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what does it mean to be self-employed

Updated: Feb 4

The illustrious self-employed folks. What or who are we?

Are we just that… self-employed and there’s the end of the story? Are we entrepreneurs? Are we independent contractors? Are we 1099ers? Are we freelancers? Sole proprietors?

Oh, the identities you’ll go!

[I don’t mean to misquote Dr. Suess, but it looked so right.]

The answer, for all you improv peeps out there… yes, and.

However you identify… the bottom line is, you are a business owner.

From my historic lens, Sign Language Interpreters are primarily referred to as Freelancers or Independent Contractors (ICs). I have to imagine it happens in industries across the board. For some reason, the concept of being a business owner is overlooked.

What do I mean when I use those words, business owner?

Just seeing that term, doesn’t it make you want to sit up a little straighter, followed by a “hell yeah I am”?

For starters, you’ll want to have autonomous relationships with your partnering agencies. In my opinion, a solid healthy relationship with your partners is key, but getting too attached or dependent takes away your power in the relationship. Also, it is good practice to interview agencies before you agree to work together. This way you can determine if they hold the same values, keeping you in alignment.

Here are a few pro tips to get you in your grove!

  • Do your own market research to determine your rates. Women tend to undervalue themselves. Don’t be one of those women. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished and charge your worth.

  • Keep yourself organized. This starts with invoicing, carries through to your payment collection, and ends with reconciling your files and accounts. I promise, your tax accountant does not want to spend six hours with you going over paperwork.

  • Portray yourself in a respectable and professional way in all interactions. If you are an interpreter, not only do you have to be a positive representation of yourself, but also of the Deaf people and the agency (if applicable). This will build trust and your schedule a lot faster!

  • Stay up to date with news, laws, upcoming policies, etc. that impact your industry. You can gain a competitive advantage here, as well as look super smart. You want to be ahead of the curve, not chasing it.

If you find yourself lacking in any of these areas, snag a mentor. Mentors are not just for skill-based development. Find someone that you think does the ‘business’ part well and pick their brain. If you can’t think of anyone, send a message out to your buds to see if they have ideas or put a message out on a Facebook group.

Being a business owner is an incredible feeling! You get to do the work you love with the flexibility you crave. Want to know how to make that feeling even sweeter? By implementing the items mentioned above.

Mandy Ashcraft quote: Don't miss out on something great (freelancing) just because it could also be difficult.

Here's to you!

Melissa Mittelstaedt

Money Coach (AFC® Candidate)

See you on Instagram


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