Are you a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or both?

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freelancer entrepreneurOn Father’s Day, I riffed on whether entrepreneurship has a genetic component. In the wake of that post, I found it interesting that more than a few freelancers didn’t really consider themselves entrepreneurs. I decided to do some unscientific polling on Twitter and Facebook, asking the question “If you’re a freelancer, do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?” With about 120 total respondents, the results lean 55% no on Facebook, while about two-thirds on Twitter say yes.

At least part of the issue comes down to differing definitions of entrepreneur. Investopedia cites it as “an individual who founds and runs a small business and assumes all the risk and reward of the venture.” Broadly, that fits freelancing—going into business for yourself is a risk, even if your capital investments are as modest as a computer, smartphone, and internet connection. But does the concept of entrepreneurship imply something beyond self-employment, sole proprietorship, small business, etc.? Do you need to have employees, shareholders, and venture funding—or some sort of innovative product or service? I’m afraid you’ll have to ask the business-lingo police.

The second element is the type of creative freelancing business that you operate and the aspirations you have for it. Mine includes a mix of copywriting, editing, webinars and seminars, coaching/mentoring, publishing my own books, and book shepherding for aspiring authors. (Wasn’t how I originally set out to do things, but evolution has its sway.) It definitely feels more entrepreneurial than not.

Harnessing the Entrepreneur Mindset

Stepping back from definitions, I simply find it useful from a business perspective to think of myself as an entrepreneur. Is it how I would introduce myself at a cocktail party? Not likely. Still, I don’t care that I’m not creating the next Silicon Valley unicorn; I can still harness the mindset! Leaning again on Investopedia, consider how much or little you resemble the “10 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs”:

  1. Passion and Motivation
  2. Not Afraid to Take Risks
  3. Self-belief, Hard Work and Disciplined Dedication
  4. Adaptable and Flexible
  5. Product and Market Knowledge
  6. Strong Money Management
  7. Effective Planning (Not Over-Planning) Skills
  8. The Right Connections
  9. Exit Preparedness
  10. Ability to Question Themselves (But Not Too Much)

With the exception of #9—since I have no desire to quit and I’m not in danger of failing—I’d say that’s a darn good list to work from if you want a successful freelance business. So I’m owning entrepreneur and channeling my inner Humpty Dumpty: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

In the comments: Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur? Why or why not?

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  1. says

    Both! Absolutely both. I prefer “contractor” to “freelancer” as too many people home in on the “free” part. 😉

    An entrepreneur creates a business opportunity. Check.
    An entrepreneur is constantly pushing to evolve the business. Check.
    An entrepreneur takes risks. Check.
    An entrepreneur is self-reliant. Check.
    An entrepreneur savagely defends the business against naysayers (low-payers or nasty clients). Check.
    An entrepreneur is fearless in all things having to do with the business. Check.
    An entrepreneur works hard to make it all seem effortless. Check.

    That’s why. 😉

    • says

      Well said, my friend. You’ve checked all the boxes! (I’m agnostic on the whole what-to-call-ourselves debate, because it’s very dependent on who I’m talking to.)