I don’t have much time for euphemisms. I’m fairly straight-talking and thus like to speak and hear things as they are meant to be spoken and heard. Your writing style may be different to mine, and certain projects will not allow for on-the-nail writing no matter who you are, but my favourite newspaper articles can always be found in the op-ed section. I like opinions on the news rather than just the news.
It struck me the other day that I have a whopper of a euphemism spread throughout my website. If you’re a freelance writer with a website, you’ll have it as well.
It’s the word “freelance”. If you are a writer in full-time gainful employment, you are just a “writer”, or a “self-employed writer”. But “freelance” says something else. It says “please don’t question me on my current work situation as I am probably unemployed or certainly struggling”. “Freelance” is there to pre-empt the inevitable questions that follow any announcement that a person is a writer:
“Have you written anything I may have read?”
“Do you write for a newspaper or magazine?”
“Are you published?”
“Freelance” sits in a fog-shrouded no-man’s land between “employed” and “unemployed”. It is a vague description that means very little, sometimes not even to the people wandering about in there, because, in career terms, they often cannot see further than the end of their nose. It is the same as an actor describing himself as a “jobbing actor”. “Jobbing” automatically says: “I’m not working at the moment, I’m not sure when I may be, so don’t even ask.”
I think “freelance” is somewhat more hopeful than “jobbing”, and certainly sounds more professional, but it can still largely be a euphemism for “struggling”. If you’re not employed by someone full-time, you’re essentially self-employed, so why not just say that?
If you are considering embarking on a career as a writer (whatever that may mean), then you should take heed. We use “freelance” for a reason – it is the nature of this profession that such euphemisms are frequently necessary.