There are a lot of words that describe who we are on this journey: entrepreneur, solo-preneur, freelancer, self-employed….I’m no word-smith but I’m sure there are more.
I often hear debate about the difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur. Some people consider themselves one OR the other and not both.
So if we’re going to get all picky about words, and since the name of this community has quite the emphasis on “freelance” and not so much on “entrepreneur”, I want to clarify what those two words mean to me.
Here’s what I think about this question:
I think you should be both.
I am both, so I’m biased.
But I think you need both to get to freedom.
So let’s take a gander at the dictionary for a sec.
Freelancer [free-lans, -lahns, -lans, -lahns]: a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job,etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer.
So we all pretty much fit into that right (or would like to eventually)? If you don’t earn a regular salary from one person, you’re a freelancer. That’s settled.
Here’s where things get a little more complicated from the French side of the world:
Entrepreneur comes from the french verb “entreprendre”.
The english language has it’s own definition (at least dictionary.com):
Entrepreneur [ahn-truh-pruh-nurz, -noo rz; French ahn-truh-pruh-nœr]: a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.
But I prefer the french definition:
Entreprendre: to take action, in general long or complicated
So how does this relate to you?
- It’s easy to be a freelancer. And by that I mean it’s the easiest way to start working for yourself. You have skills, you can find people that need what you offer and you can sell them your skills. If you don’t have skills you can get some.
- You can keep your day job and be a freelancer, to make sure things stay safe and “stable”. (Read this to find out why I put stable in quotes)
- You can do what’s easiest for you and be a freelancer (only offering the services you know like the back of your hand and that you know people will buy).
- You can get freelance work without having to go too far outside your comfort zone (bidding for jobs on craigslist, elance or just talking to friends and family)
- You can do this work without setting up a business entity, hiring an accountant or really looking into your finances.
And going back to the definitions of entrepreneur, there isn’t considerable initiative or risk needed and it doesn’t have to be taking long-lasting or complicated action. With that in mind, if that sounds like you, you’re more a freelancer than an entrepreneur.
An entrepreneur is in it for the long haul.
An entrepreneur is willing to take risk.
An entrepreneur is a CEO of a business, not a person with skills to sell.
What does it look like to be an entrepreneur as well?
- Planning your growth, setting goals and taking action to meet those goals.
- Putting time and money into developing services, products and income streams for the long-term.
- Investing in your business (hiring an accountant, taking courses, hiring a coach, bookkeeping, online software)
- Putting time and effort into marketing your business, making connections in your space and building a personal brand.
- Taking risks for the big picture rather than the present moment.
I knew I wanted to be a freelancer AND entrepreneur the day I started it all. I knew that I wouldn’t want to trade time for money as a web designer forever. So the moment I started freelancing as a web designer, I already started building out the Freelance To Freedom Project.
I knew it would take time to build an audience that I could serve in a non-1-to-1 way and that was ok. I took risky action on something that took a lot of my time with no monetary reward (blogging weekly for 7 months). Time I could have spent making more with web design.
But I had long-term goals in mind that were more important than the present.
And it’s paid off already.
Because I took action that I knew would be long and risky (maybe no one would read or buy from me), this year 40% of my income came from “passive” sources.
So what do you want to be?
If you prefer life to be on the easy-side (but with more freedom than a 9-5) freelancing is your jam. And that’s 100% ok.
If you want to challenge yourself, reach goals & success in business beyond your imagination, step into a bigger picture, and are willing to put in a lot of effort for the long-haul to get there, start thinking like an entrepreneur.
Remember, freedom is up to you to define. It doesn’t need to be to you what it is to me or anyone else in this community. What does freedom mean to you and can you get there being a freelancer, and entrepreneur, or both?
Let me know in the comments: Do you consider yourself a freelancer or an entrepreneur? Are you one and striving to be another?