As a freelance writer, this is usually the second question I get asked when I tell people what I do for a living. The first one is “What’s that?” (I kid you not.)
Here’s the thing. When you are a freelance anything, you are not working for your clients. You are working for yourself. You are the head of your own company – “Me, Inc.” for want of a better name.
You are not a prospective employee of the clients you are sending applications to or pitching directly. That would imply that your relationship is not one of equals. Instead, you are a highly-talented company owner who wants to talk to another one about about a business proposition that will benefit both of you.
An employee may not have a lot of choice about the amount or kind of work they do, or the conditions they are expected to work under. When you are your own company, though, you get to make decisions about which clients you want to take on, and the amount and type of work you want to do.
You want to present yourself in the best possible way when you are communicating with a prospective client, of course, but you are not looking for a “job.” You already have an employer: you. If your boss is anything like mine, you work a lot harder than you have for anyone else you have ever worked for. Your boss expects no less from you than your best effort at all times. That’s just how it is.
The next time someone asks you who you work for, tell them that you work for yourself. I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to reveal who your clients are or not.