Are you hiring a professional freelancer or an unemployed graphic designer?

It happens now and again, at a networking meeting for freelancers someone will stand up and introduce himself something like this: "hi, my name John Doe, few weeks ago I got laid off from my job. I don't want to introduce myself to people as unemployed, so I just tell everyone that I am a freelancer."
If you are a successful full time freelancer this can be a bit irritating. Not having a full time job is not all it takes to be a freelancer.
But why should you, the client, care about this? Well, you might be hiring one of these John Does and don't even know about it until… Until "John" and you, his client, will run into trouble. And when this happens, "John" will find himself unprepared and unable to resolve them, because without experience of successfully managing a project from start to finish completely on his own over and over again "John" will lack the quick thinking and connections in the industry to deal with problems successfully. And the myth of a lazy and unreliable freelancer will be perpetuated.
For you, the client, it might be hard to know the deference between a professional freelancer and an imposter - the unemployed graphic designer.
So here are a couple of signs you are hiring a professional:

1. A professional portfolio website geared toward getting freelance work, not a full time job.

2. A professional email address.

If you are dealing with a "freelancer" whose email address sounds anything like or - run, you are not dealing with a professional.

3. A freelancing contract that protects your rights and explains your responsibilities

You can download my freelance contract.

4. A professional looking invoice that explains what you are being charged for.

You will need to keep it for your records and use if for your tax purposes.

5. A business license

It is illegal to practice business in the state of Washington without a license.

The truth is, every freelancer had to start somewhere, and if a person is forth coming with you about the fact that this is his or her first solo project, more power to them and how great of you to give them a chance. I am still in very close contact with my very first client, Freehold Theatre, located here in Seattle Washington.
But what bothers me is when people misrepresent themselves. Unfortunately, when a fake freelancer fails it reflects badly on the community as a whole.
Well-meaning clients still send me emails that sound something like this:" we love your work and would like your help with this project... If everything goes well, we will be willing to offer you a full time position."
Lest get a few things clear, I am not unemployed. I am not looking for a full time job. I am too busy running a business. Freelancing is a choice and it is not an easy one, but when it works, like it has been working for me for years, it can be the best choice a graphic designer can make."
Written by Annya A. Uslontseva, Seattle Graphic Designer