The Dreaded F-Word

I have read that in marketing and ad campaigns the writer should never use the F-Word. It may be appropriate in some circles or industries, but when writing ad copy, it is advisable to eschew the F-Word.

Freelance. “Freelance” indicates that your business venture is not to be taken seriously. When I started On the Mark Writing, I thought put on all my marketing collateral “Freelance Writer,” thinking that it would be an enticement for those “creatives” whose forte was not writing to hire me. My thinking was, no sick-time, no insurance, no vacation-pay… (As it turns out, industry-types weren’t really all that worried about those things.)

J. Christopher Hippler wrote an article in an article of the use of the F-Word in the January/February 2007 Southeast issue of Create Magazine.

“‘Freelance is another word for unemployed,’ [advertising] agency cats would say,” says Hippler. That may be true, and people in the arenas of writing or photography know that being a freelancer can be wonderfully profitable, but at other times, it provide them with such little cashflow that checking to see if the electricity is still on at the house seems like an adventure!

A friend of mine who is also a copywriter has a different take on the issue of the F-Word; he said that industry-types (graphic designers, writers, photographers) probably know not to use the word freelance in advertising, but outside of them, the majority of the public doesn’t have such an aversion to the word. Typically, when I tell people what I do for a living, I say I’m a writer. Usually, acquaintances ask what I’ve published, or if I work for a newspaper. That’s when I break down and tell them I’m a freelancer. To them, though, it doesn’t mean unemployed; it just means I don’t have a job to go to every morning outside the house. (It also means the only commute I have is to my son’s school and back. That’s priceless!)

What are your conceptions about the word “freelance?”

How ’bout it?

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3 Comments on “The Dreaded F-Word”

  1. ArtP Says:

    Freelance (free-lan-s) – a lance which has no cost to acquire.

  2. awriterinthedesert Says:

    The term “freelance writer” means different things to different people. I know freelancers who write for medical journals and make big money, enough to support their families anyway. (Unlike most publications, medical journals must pay their writers on time.) And I know freelancer writers who couldn’t live on what they make, even if they lived in van down by the river. For me, freelance writing has always been additional income, because I’d rather do that than work nights at the 7-Eleven. But I’ve never made enough to do it solely, I’ve always had to be on an editorial staff some place at the same time. So I guess what I’m saying is, when I hear someone is a freelancer I want to ask, “Which type of freelancer are you? A poor one or a medical one?”

  3. jimdiggitydog Says:

    i’m actually a freelance graphic designer – and i usually avoid using the term “freelance” unless the person is approaching me from a freelance work-finding site. i’ve struggled for respectability – and i’ve found (especially in the little berg in which i live) that there’s a horrible view of being a “freelancer.” sometimes it’s as if you’re a bum, using the term freelance as a cover for being unemployed.

    but, i’ve known plenty of freelancers who make good livings and earn plenty of respect. i think it’s all semantics – and i think the world at large is far, far to attached to labels.

    i work, i design, i have some talent – just because i don’t sit in an office in a suit and tie and work for another dude in a suit can be a negative…


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