“Entrepreneur” is a word with a lot of weight to it. You hear it and images of the ultra-successful—like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos—flash in your mind.
But an entrepreneur is simply somebody who builds and runs their own business—and that’s exactly what freelancers do. We take a functional skill—like writing blog posts or graphic design—and build businesses out of it. Like Gates or Bezos, we manage finances, build personal brands, and sell products and/or services to build long-term freelance careers and become true business owners.
Some people, however, would argue that there is a difference between freelancers and entrepreneurs. Seth Godin, for example (who considers himself to be a freelancer), says this:
“Freelancers get paid for their work. If you're a freelance copywriter, you get paid when you work. Entrepreneurs use other people's money to build a business bigger than themselves so that they can get paid when they sleep.”
So how do you get paid while you sleep? Though I personally consider freelancing to be a form of entrepreneurship, there is a scalability to it. And going from freelancer to entrepreneur simply boils down to one key element: A growth mindset.
Make Goal-Setting the Norm
Let’s say you’re a freelance coder. It’s the first time you haven’t worked for a firm and you’re instead taking on individual projects. You’re trading your time for money by performing the skill that you’re best at: coding. But let’s think about the long-term.
A growth mindset could mean that in your first two years, you do all the projects. But in five years, you hire two or three people to work with you. Now, instead of being a full-time freelance coder, you’re operating a coding agency that other companies contract for projects. A fixed mindset could have meant that you code on your own for the rest of your career. A growth mindset has put you in a management position at a small but growing company. Performing a SWOT analysis can help set your mind on growth.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing
True growth is built out of visibility and effective networking. Even with the best coding chops around, you won’t have any business if people don’t know about your business. Starting out as a freelancer quickly teaches you that entrepreneurship requires much more than technical expertise. Ensure you put step on the gas when it comes to marketing and getting your brand out there.
Keep Track of Ideas
Many freelance businesses ultimately take completely different forms than originally intended. This is because life happens, and things constantly change. Hold onto your ideas. Even if something doesn’t seem viable now, chances are that your future self will thank you for keeping it stored until the right day comes.
Prioritize Working on the Soft Skills
The CEO of a company isn’t always the smartest in the room. But they are often the person with the best people skills and a superpower in effective communication. As your business grows, you’ll meet more people and have a responsibility in building strong client relationships. Relationships come from the soft skills, not the hard ones, so make sure you do your best to build your toolbox in the following areas:
- Active Listening
- Public Speaking/Presenting
There are many. Successful entrepreneurs are masters when it comes to soft skills. Check out Forbes’ list of the most important soft skills in business today.
Entrepreneurship in 2020
Anybody can start a business, from graphic designers to web designers to copywriters. What it ultimately comes down to is having a growth mindset and putting in the hours to make reachable and scalable goals that get you to the next level. Lots of money is nice. But build your goals around tangible metrics and implementable ideas before focusing on the dollar signs.
Though 2020 has been a difficult year, it hasn’t been all that bad for freelancing. Millions are turning to freelance work because of its viability and the sheer amount still available. Give it a try, and you might be well on your way to building a business as a successful entrepreneur.