On 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”:
- Passion and Motivation
- Not Afraid to Take Risks
- Self-belief, Hard Work and Disciplined Dedication
- Adaptable and Flexible
- Product and Market Knowledge
- Strong Money Management
- Effective Planning (Not Over-Planning) Skills
- The Right Connections
- Exit Preparedness
- 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.”