Part 1: Are you a freelancer or entrepreneur?
Today, we answer an import question that's often overlooked: Are you (going to be) a freelancer or entrepreneur?
There are often confusions and misconceptions between the two terms, and they are even used or referenced interchangeably at times.
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.
Here's Seth Godin's explanation for freelancer vs. entrepreneur:
"Freelancers get paid for their work. If you're a freelancer copywriter, you get paid when you work. Entrepreneurs use other people's money to build a business bigger than themselves so that they can get paid when they sleep."
Freelancer is the single easiest way to start a new business.
Use Feisworld and me as an example:
- As I am writing this article, I am a freelancer. Specifically, I consult a variety of clients on digital marketing and manage projects for them as a project manager. I charge an hourly rate. The more I work, the more I get paid.
- Do I want to be an entrepreneur one day and make money in my sleep? Absolutely. In fact, I'm in the process of building online courses and information products that could potentially run on their own one day.
Use Pat Flynn as another example:
When Pat first started the Smart Passive Income (SPI) podcast, he was a one-man-show. He recorded and produced his own podcast and shared it with the world. Like many bloggers and podcasters, it was a just a hobby. Overtime, SPI grew into a household name among online marketers. The website had a lot more traction. In fact, people liked his website so much that Pat and his team began developing and selling the WordPress theme they were using. It wasn't long before Pat created several affiliate programs which generated substantial income for his business. In March 2017, SPI reported over 250K in revenue. You have probably noticed by now that Pat went from a team of one to a team of many. In the context of SPI today, Pat is an entrepreneur, not a freelancer.
You can be both a freelancer and an entrepreneur.
While running a company, you can also accept projects and work independently on your own. People like Pat Flynn, Krista Tippett, Tim Ferriss run their companies, but they can be hired by other companies (often as a host or a speaker) for a fee.
So, which path is better for you?
Freelancing is (much) easier to get started and can help pave the way for you to transition into entrepreneurship. Why? In order to work as a successful freelancer, you inevitably need to have an entrepreneurial spirit.
In the following episodes of the Freelancer Starter Kit mini series on Feisworld, we will walk you through the basics of finding your first client, starting a conversation and closing a deal.
Entrepreneurship may be the path for you if you've got an idea you can't let go, or you must work with others to make your idea an reality. Entrepreneurship requires a higher risk tolerance than freelancing when it comes to time, resources and financial support. For instance, most new product and service development cycles are between a minimum of six months to a few years. Hence if you don't have proper financial support, the journey can be very challenging.
The bigger the risk, (often) the bigger the reward.
So go ahead and figure out who you are or who you want to become - freelancer, entrepreneur, or both? Drop us a comment below and let us know if this brings any clarity, or if you are feeling stuck.
I want to tease out our next episode, which is about evaluating your current situation.
To leave you with a personal story of mine, one lesson I learned from school to full time to a freelancing career is that:
You will always have more options than you think.
When I graduated from Northeastern University as an international student in 2006, the economy had picked up somewhat since the downfall in 2003. But I still did not have my green card.
Standing in front of the job board at our career center and various job fairs, I noticed that international students as a whole were (and still are) exposed to a tiny fraction of the US job market.
Roughly 90% of the job openings require the candidate to be either a US citizen or at least the green card holder. On top of that, once you get a job, a work visa costs an employer thousands of dollars and to work with an immigration attorney in order to secure your position.
This story is not unique in my situation but nearly every international student. The challenge doesn't stop there either. An estimated one out of every three international graduates can stay in the US for their jobs as a result of the H1B (work visa) lottery system. If you happen to be an international student graduating from school, give me a shout-out and perhaps we can collaborate on a special episode for people in your situation. :)
If work visa or immigration status does not apply to you, all you have to figure out then is what you want to do, and begin to specialize in your niche. The riches are in the niches!
Ready. Set. Go!
"The market for exceptional freelancers has never been better. Because if you are the very best in the world at designing websites for chiropractors, the chiropractors are going to find you, because you're the best in the world at it. So if you're a freelancer, you'd better be extraordinary at your speciality." - Seth Godin