You should aim to be all three types.
There’s a clear difference between an entrepreneur and a freelancer. If a freelancer takes a day off, they don’t get paid. If the freelancer is not actively putting themselves out there and being the brand and face of their services, no one will give them work. The freelancer is the company. On the other hand, the person who has started a company has some ability to leave for a few days, weeks, or months, get paid for that time, and come back to a still functioning company.
Each side has clear pros and cons. Hiring staff is expensive, and company tax rates are high in Australia. Freelancers don’t have high overheads and can work at leisure and set their own rate. Companies have better structure (hopefully) for general processes involved in running a business while freelancers often feel the pressure of potentially not making enough income.
My first foray in entrepreneurship was as a freelancer. Every entrepreneur should offer some sort of freelance service, whether it be anything from consulting to translating, or fulfilling their lifelong dream of writing a book. This is where you can take on side projects that keep you interested but you’re not too heavily invested in them — they’re not your main source of income. As a freelancer, I write articles for a strange mix of online publications ranging from feminism in business practice to film photography (the photos in this article are my own!) I particularly enjoy conducting interviews. For me, this is fun and something that can be done when I have the time available.
I once tried to turn my other freelancer services into a company, and it didn’t really pan out as smoothly as I thought it was going to, for all the reasons I listed as to why a freelancer isn’t the same as an entrepreneur. I did however recently found a project that is set to become a fully fledged company. I’m not a tech or software person and so despite always thinking of ideas in this sector, I felt I was never able to do anything about them because I didn’t have the skill set or the money to hire someone.
That’s where networking, mentoring, and startup programs come into play. These environments put like minded people together and if you play your cards right (or your pitch deck) you’ll find someone who shares a vision with you but holds a different background.
During the beginning of a startup program I attended, the MC asked “why are you here?”. Some people attend these kinds of events to win a pitch competition and some people go to start a company. Within that second group, some are aiming for a career within that company and others are there to put a few years of hard work in and sell it off. The MC assured “it’s okay to say you’re doing it for money”. And it is perfectly okay to start something with the goal of selling it off and stepping away one day.
In fact, the concept of a serial entrepreneur was first brought to my attention by the manager of the cafe in my office building. One day we went down for a coffee run and he said to fix up the tab with the new owner — that day was his last day there. A few probing questions revealed this was his career, opening and establishing cafes and then selling them. He works for about two years opening a shop, then takes a whole year off travelling with his family. I couldn’t get the image of a private beach villa off my mind for weeks.
Thirdly, you have entrepreneurs who set up non profit organisations. I first forayed into this in 2016, when I set up an annual event for people working in language and culture related industries, which has the potential to run on a tour like system around Australian capital cities and is already set for huge growth in 2017.
Having now ticked off all three boxes, I can say that they each play a role in me not throwing my hands up in the air and going back to being an employee. I freelance for fast and easy money, put in long hours at the startup as a long term investment, and work on my non profit to find some inner happiness and feelings of giving back to my community.
Look at every bit of work you do as your career, and each form of employment you’re involved in as a “client”. Some clients need daily attention, and some surprise you when it’s getting close to the end of the month when you haven’t had the best cash flow and the client you haven’t heard from in months calls you up with an emergency, high budget job that doesn’t just push you over the line but gives you the best month you’ve had all year.
How you measure your success, happiness, and entrepreneurial cravings will differ from the person sitting at the desk next to you. My freelance work gives me the change of pace and variation I need to keep my interest as well as a creative outlet. My startup is as scary as it gets but it keeps me learning and growing and hopefully will pay off one day. My non profit gives me some distance from the evils of capitalism. It’s a balance that I’m really enjoying.