Self-employed. Freelancer. Entrepreneur. Business owner. I’m not sure that I care what anyone calls me, but it seems that it matters.
We live in a world where your status is defined by your job title, and when you go freelance, you leave that behind. But ask anyone who is their own boss how they describe themselves and it’s rarely in terms of freelance v. contractor v. entrepreneur. They are more likely to tell you that they are a designer/project manager/blogger or any other combination of skills that they use to make a living.
However many do stop short of describing themselves as an entrepreneur. Perhaps that’s because that particular term has become associated with a profit motive rather than a passion motive. Entrepreneurs are associated with risk taking and bleeding edge innovation, whereas freelancing is often associated with lifestyle and passion before profit.
What does Seth Godin say?
Well. He reckons that freelancing is the best way to start a business. Just in a steadier, more considered way. To do great work, to gradually increase demand and the quality of the work you do. Whereas…the goal of the entrepreneur is to build a long term ‘profit machine’ that is stable and not particularly risky to run.
It’s all about mindset
I don’t think it needs to be like that. For a start, I think we need to reclaim the word entrepreneur. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t be passionate and professional about the work that you do, powered by enthusiasm and love for your craft, but also inspired to create new, better products and services, and to make the world work differently. If you create a successful business on the back of that – that’s good, isn’t it?
It’s also about scale
Back to Seth. He believes that managing people to work on projects doesn’t scale. Managing freelancers is different from being a freelancer. Managing freelancers and not being available all the time for the clients who are really paying for you for gets you into trouble.
And if you’re an entrepreneur, despite the stories, it simply isn’t possible to do everything. You will fail if you try, and it’s not very smart anyway. That’s because there are only so many hours in the day and you should probably be sticking to what you are good at. Like a freelancer.
Seth says: ‘The solution is easy. If you’re a freelancer, freelance. Figure out how to do the best work in your field, the best work for the right clients. Don’t fret about turning away work, and don’t fret about occasional down time. You’re a freelance for hire, and you need to focus on your reputation and the flow of business. Find partners if you like but keep the cash flows separate’.
If you’re an entrepreneur, don’t hire yourself. Build a business that works, that thrives with or without you. It might not be good for your ego, but it will be good for your bank account’.
Sit outside the box
It shouldn’t matter what you call yourself, but be confident to define things your way. It’s likely that you are already doing several things at once. Isn’t that why you decided on this career in the first place? It gave you freedom to sit outside a box, playing to your various strengths rather than confining yourself to one particular career.
It often starts with creating a side project, selling products on online marketplaces like eBay or Etsy, or finding yourself working in a group of associate freelancers to deliver a client project. You might find yourself running a profitable business without having set out to do so. And then what?
It might be time for a completely new thing to call ourselves 😉
Seth Godin’s great article on the difference between freelancers and entrepreneurs is here.