When does a freelancer become an entrepreneur?

We struggle with the terminology here at KindredHQ.  You’ll notice that we use the words freelancer, independent, self-employed, being your own boss interchangeably.  That’s because we think that however you describe yourself, there’s a common attitude and feeling about the way we work that binds us together, and we don’t much go for labels.  (Except that Google does and so we have to throw a few in).

However it is true to say that for some of you, the whole notion of labelling yourself as a business, even if you are pulling in significant revenues as a freelancer, is – well – not you.  So, we wondered whether that was limiting to success; whether we are self-sabotaging our chances to do really well?

And as for the term ‘entrepreneur’.  Well that seems to send a shudder down spines.  Perhaps that’s because the term has been completely hijacked and devalued.  Look up ‘entrepreneur in the dictionary and it says:  ‘the owner or manager of a business enterprise who, by risk and initiative, attempts to make profits’


However, for many of us that doesn’t go anywhere to explaining what we do and how we do it, and it makes a direct link to profits.  And here’s the rub.  Many freelancers, whilst they would wish to be successful, are not ‘in it for the money’. We like to think of ourselves as passion rather than profit led, or that we have a higher purpose of some kind.

Now think about that for a second.  Why sabotage your right to make a profit out of doing a job well?  Because, if you take that logic to its natural conclusion, you are essentially undervaluing your worth from the start.

Yes, OK.  If you create art for a living, you will, of course want to be valued for your creativity, but if people are also prepared to pay for your work allowing you to make a profit, that can also be a great endorsement of your worth.

If you ask your clients what they believe they pay for, you may well be surprised.  Often, we tend to think that they are paying for a product e.g. a design for a website, or a workshop delivered, or a social media strategy.  But when they start to elaborate, clients will often say that you add value in different ways, perhaps through offering a connection, or additional ideas for their business, or an objective view that helps them unlock innovation.

If that’s something that you do frequently, perhaps it’s an idea to rethink your client offer and extend your freelance business to something new.

Does that make you an entrepreneur?  Who cares?!

Well Seth Godin does.  He thinks that the distinction is critical, because the emotional cost is high if you are one type but act like the other. Basically, a freelancer trades hours for money, and expends a lot of emotional energy in the process. The entrepreneur organizes resources to build something bigger than themselves. Both are equally valuable, but quite different.

So, a little food for thought.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter what we call ourselves, but we should be careful in doing so that we don’t limit our ambitions.


Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.

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