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What kind of freelancer are you?

Your client’s perception is coloured by how seriously you take your business.

Are you the type of freelancer who effortlessly works on your laptop anywhere you please, like this fashionably business casual 20-something man who can afford an apartment with trendy mid-century chairs and too good a view? Is this what your clients think you do?

Not all freelancers are equal. It’s a generic label that can mean a wide array of relationships to work.

We’ve chosen to run our own indie businesses for different reasons. Or it hasn’t been a choice at all — maybe you’ve been thrust into this lifestyle by accident. As a result, we all have different levels of commitment to our businesses, and different feelings towards the purpose and longevity of our freelance careers.

When you say you’re a freelancer, do your clients think that means a casual digital nomad or local full-time pro? Do they envision someone doing gigs as a stop-gap measure while between jobs, or someone who’s committed for the long haul to build lasting relationships?

Do you even have a clue how your business is perceived?

Look your career in the mirror, and see which one of these freelance types best describes you…

Full-time permanent pro freelancer

You’re a freelancer by choice. You’ve built a reputable business and sustainable career from it. You do this full-time and don’t intend to ever be “employed” again. Hence you take your business seriously and operate with extreme professionalism and commitment. You have to, because you and your family depend on this as your primary source of income. Your business becomes steady and secure. Your clients become long-term partners.

In-between-”real”-jobs temporary freelancer

You’re a freelancer by accident. You were made redundant or quit your soul-crushing job and decided to give it a whirl because it was taking too long to land your next opportunity. You may even continue to contract for the employer you just left. You don’t consider freelancing a career — it’s just a stop-gap measure in between “real” jobs. (Unless by accident you fall in love with it and realise it’s better than what you thought you were looking for).

Part-time side hustle freelancer

Your day-job is alright, but it doesn’t make enough money or isn’t creatively satisfying. You start freelancing on the side to earn extra cash or learn new skills. One day you might build up that freelance business big enough to jump ship and make it full-time, or it may forever remain a side-gig. You can afford to start slow and experiment with freelancing because you’re not reliant on it as your main source of income.

Digital nomad freelancer

You love travel more than your work. Travel is your career. Your freelance business is just a means by which you afford your nomadic lifestyle. You work when you need to, wherever you are, to earn enough money for your next adventure. Remote freelancing means freedom to be untethered to anywhere.

Casual gigster, not a business owner

Freelance “gigs” are what you do to get by, but you don’t consider it a career. You may not even think you’re running a business. You’re just a person with some skills that you occasionally sell for money through freelance marketplaces online. You don’t like being tied down to one full-time employer, so you do a bunch of little things instead.

Student freelancer

You’re still in school, but want to gain experience and start earning money, so you begin freelancing part-time between classes. You’re willing to work for cheap because you’ve got little to show for yourself yet. Your goal is to learn the ropes and sharpen your skills so by the time you graduate you’re better prepared for success in the real world.

And a bonus…

Freelancer dreaming of entrepreneurship

Your freelance business is successful and your work rewarding, but you’re never completely satisfied with the concept of trading time for money. You’re constantly looking for ways to expand without losing your ability to stay hands-on, to develop passive income, or create your own product. You’ll always be a freelancer, but you try to steal more and more of your time to develop a side-business that could one day take off. You consider yourself a solopreneur.

Are you what you think you are?

Does your level of commitment match the type of business you’re hoping to build?

Which do your potential clients think you are? Do they perceive your business the same way you see yourself?

If not, look at where you’re failing to signal your intentions and hone your personal marketing.

It’s vital that you position yourself honestly, otherwise your clients will get a false assumption about what it’s like working with you, and will be let down when you’re not what they expected.

If they expect the commitment and speed of a full-time freelancer but only receive sporadic communication in evenings and on weekends, you’ve let that relationship down. If they need someone they can contact during normal business hours, but later find out you’re on the other side of the world, you’ve started off your client relationship with deception and frustration.

First, know what type of freelancer you are. Be honest. Own it.

Second, make sure all of your marketing and communication efforts are setting accurate expectations for how you’ll act in that capacity.

When you land a new client, you want one who wants you for who you are right now, not who you’re pretending to be.

Have a missed a type of freelancer that more perfectly describes you? Let me know in the comments!

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Benek Lisefski

Hi, I'm Benek Lisefski. Since 2001 I've run my own independent design business. Join me as I unfold 18 years of freelance business knowledge: honest advice and practical tips to help you take your indie career from good to great.

MediumTop writer in Design, Business, and Entrepreneurship.