How to Choose Freelance Job Titles: What’s in a Name?

Written by Erin Ollila on January 25, 2018

One of my colleagues calls me a Word Unicorn. When she introduces me to peers or possible clients, it’s always, “This is Erin, she’s a Word Unicorn.” As a writer, should I embrace that title? Or are there other freelance job titles that would be better suited?

Naming yourself, or at least your job title, is a tough feat for most new freelancers or small business owners. Why? As your own boss, you have complete freedom to choose whatever name you can imagine. You want to be creative and stand out from the crowd, but at the same time, you want to be recognized immediately for what you do. It’s a conundrum for new indys, but it doesn’t have to be.

Why Are Freelance Job Titles So Important?

Regardless of what you choose to call yourself, first understand the significance. If titles weren’t important, we’d all just speak in paragraphs to describe what we do on a daily basis — but no one has time for that. Your audience wants to know exactly what you do so they can immediately identify whether or not to invest their time in getting to know you. By choosing a title, you’re letting the world know exactly what you’re an expert in right away.

Carrie Sharpe, for example, is a communications consultant who specifically adds the word “speaker” to her job title. She makes it clear that not only can she help guide others through their communication issues, but she’s also available for hire as a public speaker — a significant part of her business.

Similarly, your job title showcases you as a professional. If you’ve recently transitioned your side hustle into your own business, commit to a title that portrays you as the boss (even if it’s just you) and not an employee. Be confident in yourself and choose a title that shows how ready you are to lead your own business.

Believe it or not, job titles are also important for SEO. Let’s say someone searches online for “graphic designer in Missouri.” Do you want them to find your website or your competitor’s? Most entrepreneurs I work with are so excited to use a creative title, until no work comes their way. A simple, commonplace title might attract a bigger audience.

Be Specific When You Decide What to Call Yourself

The first thing to do when deciding your job title is to be as niche and precise as possible. Don’t label yourself a construction worker when your real expertise is installing cabinets. If you’re a mindset coach, what do you focus on most with your clients — money or relationships? Choose one and add that to your job title.

But where do you start brainstorming titles? Try out job boards to see what the most searched jobs are in your field. Check out your competitors. What are they calling themselves? Surprisingly, Google’s Keyword Planner isn’t just for advertisements. See which wording is most searched for by your particular clientele. For example, if they’re searching “how to find a cabinet installer,” it’s safe to say that “cabinet installer” is a possible job title to consider. When your list is narrowed down to three or four options, run the choices by a well-trusted friend. Ask them to describe what they think each of those job titles does on a day-to-day basis, and choose the option that seems easiest for your potential clients to understand.

Many creatives and indys have more than one area of expertise, and it can be confusing to know how to choose between freelance job titles. Simple: You don’t have to. My business cards and marketing materials all say I’m a writer and content strategist, which is exactly what I do. I write for some clients, and for others, I strategize and coach them on how to create their own content. One title doesn’t sum up exactly what I do, so I use both. Other indys might introduce themselves as a painter in certain company, but a charcoal artist in others.

Keep Your Title Simple, Then Share Details

One surefire way to let your ideal clients know who you are and what you do is by using a clear and concise job title — one that anyone who hears it will recognize. Are you an illustrator? Great — call yourself just that. A landscaper? Fine, but don’t call yourself a greenery technician.

When your potential clients search online or ask for recommendations, they’ll be looking for one thing, and that’s a landscaper. If you want to be creative, finish the sentence by providing one detail on how you work with or help your clients. A landscaper could say, “Hi, I’m Pete. I’m a landscaper who maximizes curb appeal and turns overwhelming shrubbery into decorative designs that highlight homes.”

Now you might feel torn between choosing an SEO-friendly, traditional-sounding job title and one that is original, memorable and full of sparkle. Here’s the good news: You can live in both worlds. Choose a simple title with a memorable tagline, just like the example above. On her website, Courtney Foster-Donahue describes herself like this: “I’m a business, branding and social media strategist for entrepreneurs, and my cup runneth over with unicorn ninja skills in Facebook marketing and video content.” When a potential customer reads this, they understand exactly what she does, and her personality shines through in her description.

Freelance job titles help your potential clients learn what you do and how they could work with you. Use this opportunity and market yourself wisely — and make sure the name you choose can be marketed at all.

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