What’s In a Name? or, Happy Boss’s Day!


Happy Boss’s Day to me! Haha. One of my very favorite things about owning my own business is being my own boss, so I never miss a chance to celebrate this day.

Recently there’s been a lot of discussion in some of the online groups I’m a part of about the best way for self-employers to refer to themselves and their role in their business. Should editors who work for themselves call themselves freelancers or small business owners (or something else)?

Some argue that the term “freelancer” sounds flighty or less professional or makes it sound as though the work provided will be free (hence all the “freelance isn’t free” verbiage floating around online—but this one seems like a stretch to me). They argue that “small business owner” sounds more stable and reliable, and it works as a self-motivator: call yourself a small business owner, and you start acting like one.

On the other side, many argue that “freelancer” best signals an independent worker who’s free to take on various projects. It’s the nomenclature used by those looking for contractors who aren’t in-house, and the label has SEO value, too.

Then there are those who are even more on-trend with their self-identification: the entrepreneurs and the solopreneurs and the webpreneurs and the serial entrepreneurs (that last one sounds more like it belongs on someone’s record rather than their résumé).

And of course there are a slew of options from corporate, like CEO, president, or consultant—impressive but rather vague job titles that convey power and prestige, but not the type of work actually being provided.

As an editor, I’m the first to say that word choice is important and that words have meaning. In this case, though, many of these terms feel more or less interchangeable. You’ll see I call myself both a freelancer and small business owner, for example. And personally, I don’t choose to judge the quality of independent workers based on how they’ve chosen to label themselves. (There’s a lot of competition in the business world, isn’t there, even when you’ve jumped off the traditional corporate ladder.)

I simply want to use whatever language connects best with my ideal clients. I want to use phrasing they clearly understand, something I think’s well in line with the spirit of International Plain Language Day, which was earlier this week. Like most in the gig economy, I have personal preferences about what labels I use (you’ve probably picked up on mine in this post and elsewhere), but I hope they’re more a reflection of the needs of my clients than of my desire to be perceived in a certain light.

And regardless, whether I’m a freelancer, independent contractor, small business owner, president, or solopreneur, I’m the boss (#girlboss?). I’m the one who guides the business, who does the work, who declares frequent holidays. It’s challenging and it’s tiring and it’s amazing.

And today’s my day! So Happy Boss’s Day to me and all my fellow self-employed bosses, whatever other names we choose.

Kelsey Mitchener, editor

Looking for an editor? Kelsey Mitchener Editing specializes in nonfiction copy editing and proofreading. Get in touch and let’s work together on your next project.

Let me know in the comments: do you think there’s a most effective term for a self-employed contract worker?


4 thoughts on “What’s In a Name? or, Happy Boss’s Day!

  1. Pingback: Celebrating Four Years | Kelsey Mitchener Editing

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  3. Well-written, Kelsey. At Taylor, I’m pleased that they give us enough autonomy that I can feel as though I’m my own boss; they don’t abdicate demanding accountability, but they do trust me to do a good job without constantly looking over my shoulder! “I am a free human being with an independent will” 🙂


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