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Entrepreneur or Freelancer: Which Are You?

It might seem like a minor distinction, but understanding the difference between being a freelancer and being an entrepreneur is a pretty big deal. Thinking your one but acting like the other can lead to a lot of stress and a lot of frustration. Sometimes it can be enough to make you throw in the towel all together. So whether you’ve been at this a long time or you’re just jumping into being your own boss, take a second to consider who you are — a freelancer? Or an entrepreneur?

Seth Godin lays it out nicely:

A freelancer is someone who gets paid when they work.

An entrepreneur builds a business bigger than themselves.

If you’ve built your business on your ability to design, say, websites then you are thinking like a freelancer. You are working like a freelancer. And you are getting paid like a freelancer. Now that’s all well and good until you start thinking about hiring people to help you out. Maybe they could work cheaply and you could pocket the difference. The problem is that nobody can design as well as you can, and because your business has been built on your ability to design, you’re going to have an impossible time finding anyone better than you. You’ll be stuck in between being a freelancer and an entrepreneur. You’ll stretch yourself too thin, and most likely end up doing all the work yourself anyway.

To truly function as an entrepreneur, you have to be interested in building a business bigger than yourself. You have to be interested in growing, and potentially selling, your business. Which means that every person you hire should be better at their job than you are. You should be able to step away and your company continues to function like a champ.

Seth Godin uses Starbucks as an example. Howard Shultz didn’t know how to make amazing coffee. Howard Shultz knew how to scale a coffee business like it had never been scaled before. He thought like an entrepreneur, not a freelancer.

So what are you more interested in — doing the work or growing the business? Making great coffee or scaling a coffee business? Decide now and save yourself years of frustration. And of course there is no reason you can’t move between the two at different times in your life, just so long as you are aware of who you are in each moment.

One Comment

  • On May 5, 2015, Leah said:

    Great article, I feel like the term entrepreneur is used so often without actually understanding the real professional meaning of it.

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