The Oxford dictionary defines an entrepreneur as:
A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
Meanwhile, a freelancer is:
Self-employed and hired to work for different companies on particular assignments.
For freelancers, your primary value is in your skills. Can you code? Write copy for sales pages? Make babies laugh when you're taking their photo? Clients hire you for your skill-set, and it's your job to deliver the project based on your client's creative vision. Of course, you will need to be creative in using your skills, and you can bring ideas to the table. But for the most part, what matters is that you can deliver the goods. Some clients will appreciate you thinking outside the box. Most just want you to get the job done.
Freelancing is a good idea if...
- You enjoy working with and helping people. People skills—including communication, empathy, and having a sense of humour—are fundamental tools in the freelancer's toolbox. That's because freelance work involves making people (i.e. clients) happy.
- You've got a skill that you're very good at. The market for freelancers is extremely crowded, so it's vital to be good at what you do. That said, if you are exceptional in your field, then you'll find plentiful opportunities.
- You enjoy expressing yourself creatively. As a freelancer, you'll be given a brief from your client. If you need this in your work, freelancing is a good option.
- You like working alone. Freelancing means lots of solitude. As one writer put it on the envatostudio blog: "it gets darn lonely working at home all day, every day." To be effective as a freelancer, you need to be someone who enjoys their own company.
- You need a flexible work schedule. Need to fit your work around childcare or another job? Freelancing allows you to do that.
- You're just getting started. Freelancing is an excellent way to gain experience in running your own business without taking too many risks. You'll learn a lot, and it's likely that if you've got what it takes to be an entrepreneur, you'll grow into setting up an entrepreneurial venture.
Freelancers also work incredibly hard. According to a study cited in The Economist, freelancers work an average of 6% more hours per week compared to those in employment. That said, as a freelancer, you have the option of a flexible lifestyle. You can fit your work around whatever else is going on in your life, and you can choose how much or little you work. As an entrepreneur—at least during the early stages of your journey—you'll be on the go nonstop.
Entrepreneurship is a good idea if...
- You're willing to take risks. Many entrepreneurs invest their life savings—or remortgage their homes—to launch a business. The chances of success are really small, so you'll need nerves of steel and passion.
- You have the work ethic of an ox. Eighty hour weeks are typical for many entrepreneurs. Of course, one day you might get to the four hour work week dream, but to start with—and probably for many years—you'll be putting in the hours.
- You enjoy meeting people. If freelancing is ideal for introverts who want to stay home alone, entrepreneurship is the perfect fit for extroverts. You'll be pitching to investors, inspiring your staff, and networking with potential customers. You'll need to be someone who thrives in company.
- You've got a diverse skill-set. As a freelancer, you focus on a single skill. To be an entrepreneur, you'll need a wide range of skills, including financial management, sales, and the ability to lead and inspire people.
- You've got an idea to change the world that you can't let go. Fundamentally, this is what you need to be an entrepreneur. Without it, you won't have a business, or the get-up and go to create a business.