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.