Many people dream of starting their own business. What could be cooler than running the show? Hell, even the word “entrepreneur” carries some serious prestige.
Fewer people dream of becoming a freelancer, but it’s difficult to put a finger on where the distinction lies. Under tax law, we’re all self-employed. Isn’t entrepreneur or business owner just a fancy way of saying “freelancer”?
Not quite (though all independent workers fall under the Freelancers Union umbrella): freelancers trade their skills, services, and time to customers for money. So if you’re good at writing, you’ll write articles for money. If you’re great at setting up websites, then you can work as a freelance web designer.
While freelancing offers the same freedom and flexibility as entrepreneurship, it is quite restrictive; you can only scale your freelancing efforts to a certain point, as there are only 24 hours in a day.
Entrepreneurship means building a business that brings in passive income. This is some next level shit.
Entrepreneurs spend work time identifying customers needs, finding opportunities in the market, examining the risk involved, and creating innovative products and services that meet these needs. Then, they create scalable systems where products and services are sold over and over again.
That means, that even when the entrepreneur is eating, sleeping or on vacation – she’s earning money.
Should You Freelance Before Starting Your Own Venture?
Many people choose to jump right into the deep end of entrepreneurship, but you can always start out as a freelancer and then swim towards entrepreneurship at your own pace. Start-ups have a high rate of failure and freelancing first can be both a learning experience and a financial buffer.
Before you make your decision, here are some points that you should consider:
1. Freelancing gives you confidence
Many people avoid entrepreneurship because they lack courage and confidence. How many times have these thoughts and questions crossed your mind?
‘I’m not equipped for the job’, ‘will people appreciate my products and services?’, ‘is my business model right for this market?’, ‘I’m out of my depth.’
Freelancing gives you the confidence that you need to start your own business. If want to launch a tax services firm and you’ve spent the last 4 years doing taxes as a freelancer, then you won’t doubt your abilities.
2. Freelancing will pad your income
Not only do a few steady freelancing gigs give you some financial security, the income will also help you raise the funds that you will need to test and create your products and services. Launching your own venture takes capital – and freelancing can help you in the takeoff phase.
3. Freelancing expands your network
As a freelancer, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with people from a wide range of industries. I’m therefore in the position to build a network on which I can rely when I move towards entrepreneurship.
You have the chance to market your products and services to your network in the same way you marketed your skills. You also have the chance to work together with people you met while freelancing.
Be strategic when building your network, and build a community that will support your business efforts once you decide to move in that direction.
4. Freelancing polishes your customer service skills
As a freelancer, you quickly learn that customer service is key to success. Unlike some 9-to-5 positions where you may not be customer-facing or can easily pass the buck, freelancers must deal with happy clients, frustrated clients, indecisive clients and clients that cannot be satisfied.
The only way to stay afloat as a freelancer – and a small business owner – is to discover your customer service style and balance your clients needs to the best of your abilities.
5. Freelancing diversifies your skill set
Often, freelancers must wear many hats. Sometimes you’re hired to do one thing and then wind up doing five others. Sometimes you take on a gig that has a component to it that you’re maybe not-quite-qualified to do, but learn to do it anyway!
As an entrepreneur, it’s likely you’ll wind up doing all kinds of jobs before you can hire on the help that your business needs to grow. There’s no faster way to becoming an agile worker than through freelancing.
6. Freelancing teaches self-discipline
Everyone knows that when you go freelance, you’ve got full control of your schedule. While this is one of the key reasons many of us choose to freelance, it also means that all of the sudden it’s our job to prioritize time and work – even if we’re not in the mood.
Entrepreneurs need just as much self-discipline as a freelancer. Using your time as a freelancer to build healthy work habits can set the stage for a successful entrepreneurial career.
7. Freelancing helps you find your balance
The temptation to throw yourself headlong into your business venture – especially because you're throwing so much money at it – is strong. Unfortunately, succumbing to that impulse can cause tunnel vision and even burnout.
Freelancing will teach you the importance of establishing a good work life balance, and this makes you happier, focused, more energetic, and more creative. You can use this new found freedom to research, plan, and build your venture.
8. Freelancing builds accountability
As a freelancer you are fully and solely responsible for your work. This builds responsibility and accountability, which are vital traits in an entrepreneur.
Bearing responsibilities such as work deadlines, delivery, time management, and finances will eventually become a no brainer, and you won’t be overwhelmed by the pressure that comes with being an entrepreneur.
9. Freelancing is an opportunity to learn more about your niche
If you’re freelancing in your desired niche, then you’re in the unique position to immerse yourself in the niche.
So if you’re freelancing as an interior designer, learn everything there is to learn about interior design, and look for gaps in the market which you can turn into a business venture.
10. Freelancing can reveal what you DON’T want to do
There have been many entrepreneurs who started a business in a particular niche, and then found out that they weren’t really passionate about it. If you freelance in a certain niche before you create a business, you can determine whether you are truly happy and passionate about your idea.
Freelancing in something first is a lot better than going all in and then finding out that it’s not the business for you.
I must warn you; if you become a freelancer before you become an entrepreneur, you might end up sticking to freelancing as a career. It’s lucrative and flexible.
However, if you decide that freelancing is just a stepping stone to entrepreneurship, ensure that you spend your time as a freelancer building up your skills and experience.
Entrepreneurship is not an overnight process, but with freelancing on your side you will excel faster than those who are trying to build a foundation.
Davina Ngei is a professional content writer and copywriter for hire, a business blogger, and the Founder of Business Broken Down.