Why I'm proud to call myself a freelancer

I want to reclaim the term freelancer

Welcome to The Professional Freelancer, a newsletter that will make your freelance life richer. In this issue:      
* Why I'm proud to call myself a freelancer   
* What do you do if an editor goes cold?   
* Cersei the cat   
* Getting fired isn't the end of your career 

I have no shame in calling myself a freelancer. I know that for some people the term freelancer has negative conations. It's got the word "free" in it which implies we do work for free, plus there's that myth that people who freelance only do so because they can't get a real job. 

I want to reclaim the term freelancer. For me, it encapsulates the ethos of how I work for myself on my own terms. I'm proud to call myself a freelancer. In doing so, I hope to change the narrative around what freelancing is and what freelancers do.

To start with, free doesn't just mean "unpaid", it also means freedom. And have you ever looked up the original definition of the word? It’s brilliant. It dates back to the early 1800s when medieval knights would fight for whichever lord or nation paid them the most money and as such, a "free lance" was someone who sold their swordsman services to the highest bidder. The first written reference to a free lance is in Sir Walter Scott's novel, Ivanhoe, where a feudal lord refers to the paid army he's assembled:

"I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them—I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment."

As modern-day freelancers, it often feels like we are going to battle. Rather than fighting physical wars, we come up against unfair working conditions and late payments. I've written before about how I feel like I'm putting on metaphorical armour every time I chase an overdue invoice. In moments like that, I often think about those medieval mercenaries. They weren't tied to any individual or commander, instead, they were out forging their own path and only taking the best offer for it. Talk about knowing their worth. 

I'll stop with the references to the medieval knights now as I do also recognise that they did, well, go out and kill people... so I can only take the comparisons to them so far. My broader point is that they were doing their jobs and not accepting any bullshit along the way. A philosophy I think we can all learn from. 

It's no accident that I called this newsletter The Professional Freelancer. For some people, the idea of a professional freelancer is a contradiction in terms, but I wanted to show that freelancing is serious business. The more we take ourselves as freelancers seriously and treat what we do as a profession like any other, the more companies and the rest of work culture will start to pay attention and treat us with the professionalism we deserve. 

Happy freelancing professional freelancers,
–Anna, FJ&Co. Founder

The FJ&Co noticeboard

Readers’s survey: Last week I sent out a survey but the link wasn’t work for a lot of readers, I’ve now fixed it and would really appreciate it if you could take three minutes to fill it out. Thank you!

Take the survey

What do you do if an editor goes cold on you? This week’s #FreelanceHelpline question is about handling a situation in which an editor accepts a pitch and then ghosts you. Make sure you’re following FJ&Co on Instagram to stay up-to-date with the community.

The no-office office pet

This is Cersei, investigative journalist James Ball’s cat and the first non-dog to feature in this slot. A poll I put out on Twitter made it clear that you want to see a wide range of animals here, so your wish has been granted.

If you have a Good Pet who keeps you company as you work from home, send me a picture of them to feature here and bring joy to the lives of thousands of freelancers.

Calls for pitches

Star Trek @StarTrek
Have an idea for
StarTrek.com? Pitch it to us! #StarTrek #freelance #writer #WritingCommunity bit.ly/PitchTrek

The list

  • On this week’s episode of the podcast, which was supported by the freelance marketplace Worksome, Tiffany and I talk about how we’ve both lost jobs in the past. We discuss why getting fired is still such a taboo and how it really doesn’t have to mean the end of your career

Listen now

  • This week, I went on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to talk about flexible working and why women are going freelance. You can listen to the episode here

  • I’m really happy to be one of the tutors in the AllBright Academy’s 10-week online course on freelancing. It’s been designed for women who want to work, thrive and flourish in a flexible structure that is self-created. It’s free to take part and if you use my code ANNAAB you’ll be guaranteed a spot on it.

  • The Guardian’s Cities editor Chris Michael has written a great piece explaining the type of journalism the desk does. It’s not only a super interesting read about new types of journalism, but helpful for anyone who’s ever wanted to pitch a story there

  • Speaking of Guardian Cities, they’ve run a great piece on the rise of co-working spaces inside churches

  • “Culture is the mark a job leaves on people”. I love this piece about what actually constitutes workplace culture (spoiler alert, it’s got nothing to do with ping-pong tables and free pizza)


The Professional Freelancer is written by Anna Codrea-Rado, illustrations are by Léo Hamelin. It’s a production of FJ&Co, a platform that gives freelance journalists the tools, resources and community support they need to make a sustainable self-employed living
If you're new to freelancing, download First Aid for Freelancers, my free e-book on handling the early days of self-employment. You need to put your email address in to download it; you won’t be signed up to the newsletter twice. Also check over the archives for past issues
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