I know a lot of freelancers particularly in sales, have to look like they are well off. Well-to-do, and their cars show that they are good at their jobs — selling.
That being said, I’ve never found it wise to be flashy with your money in my line of business (consulting).
The fancier of a car you drive and the more you talk about your vacations and how much money you spent on everything, people get the feeling that you’re being paid A LOT … maybe too much.
WAY too much.
Then they get jealous.
Then it’s a whole awkward $$$ situation.
Then they start making comments like: Well if you can afford a [insert luxury German make here], then SURELY you can afford a $15 meal with us!
It’s uncomfortable, not that I’ve ever experienced it, because I don’t show off at work or brag, but I’m also quite young for a freelancer, so they think I’m making half what the older guys are pulling in.
WHAT IF YOU WORK FOR “THE MAN”?
The funny thing is if you worked for a consulting company, that’s a different story.
People relax because they know you’re on a fixed salary just like they are, and they may think that you earn a lot of dosh, but it isn’t a ridiculous amount.
Or they just assume you are buying on credit or ‘wasting’ your money by spending it on a car or vacations (even if you aren’t and you have the cash).
PEOPLE DON’T CARE IF YOU ARE WORSE OFF THAN THEY ARE
But they sure care when it looks like you can afford to drive a luxury car and take 3-week vacations with your family.
I’ve had plenty of comments about my old beater car, but mostly along the lines of sympathy, even pity because they assume that no one would want to drive that car willingly if they had the money to buy something better.
They don’t care if your car is worse or the same as theirs is, just not if it’s better, even if you made a smart choice to buy a well-made luxury car that you would keep for the next 20 – 30 years while they upgrade their own car every 5 years.
It’s a stronger stigma if you work for yourself.
IT IS BETTER NOT TO SHOW OFF
From my point of view, it is better to be thought of as being moderate, even poor, than to be considered rich.
Showing off too much can cause some nasty green-eyed monsters to surface.
I’m not saying that I drive an old beater on purpose to score sympathy contracts (I’d like to think I’m also good at what I do), but it doesn’t hurt, and it is far better than being envied or to be the cause of workplace jealousy.
Freelancers who drive really flashy cars amongst the “plebians” who cannot afford even half of that payment most of the time, have to fend off a lot of comments about being rich, and they have to try and learn how to deflect the jealousy and take it in stride.
I’m not that great of a liar, so I’d rather just not have to lie or cover things up.
It’s like they think just because you’re a freelancer, working for yourself, self-employed, whatever you want to call it —- you are raking in the dough all the time.
This is true in a lot of cases, but sometimes that isn’t how the cookie crumbles because not all freelancers are raking in money, or working all the time (take my friend’s wife as an example).
It really depends on the industry and who you work with.
Perhaps if I dealt only with C-level executives, I’d have to buy a normal car. Maybe.