Is Freelancing Your Ticket To Entrepreneurship?

Skip Blankley writes about why freelancing can be a great experience to becoming an entrepreneur.

Skip Blankley
See Profile
August 25, 2021

Learn how freelancing can be a great start en route to becoming an entrepreneur.

There is a fine line between freelancing and entrepreneurship. Many get confused. For several years, I considered myself an entrepreneur even though by definition I was technically a freelancer. 

That said, there is nothing wrong with being a freelancer and not an entrepreneur! I would argue that being a freelancer is one of the best ways to become an entrepreneur. Starting a company solo is one of the best ways to get your entrepreneurial chops down before you start hiring, growing, and scaling a larger business. 

Freelance work can help you develop the discipline, mindset, business prowess, and skills required to make it as an entrepreneur. 

First things first. Let’s define a freelancer and an entrepreneur. Seth Godin did a great job: 

Freelancers get paid when they work. Freelancers can't scale because they are doing the work. Entrepreneurs make money when they sleep. Entrepreneurs build a business to sell. 

If you get paid for your work, you are a freelancer. If you build a machine that runs in your absence, you are an entrepreneur. In both cases, you own a business. The scope and scale differ. Or as Jay-Z says, "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man."

Now that we are on the same page about what it means to be a freelancer and an entrepreneur, let’s dig into how freelancing can be one of the best ways to become a successful entrepreneur. 

Develop A Resilient Mindset

If you decide to leave your 9-5 and set out to pay your bills using your talents and skills, you will quickly realize being good at what you do is not enough. When you begin the freelancer journey, you will be tested in ways you never thought possible. 

Freelancing requires an immense level of discipline. Not only are you accountable to your clients, you are accountable to yourself and your business. This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen many first-time freelancers and entrepreneurs struggle under the pressure and slip into depression just a few months in. They let the little things pile up to the point of exhaustion. I have been guilty of this as well, and it can be hard to shake. 

Developing a growth mindset is key. Continuing to improve yourself personally and professionally is a must if you are going to do it alone. Building resiliency is something that will make you a better freelancer, a better person, and will prepare you for entrepreneurship in a big way.

New Skills

When starting a business, you are going to learn a lot on the fly. You will need to learn skills you probably weren’t interested in before. Just a few examples are bookkeeping, legal work, sales and marketing, and branding. Learning all of these (...and so many more) are not optional when first getting started. You need to learn the basics of everything it takes to run a business until you can afford professional help. In some cases, it could take months of work to be able to fork over the cash and justify the added expense. Bootstrapping will be a skill you learn early on. 

When and if you move on to building a larger business, you will certainly not regret developing these skills. 

You will know how your business works under the hood whether you are a business of one, or employ hundreds. A working knowledge of finance, marketing, sales, operations and more will help you avoid many future headaches. 

Business Acumen

As you pursue your dream, you will develop a strong mindset, new skills, and business acumen that only experience can provide. You can learn a lot from school, business books, YouTube videos, and blogs, but until you get your hands dirty building a business yourself, you will have gaps in your knowledge. As a freelancer, you will develop business acumen that will translate very well into the world of entrepreneurship. It’s one of the best ways to develop your business instincts before the stakes get higher. As a business owner of a larger enterprise, the decisions you make have consequences for a lot more people. 

Based on personal experience and working with dozens of freelancers and entrepreneurs over the years, I think it makes sense to begin your journey of entrepreneurship as a freelancer. Not everyone that wants to build a business should start out as a freelancer. There are plenty of examples of people who jumped straight into the entrepreneurial fire and have made it work. But if you are considering entrepreneurship and have specific skills that you could use to do freelance work, it’s a great way to test the waters and develop entrepreneurial skills. 

Whether you are wanting to get started as a freelancer or ready to jump in as an entrepreneur, I encourage you to take the leap. You won’t regret it!

Both the School For Startups and School For Freelancers offer programs for both entrepreneurs and freelancers at all stages of their journey. Learn more from the links above. 

You might also enjoy...