Empowering the Freelance Economy

Female freelancers are better off pitching with a business name rather than their own finds new study

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Female freelancers’ career paths are judged differently than those of male freelancers even when they are similar, finds study

A Harvard Business Review report has revealed that a study has found that female freelancers that have expanded their freelance careers horizontally through multiple roles within a certain industry are perceived as having “less agency, less competence and less commitment” than their equivalent male freelancers who progressed their careers in a similar way.

To counteract this gender bias, the study’s authors suggested ways to beat the bias. A warning, though, you might find some of these suggestions offensive, especially if you have been freelancing for some time. However, the authors were confident enough through their research to publish these tips, so they might be onto something.

Use a business name, not your real name

Female freelancers will be more successful in attracting new clients or at the very least getting a follow-up call if they use a business name in all initial correspondence rather than their personal name, according to the study.

Communicate why you took the career path you did

Another suggestion the study’s authors made to enable female freelancers to beat hiring bias, was to communicate the motivation behind their chosen career expansion and broadened career horizons rather than leave it to a client’s presumptions. The authors even says that “women are judged differently than men for making the same career decisions.”

Get professional accreditations

There is no explanation for why these biases are occurring, but they are. For that reason alone, no matter how incensed this glass ceiling in the freelance economy might make you, the study goes on to provide female freelancers one more tip to help their chances of beating prospective client bias. And that is to “demonstrate competence through professional accreditations.”

These accreditations can be offered by professional associations. This third-party validation can show clients that you have certain skills that may not be obvious through your CV, portfolio or client base.


This report was not an easy one to relay to the freelancer community. As I was writing the study’s tips to help advance a female freelancer’s chances of landing a new client, it was getting harder tip by tip to not go off the rails and do the current Elon Musk/Twitter emoji response of choice: the poop emoji: 💩 followed by 🤮🤯😠🙄

Perhaps many freelancers, including myself, are more optimistic than we should be into thinking that the majority of clients that hire freelancers do so based on a freelancer’s portfolio and experience, their positive working relationship with staff and their rates.

Admittedly, this is not the first report to come out to point out that gender bias is wreaking havoc not only in the freelancer economy but households all over the world that depend on freelance income. Reports such as the one published last year by Zen Business and reported by the World Economic Forum revealed the following:

  • The gender pay gap is far worse for women who freelance than for those in full-time employment
  • Men working in some sectors of the gig economy charge an average of 48% more than women.
  • Accounting and consulting is the sector with the widest pay gap for freelancers.
  • Unequal pay contributes to gender disparities which will take 132 years to address at the current rate of progress, says World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report report.

With these facts in our arsenal, freelancers must unite to beat bias. Make some noise on social media. In networking opportunities, etc.

If it’s just female freelancers drumming the anti-gender bias agenda, the message will only have half the power. We, therefore, need male freelancers, recruitment agencies, professional associations and policymakers to make it known that gender bias is hurting the economy. It is in everyone’s interest to make gender bias in freelance hiring practices a thing of the past.

In the meantime female freelancers, you might want to brainstorm the most macho company name you can think of to get your foot in the door. 😜

You can read the HBR report here.

1 Comment
  1. Shea Karssing says

    I too read the HBR report ready to rampage, but what are your thoughts on the very specific sample of 8,000 Korean pop music (K-Pop) freelance songwriters? It’s a decent sample size, but does it reflect a broad enough scope of freelance careers?

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