Should You Be a Freelancer or an Entrepreneur?

Creating your own business is an exciting prospect. Whether as a freelancer or as an entrepreneur, there’s a thrill about ultimately being in control of your own career destiny. 

More and more people are leaving the world of salaried work and embarking on an entrepreneurial path. Yet with so many different ways to build a business, what type of self-employment is right for you? 

Are you a freelancer at heart, or were you born to be an entrepreneur? 

First, let’s take a closer look at each path.

What is a freelancer?

A freelancer is a self-employed professional who offers services to individuals and companies. They get paid by the hour or by the project. Freelancers tend to work with multiple clients at any one time and have the freedom to choose the projects they deem a good fit with their skills and talents. 

Many freelancers are location independent, meaning they can work anywhere, including at home, in a co-working space, or via a laptop while traveling

Examples of freelancing careers include web design, content writing, coaching, virtual assisting, marketing, photography, and translating. 

What is an entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is someone who creates, develops, and manages a business venture. Essentially, the building of a new business. Anyone who has built a business from scratch is an entrepreneur, from a small-town baker to a multinational corporation owner. 

Entrepreneurship is diverse in scope, size, and skillset. There was an entrepreneurial mind behind every single business you come across.   

Examples of famous entrepreneurs include Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, Oprah Winfrey, and Jeff Bezos, to name but just a few. 

Freelancing or entrepreneurship? 

There are many crossovers between freelancing and entrepreneurship. Both are forms of self-employment and require courage, tenacity, and creativity. Neither are suitable as career paths if you find comfort in a safe and steady 9-to-5 salaried job. 

While there are similarities, there are also significant differences, ultimately determining the direction you will take. Should you be a freelancer or an entrepreneur? Here are some things to consider when considering your next move.   

Career aspirations

What does your ideal work environment look like? Do you picture yourself happily working at a laptop, wherever and whenever? Or do you visualize yourself leading a team of talented individuals working on exciting projects and scaling your business to new heights? 

Freelancers usually work alone and aim to create a steady income that can be gradually increased. The freelancer’s brand is personal, and there’s usually an acceptance that the business they make will be theirs for the rest of their career. 

More often than not, entrepreneurs work with other people and create teams that can grow a new enterprise as quickly and as securely as possible. The business is bigger than the individual, and there’s usually a medium to long-term goal of selling the company later. 

For many entrepreneurs, the growth of one business is merely the first in a long line of future business opportunities. 

Income targets

How much do you want to earn? Are you happy to match your previous salary, or do you seek to push through the six-figure income ceiling? Or is being a multi-millionaire the only acceptable outcome?

If you want to be a millionaire, freelancing is not the strategy for you. While 3.3 million freelancers earn six-figure incomes, freelancers making a million dollars per year from freelancing alone is unheard of. 

But if a yearly low six-figure income sounds ideal, then freelancing can provide you with a comfortable and lucrative lifestyle. 

The best way to target a multi-millionaire lifestyle is to build a long-term profit machine that is scalable and attractive to investors. If you dream big and want the best that money can buy, being an entrepreneur is the way to go.

Personality

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are you energized by taking big risks, or do you prefer slow and steady? Do you get bored quickly, or do you love to focus on one task for hours on end? 

Freelancing is a mostly solitary pursuit with small bursts of social interaction when dealing with clients or collaboration partners. As a solo-professional, you’re in charge of client work, marketing, sales, admin, invoicing, and more. 

Successful freelancers are disciplined, focused, motivated and content to work long hours alone. 

On the other hand, an entrepreneur needs to get out and about, meeting with prospects, investors, potential partners, experts, and many more important people. There are tons of phone calls, lots of meetings, and many places to go. Their workday is fast, varied, and frequently unpredictable. 

You’ll know already which scenario sounds most appealing to your personality.

Leadership skills

Are you a natural leader? Do you love to inspire and guide your team to victory? Or do you prefer to walk your own path and quietly get things done your way? 

Freelancing is a one-to-one activity. You work directly with a client. Leadership in this scenario comes in the form of gentle guidance where you direct the client to the best solution for their needs. 

When it comes to entrepreneurship, leadership is a lot more critical. When creating a team and working on multi-person projects, it’s essential that someone leads the way to a particular goal. 

Entrepreneurship, when compared to freelancing, is often a more hands-off approach to building a business. Delegation is a crucial entrepreneurial skill, as is recognizing talent in others. Letting people do what they do best allows you to work on your company’s key growth areas. 

Can you be both a freelancer and an entrepreneur?

Freelancing and entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive. You can be a freelancer and also an entrepreneur. 

That said, it’s probably better not to try and merge freelancing and entrepreneurship but rather to have two separate businesses. As an entrepreneur, your goal is to put systems in place that allow you to work on other things rather than invest your labor and time, like in freelancing.

A side business – known as a side hustle – is a better way to develop a separate entrepreneurial enterprise while maintaining your freelancing business.  

The right choice for you?

Both freelancing and entrepreneurship offer the hard-working and skilled professional many opportunities for wealth and career fulfillment. You can create a comfortable and financially secure lifestyle from either path.  

The decision – whether to be a freelancer or an entrepreneur – ultimately rests on your personality and what you want to achieve. 

The right choice? Whichever path makes you most excited to get started.