I was not an entrepreneur, I was a freelancer

The most insightful podcast I listened to this year would have to be Seth Godin’s Startup School. The podcast is full of great insight and experience from Seth and his “students”, but the topic of Freelancer vs Entrepreneur got me thinking the most.

You’re going to decide: should i be a freelancer or an entrepreneur. Sara is a freelancer. What that means is people pay her money and she does work. If she doesn’t do work, then people don’t pay her money. Freelancing is a great way to make a living. Its what I do, its what I used to, but in between I was an entrepreneur.
– Seth Godin | Startup School 2012 | Episode 1

I had always assumed I was some sort of entrepreneur, since I ran a (small) business and all. But Ninth Division was not an entrepreneurial effort. It was built around the idea that we get paid for the hours we work and it was not going to anything that was bigger than myself.

If it had grown like I had originally envisioned (more developers, designers, etc) it would have failed and gone the path Seth discusses. This is not because I am some sort of failure, its just the nature of running a freelancer business – just like how Seth discusses. This type of business could not make money while we slept. This model just does not scale well to something large – which is why so many move to products, different business or just get out.

Being a freelancer or in the “freelance business” is not bad by any means. Seth even makes this distinction – he’s still proudly a freelancer and currently so am I. What is bad, is thinking you are an entrepreneur but being a freelancer (or vice versa). There is just too much time, money and opportunity to miss out on thinking you are one thing, yet being another. Once I realized I was a freelancer running a freelance business, everything was suddenly clear and I had one of the best years in business ever.