Are freelancers just small-scale entrepreneurs?
Are entrepreneurs just mega-freelancers?
Freelancers and entrepreneurs are separate species. They are wired differently. I know plenty of freelancers and quite a few entrepreneurs, and like them both. But they seek different satisfactions, have different heroes, and have different daydreams.
The main point of commonality: neither can work for anyone else.
Freelancers and entreprenuers are boss-intolerant and genetically
independent. They don’t apply for jobs.
But other than that, freelancers and entrepreneurs see through
different lenses. One would be hopelessly bored or irritated trying to
be the other. And mostly, they don’t want to be the other.
The sweeping generalizations:
Freelancers identify with their crafts, their skills, their work.
“I’m a photographer. I’m a web designer. I’m a programmer. I
sculpt.” Entrepreneurs identify with an industry. “I’m in real
estate. I’m in e-commerce. I’m in restaurants.”
Ask a freelance what she’s good at, she’ll say line drawings, or
lifestyle reporting, designing interiors, or developing menus. Ask an
entrepreneur, and he’ll hesitate a bit, and say, “I’m good at putting
the right people together” or “I’m good at making it happen.” “I have
an eye for opportunities.”
Freelancers dream about getting better. Designers want to create
posters that give people goosebumps. Ad writers want to win awards.
Programmers want to be sought-after as the best coder on the planet.
But entrepreneurs think about getting bigger. If they succeed with
one discount flooring store, they want to build ninety-four of them.
They keep score by size and scale. Only an entrepreneur could admire a
When a freelancer says he made something, he means he literally
made with his own hands, his mouse, or his pottery wheel. When an
entrepreneur says he built something, he actually paid other people to
build it for him. The way a producer ‘makes’ a movie by hiring people
to make a movie for him.
I have worked alongside (and for) entrepreneurs. They mostly spend
their days talking to people, on the phone, settling fights, putting
out fires, making decisions, hoping for good news, and yelling at
people. They are good in chaos. Doing 143 different things in one day
energizes them. Many tend toward ADHD, I think.
Is entrepreneuring a hard job? Yes. Does it require rare skills and
uncommon starch? Yes. Is it satisfying when it comes off? Sure.
But you’re not making a movie. You’re paying other people to make a movie.
Which, to me, isn’t nearly as satisfying.