And at what point does a freelancer evolves into an entrepreneur?
I have been involved with the Indian startup ecosystem for more than a decade now. About a year ago we started toying with the idea of launching a platform for independent consultants (freelancers) and smaller consulting firms (and later launched an initiative as Feelance Co. in January 2016).
As a firm we manage relationships with a lot of freelance consultants and consulting firms on a daily basis.
It has been interesting to note that many of the consultants in our network, call themselves ‘Freelancers’ while other refer themselves as ‘Entrepreneurs’.
One of my team members asked me about the difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur and that question got me thinking, so I ended up in penning this article.
Although both the freelancer and the entrepreneur set out with the thought of ‘being his or her own boss’, there are a few characteristics that set apart the entrepreneurs from freelancers.
The freelancer is a professional who markets and sells their skills for a steady income. This is akin to doing a job with a specific role but without a boss.
The ultimate aim of a freelancer is to move up the scale both in the fees charged for her services and the quality of clients and engagements.
As the freelancers work alone (or with a small supporting team) it becomes very difficult for them to increase the width of their service offerings. Thus, most successful freelancers have achieved depth in one particular field rather than having a wide-variety of skills or breadth of experience.
The freelancers sometimes coordinate with fellow freelancers to work together on a per-project basis to offer related or complementary services, but they seldom form a permanent team.
Entrepreneurs, at the outset, are on a mission to create a business bigger than themselves. They strive to build a team with multiple skills and ultimately create a venture that is profitable and, at the least, sustainable.
The company is, ideally, built to provide solution to a problem or value-add to an existing solution. An entrepreneur might also focus on a single functional area or an industry but the team has a larger breadth of functions such as marketing, sales, operations, etcetera.
When the Freelancer turns into an Entrepreneur
As part of my venture, I get to interact with a lot of freelancers and small consulting firms. I have found that most of the people with their own consulting firms started out as freelancers — offering the skills that they would have acquired over a period of time.
As their clients grew in number and the engagements they were executing demanded additional skills, they either started collaborating with other freelancers or hired additional team members. This became a stepping-stone to create a business bigger than the freelancer and the first step to become an entrepreneur.
While writing this article I did not check what the academic and dictionary definitions of entrepreneur and freelancer are. I just wanted to share my practical experiences that came while interacting with freelancers and entrepreneurs.
e27 note: For Fun, below are the Webster’s dictionary definition of ‘freelancer’ and ‘entrepreneur’.
Freelance: A person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization
Entrepreneur: A person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money
About the author: Harshdeep Rapal is a serial entrepreneur with experience of starting ventures in ecommerce and food-tech space and currently the Co-founder and CEO of Feelance Co.
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