Are You an Entrepreneur or Freelancer?

Have you ever considered the difference between being an entrepreneur and a freelancer? In many ways (and for many good reasons) they are often bucketed in the same way but I’ve found it helpful to distinguish the two especially when I’m coaching someone who is interested in making a life change.

One of the questions I always ask is simply this:

Do you want to be a freelancer or an entrepreneur?

And then we can begin discussing the differences.

The difference? For starters a freelancer sells their talents. While they may have a few employees, basically they are doing a job without a boss but not necessarily running a business. Layout artists, writers, consultants, film editors, landscapers, architects, translators, and musicians are all freelancers.

There is no exit strategy. There is no huge pot of gold. Just the pleasure and satisfaction of making your own hours and being your own boss.

An entrepreneur, on the other hand, is trying to build something bigger than themselves. They take calculated risks and they focus on growth. An entrepreneur is willing to receive little pay, work long hours, and take on great risk in exchange for the freedom to make something big, something that has real market value on a much broader scale.

If you buy a Subway franchise hoping to work just a little and get very rich, youʼre in for a big disappointment. The numbers of the business model donʼt support absentee management of most Subways. You, the franchisee, need to be the manager too.

Contrast this with the entrepreneur who invents a new kind of photo booth, then mortgages everything he owns and borrows the rest to build a company with 60 employees in less than a year. If it works, heʼs hit a home run and influenced the lives of a lot of people. If it fails, heʼs out of the game for an inning or two and then, like all good entrepreneurs, heʼll be back.

Both situations offer tremendous opportunity to the right person, and millions of people are delighted that they left their jobs to become a freelancer or an entrepreneur. But for you (and me), I believe only one of them will do. And you must figure out which one it is.

The entrepreneur is comfortable raising money, hiring and firing, renting more office space than she needs right now. The entrepreneur must dream big and persuade others to share her dream. The freelancer, on the other hand, can focus solely and exclusively on their craft. She can most easily build her business by doing great work, consistently.

There’s a lot of wiggle room here, I’ll give it that, but it’s a starting block to jump out of.

Thoughts or Things to Execute Against:

  1. Jot down your thoughts about being an entrepreneur and/or freelancer. Why do you think you’re bent one way more than the other?
  2. Is your current work environment cater to your needs as an entrepreneur and/or freelancer? Why or why not?
  3. If you’re building or looking to build a new culture and organization, how will you be able to work with these types of people? What type of culture will you have to build in order to attract and retain top talent?

Good luck.