Have you ever been at a party and hesitated when someone asked, “So what do you do?”
You can’t just say “I’m the boss, applesauce.” [Well, actually, this is what Edgar says but it might confuse people if you say it!]
Do you say, “I work for myself” or do you say “I’m a freelance XYZ” or do you launch into a 2-minute pitch about your growing startup?
Your answer to this question might be more than your go-to party line. It might indicate the choices you need to make in your business and how you can grow it.
While lots of people are their own boss and enjoy self-employment life, there are actually a few subsets of working for yourself and those subsets are more than just job titles. Depending on whether you call yourself a solopreneur, entrepreneur or freelancer, you might need to take different actions to keep your business growing.
Contrary to the phrase, there is nothing “free” about freelancers! (Edgar’s joke, he moonlights as a stand up for entrepreneurial clubs.)
According to Merriam-Webster, a freelancer means “a person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization” or “a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.”
Freelancing is becoming a much more popular self-employment option as many companies rely on flexible workforces. As of 2018, 56.7 million Americans were doing freelance work, which is an increase of 3.7 million since 2014. There’s no surprise here since there are plenty of perks of freelance life, like working from home, making your own hours and setting your income level.
Freelancers typically exchange time for money using marketable skills to complete projects for different companies. They work more toward supporting other companies than creating their own products or additional revenue streams outside of their freelance services.
Of course, freelancers are self-employed and can enjoy all the fun perks of working for yourself, like choosing your own hours, setting your own prices and, of course, working in your pajamas (or pantsless as Edgar prefers!). And they are loving it! 51% of freelancers say no amount of money would get them to take a traditional job. #LoveWhatYouDo
Freelancers typically focus on strengthening their specific skills so they are able to charge more and take on more complex projects. In fact, 45% of full-time freelancers who left a traditional job say they participate in more training and education than when they were full-time employees.
Edgar is a freelance graphic designer. He earns his income by working with 5-7 different clients creating graphics for their organizations every month. Edgar gets paid for the number of hours he works or deliverables he completes.
Solopreneur is a newer term that has spiked in popularity as entrepreneurship has become trendier over the last few years.
Like freelancers, solopreneurs work alone but instead of working for other companies and trading time for money, they are building a business they can run completely on their own.
Solopreneurs can build businesses based on their passions or skillsets like freelancers do but the difference is they are ultimately building a business that can earn money without the solopreneur actively working and without hiring other team members.
Solopreneurs prioritize business growth by building systems, automating tasks and finding new revenue streams that will continue to grow their income level.
Edgar is a design consultant. He consults with companies and entrepreneurs on how to create their brand design. He sells branding courses and teaches others how to apply branding in their businesses. Edgar earns money by spending his time consulting and teaching (which he charges at a premium because he spent years refining his craft) but also by selling his expertise through courses (which he can do when he sleeps!).
Finally, we have entrepreneurs. This is the group that your mind usually conjures up when it imagines self-employment. Not all entrepreneurs wear hoodies and live in Silicon Valley but they do have a few things in common.
Entrepreneurs have a big vision of growing a big business, including building a team to support that business and possibly securing funding or looking for a buyout by a larger company.
Whereas freelancers and solopreneurs want to improve their specific skills, entrepreneurs want to improve their businesses. They are quicker to delegate and hire team members to do the actual work inside of the business while they themselves work on the business.
Unlike freelancing and solopreneurship, many entrepreneurs seek funding during growth, which means they don’t have to quickly become profitable. They are more than likely playing a long game to profitability while solopreneurs and freelancers have to become profitable or else, they’re out of business!
(We should note here that not all entrepreneurs seek funding. Many bootstrap their businesses – as MeetEdgar did!)
Edgar is running a graphic design agency. His tentacles rarely get wrapped up in design. Instead, he focuses his time on managing his team, finding new clients, creating partnerships and creating new revenue streams.
Before we go any further, we have to add that there is no subset of self-employment that is better than the other! The differences are only based on specific goals and which type of business feels good to you and fits your lifestyle. No matter which path you choose, it’s important to recognize that you are a business owner and that you are operating as a business. No matter what your answer to “So what do you do?” if you are self-employed, you’re a business owner!
There are two things that will help you grow your freelance business: attracting new clients and improving your skills (so you can charge more or take on bigger clients).
Since attracting clients is what brings in the revenue (which allows you more time to improve your skills), you should structure your days so that reaching new potential clients is your number one task.
And there are a few hundreds of ways that you can do that!
Even if you have current clients, you never want your pipeline to dry up! Prospecting and lead generation should always be a top priority. Then, you should dedicate time to improving your craft. Whether that’s taking courses, working on personal projects or reading articles.
You can prioritize these two things by automating other parts of your freelance business, such as:
If you’re able to automate (or delegate these things), then you’ll be able to dedicate your most precious resource, time, to the things that will grow your business.
Many solopreneurs earn their income through their expertise so their priorities should be to show off their expertise and grow an audience and look for other revenue opportunities.
You know what that means… it’s time to talk about content marketing, baby!
Content marketing is the best way to show off your unique style and expertise, whether it’s a podcast, a YouTube channel, a blog or an email newsletter. And you can use those efforts to grow your audience of prospective clients, by using lead magnets to grow your email newsletter list or obtain relevant contact information.
Social media is an obvious choice for growing their audience but solopreneurs might want to take it a step further by pitching themselves for guest posts, speaking opportunities or interviews to reach larger audiences.
Much like freelancers, solopreneurs have to find a way to scale the tasks that don’t directly relate to growing an audience, attracting new prospects or creating new revenue opportunities, such as:
Creating processes and systems that will streamline and automate these tasks will contribute to more growth for solopreneurs.
Check out our list of 20+ Tools for Solo Businesses to learn tools that will automate these tasks for you!
Unlike solopreneurs and freelancers, entrepreneurs rarely work alone. The key to growth for entrepreneurs is three things: securing funding, developing and communicating your mission and growing a team.
As you grow your business, your mission needs to remain clear and you need to find people to fund your business and work for your business who believe in that same mission. As the entrepreneur and founder, it will fall on you to create the vision and relay that vision to your team so that everyone is working efficiently and effectively.
One process that entrepreneurs can create is onboarding and hiring so that every new hire is on board and clear with the vision and mission of your organization. (You can learn a little bit about how we do this at MeetEdgar here).
You know what makes you really lucky? If you’ve made it to the end of this article then you know that being your own boss is your path. And guess what that means? This is a choose your own adventure mission! You get to decide which type of self-employment works best for you. Consider your goals, your lifestyle, your ideal working situation and make the decision based on your life.
This also isn’t a lifetime decision. (What a relief, right?!) Your business might evolve. If you’re a solopreneur today, you could change your business model and become a freelancer. If you’re a freelancer, you can create new revenue streams, hire a team and become an entrepreneur. And if you’re an entrepreneur, you can decide you’d rather work solo and become a solopreneur. The choice is yours.
So whether you call yourself a freelancer, solopreneur or entrepreneur, the team here at MeetEdgar is cheering you on.
Don’t forget it, you don’t need to go it completely alone! There are tools, communities, and resources out there. Download our list of 20+ tools for solo business owners.