And You Are..?

As a writer (make that freelance copywriter in Columbus Ohio), words are my obsession. I can’t get enough of them—I love to combine words to generate different meanings, sounds and emotions. Of course, paying this level of attention to words also makes me acutely aware of words that I absolutely can’t stand.

Until recently, that list encompassed just a few words: paradigm, savory, panties, and moist. Capping the list is the mack daddy of all icky words: slacks. Just the sound of the word conjures up memories of the polyester pants my mom used to wear in the 70’s and 80’s. Those suckers had an elastic waistband, came in array of colors not found in nature and tended to make an odd swish-swish sound whenever she walked.

However, since I’ve been freelancing, there is a word that has come to my attention because it annoys and horrifies me at the same time: entrepreneur. I think the reason why this word bothers me so much is that it has become clichéd. Nine times out of ten, if you ask someone who is self-employed what they do for a living, they tell you that they’re an entrepreneur, and they probably won’t give you so much as a hint of what it is that they actually do.

There is also entrepreneur’s evil offspring, solopreneur, which is increasing in popularity. Again, what does a solopreneur do, other than work for themselves? I have no idea. What I do know is that the word reeks with pretention.

There’s a quote about pretentiousness that I have always loved—“an ounce of pretention is worth a pound of manure.” It comes from the 1980’s Julia Roberts movie Mystic Pizza (Watch it on cable sometime. You’ll love it.), and it’s a reminder that the more pretentious we are, the more likely it is that we’re also full of crap.

I think that, as freelancers, we become wrapped up in trying to describe what it is that we do. For example, I tend to describe myself as a freelance writer and digital content specialist. People in marketing, advertising and PR immediately understand what this means. There have also been times when I have also been on interviews with befuddled HR people from a different industry who just don’t “get it.” This, of course, has led me to whine afterward, “they just don’t get me!”

Maybe we try to come up important-sounding titles to get people to take us more seriously as freelancers. Then again, maybe it’s time to let go of titles and just get back to work.

6 thoughts on “And You Are..?

  1. kkreft says:

    Entrepreneur –noun
    1. a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.
    2. an employer of productive labor; contractor.

    I think most people who use the word are trying to imply that they’re productive, that they have the skills to organize and manage, and that they’re not afraid of risk. Now if these things were actually TRUE of the people using the word, I wouldn’t groan every time I hear someone use it. But I’m with you. I think most people using the word are being pretentious because there is still somewhat of a stigma to the word “freelance”, as if it equated to “unemployed”. (Please note: I am not saying it DOES equate to that! But there are still many old-schoolers who think that way.)

    What’s worse is when a company talks about its employees with the term. “Every one of our employees is an entrepreneur.” Really? Then why do you call them your employees? It would be better to say “Every one of our employees is an enterprising problem solver.” That’d be more likely to make ME sit up and take notice.

  2. Mary says:

    I have a lot of least favorite words, none of which are coming to mind right now. But I do think people use words to boost themselves up. I always tell people I’m a writer. They ask what I write, then I explain. No need to make it complicated. Love this post.

  3. Julia Kinslow says:

    Hi Sara:

    Sometimes I believe we are forced to use words we don’t prefer, because our audience prefers them (or understands their meaning).

    I, too, have wondered what the difference is between using an entrepreneur and solopreneur.

    Chances are good if others don’t know what exactly an entrepreneur does (or even the person who is stating they are one doesn’t know) — their audience will not get any more value from us calling ourselves a solopreneur. Ha

    Great post! Julia

  4. Faye Oney says:

    Hey Sara, I agree; I try to stay away from the “big words” to describe myself. One of my pet peeves is when people try to weave in the “big words,” not only to describe what they do, but in their everyday language. Great example of this is the word “utilize.” What does that mean? It means “use.” Just say “use!” Why over-complicate it? Love this post; I definitely can relate!

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