BB&T; I'm a sole proprietor with a Free Business Checking account with them. I can't remember if I needed to show my business license, but that's all I do have. No LLC, etc.

  46. Greg Smith MD
    Greg Smith MD says:


    Found you on Twitter.
    First time visitor to your blog.
    I think I love you.
    I'll be back.
    Keep up the excellent work.

  47. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    I bank with Great Western Bank in the Denver area and had to show my entity papers (as Denver only requires business licenses for certain professions – your area may be different, please verify) and my EIN document from the IRS. My account is no-fee as well, no minimum balance with full debit card and checking privileges.

  48. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Thanks for visiting, Greg – glad you found something on both Twitter AND my blog that keeps you coming back. Appreciate your readership! Drop by Facebook – free mimosas on Sunday 😉

  49. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    I <3 you, Cali 🙂 I don't think I warrant a manifesto, per se, but you could build a small shrine out of eco-friendly materials. Or maybe just find me a cupcake.

    Yes, I'll take the cupcake!

    • Matt Bernier
      Matt Bernier says:

      I totally agree.. Tony and I (Spotted Koi LLC) have been working for 7 months on our company without paying ourselves. This was a choice that we made in order to build our business, keep us hungry for work, and teach us how to run our business – if you wouldn’t do it for free, why would you do it. We have learned an amazing amount about our business, our customers, and ourselves because we took the time to pay attention to what we/they wanted and needed.

      I am NOT saying that this is for everyone, but we have been fortunate enough for the last 7 months to be in situations that allowed us to do this. We are paying ourselves now, and it makes a world of difference because we have 3-6 months of business expenses in our business bank account and we have 35% (just in case) saved away for taxes in a business money market.

      How many freelancers/businesses get to the end of the year and say “Oh shit…taxes”? How many businesses get to pay day and say, “Oh shit, how am I going to pay myself?” Instead of doing the worrying when the bills came due, we worried up front, invested in ourselves and now we are reaping the rewards.

  50. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Hey, if you need a source for great business cards and not a lot of dough, I and several of my colleagues use Ditch the crappy biz cards (their pricing will make you crap your pants – not responsible for ruined pants)

  51. Yawn
    Yawn says:

    Give me a break. Just another right-winger rant. Using funky fonts & the word “fuck” doesn’t make it any different from Karl and Newt and Fox News blaming the unemployed for the lack of jobs.

    • Sara
      Sara says:

      I wonder if Yawn even gets the irony in his/her own comment! Simply using words like *unemployed* and *lack of jobs* is symptomatic of the “whining freelancer” mentality, i.e. considering yourself an employee rather than a business owner)…Business owners don’t usually talk about looking for a *job* or being *unemployed*.

  52. Susan
    Susan says:

    In Henrico County, Virginia. Henrico's website says: “… virtually all businesses must purchase a business license before commencing operation in Henrico County.” I have no idea, or at least don't remember, whether my business (proofreading/copyediting/editing) would not have had to, but I figured better safe than sorry and just got the license. So long as I, that is, me as a business, earn less than $100,000/year there is no license fee…and if that were ever to be the case, I'd be happy to pay them! 😉 Have no EIN; use my SSN.

  53. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Hello, Yawn. Welcome to the blog. Thanks for stopping by – your opinions are always welcome here. And for the record, YOUR use of “fuck” doesn't make YOU any different, either.

    Have a splendid day 🙂

  54. Pamela
    Pamela says:

    Strong post. Tough love. I was an advertising / marketing consultant for 40 years. One must be business like. You also need a business bank account. You don't need to incorporate until you're making more money than you know what to do with or you want to protect personal assets from exposure to business losses or legal issues. I incorporated early in fat years and wrestled the paper tiger in lean years. Starting out, you can operate your business as Sole Proprietor, which is simple and easy. It's good to know a CPA who can review your work if your tax situation is complex. For most sole proprietors, a good tax accounting software is dandy. Just document income and expenses. For incorporating advice, seek a business lawyer. Pam Picard

  55. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Yes, he did. I distinctly see it typed into his comment. It's in quotes. Therefore, it's been used. *checks prescription in glasses*

    And BTW – all of my commenters require a valid email address. Yours. Is. Not. Future comments will not be posted without one 🙂 HUGS!

  56. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Pam – thanks for stopping by. It's great to hear thoughts from another creative industry professional who's traveled a similar road. One thing I *will* say about the tax software vs. CPA is that I didn't used to have a CPA and was skeptical. So, I did my taxes myself and then walked them into a recommended CPA and had HIM do them. Damnedest thing happened – I missed a boatload of deductions and instead of owing $600 that year, I got back around $2000. Granted, folks may be comfortable doing them on their own. The best advice I can give is to (1) get a referral if you're going to make the jump, and preferably from another sole prop. or small business owner like yourself, and (2) do the side-by-side.

  57. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Oh, and BTW – I'm *far* from being a “right winger.” Holy hell. It truly goes to show that, if you're going to comment on a blog and make it about the blogger's political bent, you should get to know the blogger FIRST. Mkaythxbai. *waves*

  58. Denver80222
    Denver80222 says:

    I came across your blog with the intention of contacting you to advertise on it…now I can't stop reading your posts, hysterical!

  59. Brian
    Brian says:

    I recognize three levels of awesome:

    First (and lowest level): Awesome
    Second: Chuck
    Third (and highest): Norris

    This article is Norris. Very, very Norris.

  60. Andytrans
    Andytrans says:

    Well slapped! Money out = money in! Basic tenet of business, but you'd be amazed how many people grip about paying for seminars, that kind of professional CPD. Nice work anyway, will keep following.

  61. Sara Brown
    Sara Brown says:

    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

  62. mmangen
    mmangen says:

    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.

    • Matt Bernier
      Matt Bernier says:

      Oh, I am totally with you on this. SO MANY development projects online (freelancer websites) are asking to “recreate ebay for $85”. Are you fucking kidding me? How the hell can you do that. I don’t care if all you make is $1USD an hour, you are NOT creating eBAY in 85 hours.

      I get really frustrated with people who want to low ball their contractors and still get $75/hr+ developer quality code. It won’t happen. Most of these people end up spending 3, 4, 5 times what they would have, if they would have hired the right people up front and been willing to spend a little more per hour.

      3 hours at $100/hr is $300 – 30 hours at $25/hour is $750 – which would your rather spend.

      It is important to spend money on your company, but spend it wisely and think before you do something penny wise but pound foolish.

  63. Laubazz
    Laubazz says:

    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….

  64. Laubazz
    Laubazz says:

    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

  65. Carrie
    Carrie says:

    “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!

  66. Chris, LEED AP
    Chris, LEED AP says:

    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!

  67. Simon Gornick
    Simon Gornick says:

    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.

  68. Kathleen Scanlon Esq
    Kathleen Scanlon Esq says:

    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!

  69. Trish
    Trish says:

    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!

  70. Bhaskar
    Bhaskar says:

    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.

  71. Libby Taggart Unwin
    Libby Taggart Unwin says:

    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.

  72. Alison Preston
    Alison Preston says:

    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. 🙂

  73. says:

    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.

  74. Joseph Gier
    Joseph Gier says:

    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)

    • Matt Bernier
      Matt Bernier says:

      Code minion or not… I have been a monkey for over 7 years, but I have ALWAYS had a “side project”. If you plan on making money online, doing anything on the side… you should run it with some protection LLC/S/etc and you should do it legitiamtely through the gubment. No one wants the tax man to come collecting.

      This is one misconception that many developers make, “I just write code”. Well, if you get paid for it, you are a contractor. This means you should protect yourself, your money, and your hard work.

  75. Kathrin P. Ivanovic
    Kathrin P. Ivanovic says:

    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!

  76. Sydney Owen
    Sydney Owen says:

    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.

  77. Kareema Beema
    Kareema Beema says:

    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!

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      What? You should be able to file paperwork online through the Secretary of State’s office. You probably don’t need to be incorporated. A LLC or S-Corp will do just fine in many cases.

  78. Craig
    Craig says:

    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.

  79. Darien Goldman
    Darien Goldman says:

    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…

  80. Random Chick
    Random Chick says:

    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!

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Well, what do you do and maybe the folks at RedheadWriting could be of some assistance. We’ve all been there. Why don’t you drop me a line on my contact form? Would love to hear from you.

  81. trib
    trib says:

    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.


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