We freelance editors tend to have thick skin, which is essential for our profession. After all, an author might not agree with an edit or a comment that we make, and we need to hear them out without getting defensive or nasty or curling up on the floor and crying. (Well, the last one might be okay in certain circumstances, since the author cannot physically see us.)
When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I am an editor, most of them look impressed. If they ask me what I edit and I say, “Mostly scientific research manuscripts,” they look twice as impressed.
However, if they ask me for whom I work and I tell them I am a freelancer, I get the polite, fake smile and the “Oh.”
The word “freelancer,” for some, has some negative stereotypic connotations. The one that makes me the angriest is, “Freelancing is for people who can’t get real jobs.”
Oh, really? A real job? I don’t have a real job? Then what do I have—a fake job? I sat at my computer editing until midnight last night as part of my fake job?
(Uh-oh, there I go being oversensitive.)
Seriously, though—please don’t use the expression “real job” around freelancers when trying to describe a job in which one is not self-employed. It’s insulting.
“Staff job” and “W-2 job” are some alternatives one can use to describe a job in which one works for another entity. If you are comfortable with it, you can also use the name of the company that employs you, as in “my Springer job.” (For those who are unfamiliar, Springer publishes scientific journals.)
If you are a freelancer, do you find the expression “real job” taboo? What do you do or say when another person uses it? What are your favorite alternatives for this expression?