Are You a Freelancer or a Business Owner?

The term freelancer is thrown around a lot in the design industry but are you really a freelancer or are you a business owner?

Let's get technical for a minute. I recently came across a YouTube video from The Futur, that totally changed the way I thought about my business. The term freelancer is thrown around all the time. Everyone who goes out and obtains clients on a project by project basis will consider themselves freelancers.

"If I am not a freelancer then what am I?" Great question, I am happy you asked. 


A person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer. Keyword employer. Think of freelancing as a temporary job. Are you picking up on the keywords yet? A freelancer seeks employment from different employers. This could be an agency booking you for one project or a small business in need of someone to come in to create a few campaigns.

As a freelancer, you are not looking for clients rather, temporary employment. If you are out trying to find new clients, you are not a freelancer.

Freelancing Pros

Do not have to worry about clients – Finding clients can be stressful. Taking the freelance route, you walk right into the project. You also do not have to keep up with the communication with the client. Walk in design and leave.

Can work remotely (sometimes) - Some employer will give the option of working remotely which will open up the opportunity to work for many different companies not just locally.

Work for different companies – The FREEdom (see what I did there) of working for whoever you want. This is a great way to learn both the business side and working as a creative employee. You can soak up as much information as you can then move on to start your own business or seek out full-time employment.

Set your own rate – You tell them how much you are worth. Companies will find someone with the skill set that fits into their budget, but there is no one telling you this is how much you get paid.

Freelancing Cons

Lack of security – Going from job to job is a risky way to live. You do not have a place you know you can get up and go to every day to make a living. Contracts end and things sometimes do not work out between the company and freelancer.

Inconsistent cash flow – Your income can go up and down depending on how many jobs you have lined up. This month could be a great month for you then next month your income could take a dip.

No benefits – Health insurance and a retirement program is something that everyone inquiries about when taking a job. This is something that unfortunately unavailable through freelancing unless you seek benefits out on your own which is another conversation.

Constantly looking for new opportunities – In order to counter the cash flow issue, you have to constantly look for an opportunity until you are booked enough for your survival.

Places to promote your freelance portfolio:

Behance - One of the front runners for portfolio websites. If you have to choose one site, go with Behance. The database is huge and where creatives find work or others to collaborate with.

Dribbble - The whos who of online portfolios. Anyone can sign-up to Dribbble but to post work, you have to be drafted.

Instagram - If you are looking to get hired as a designer, Instagram is a great place for you to hang out.

Logo Inspirations Instagram feed

Coroflot - Similar to Behance Coroflot allows you to post your work in a portfolio and post design jobs for you to browse.

Related Post: How to Build a Portfolio Without Clients

Business Owner

Individual or entity who owns a business entity in an attempt to profit from the successful operations of the company.
A lot of individuals identifying themselves as freelancers are often business owners. Unlike freelancers, business owners work directly with clients. They have to advertise, conduct client acquisition, and stay on top of the financials of the inquiries.

There are different business structures you can choose. I am no lawyer so I will let give you a summary.

Sole Proprietorship

The simplest structure is the sole proprietorship, which usually involves just one individual who owns and operates the enterprise. If you intend to work alone, this structure may be the way to go.

If your business will be owned and operated by several individuals, you'll want to take a look at structuring your business as a partnership. Partnerships come in two varieties: general partnerships and limited partnerships. In a general partnership, the partners manage the company and assume responsibility for the partnership's debts and other obligations.

The corporate structure is more complex and expensive than most other business structures. A corporation is an independent legal entity, separate from its owners, and as such, it requires complying with more regulations and tax requirements.

Limited Liability Company
LLCs were created to provide business owners with the liability protection that corporations enjoy without the double taxation. Earnings and losses pass through to the owners and are included on their personal tax returns.


Business Owner Pros

Create your own schedule – You can get up whenever you want. If you want to make your birthday a holiday, go for it! Set your own hours to what best suits you.

More control – You do not have to worry about losing your job without warning or being passed up for the position you deserve. Go ahead and give yourself a promotion now.

Creative freedom – There is no box you have to stay in creatively. You set the style and the types of projects the company takes on.

Option to be selective – This plays off of creative freedom. You do not have to work on any project unless you want to. This month you want to only work on websites, that’s completely fine. You set the rules.

Related Post: How to Start a Solo Graphic Design Business

Business Owner Cons

High risk – Owning a business is risky business. (see what I did there) More than 50% of businesses fail within the first 5 years. Scary numbers!

More overhead cost – With owning a business you rack up a number of expenses. Production, marketing or even rent and employee salaries. The expenses column can begin to add up.

Long hours – In order to get to the point where you can take any day off, you may have to put in long hours to get the business up and running. At the beginning, it is all you, hustle, and drive.

Trust others with important info – If you try to do everything yourself you will fail. On the other end, it is tough to get to the point where you trust people with your business. In order to continue to grow, you have to bring others in to help out which can be daunting.

Managing employees – Payroll, vacation, sick days, hiring yep that’s all on you at the beginning. Until you have a manager, these tasks are all yours. Even with a manager, it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly and everyone gets paid.

Acquiring clients – No clients, no money. It's that simple. You have to get up and get clients rolling into your business.

Are you a Freelancer or a Business Owner?

Now that we have sort through the definitions, Which do you identify yourself as? No matter which avenue you choose it is important to create a plan to develop a successful career.

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