Are freelance designers really suckers?

When someone tells you they’re a freelancer, be it freelance graphic design or another profession, what are your immediate thoughts?

Does the freelance job title give an impression of expert, or of someone who is new to the field, perhaps picking up some earnings to make ends meet? I guess this is different for everyone, but in an ideal world, you want as many people as possible to know your strengths, and at the earliest opportunity.

Tony Clark (of  and ) prompted me to publish this post, after writing how freelancing is for suckers.

While at first he didn’t want to admit it, Tony’s realisation came when he was working on a web re-design project 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, 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.”

I’ve been self-employed for just two and a half years, but I already know exactly the design client that Tony refers to.

When I started out, I branded 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 what I was being paid for.

In his article, 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. .”

Today I brand myself as a graphic designer and design consultant, as opposed to freelance graphic designer. I can’t be sure if it makes any difference, but all my clients since the change have been very happy with what I’m producing.

Here’s an interesting hierarchical diagram, from Tony’s article, showing freelancers on the bottom rung.

self-employment hierarchy
Image copyright: 

Tony typically defines a freelancer as one person working on many short-term projects, and Jeanne, ofWriter’s Notes, added this comment:

“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 feel that it takes time before a freelancer earns the right to call themselves a consultant, but in reality, .

As a designer, do you feel as if the freelance title attracts a negative impression of what you do? Do you, or have you, ever defined yourself as a freelance designer? If so, I’d love to read your opinion.


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