What Is The Difference Between A Freelancer And An Independent Contractor?

We like to talk about issues that are relevant to our community of creative professionals. One of the issues that come up in our dealings with this community is the question of what to call creatives who are technically self-employed, focused on their craft to benefit companies directly or indirectly through their agencies like Creative Allies.


The Freelancer

For many years, the term freelancer has grown in stature, especially in the creative field. It’s meant to convey freedom from full employment, that you can make a living on your own, flying solo among clients or agencies who need your creative services, whether you’re a web designer, illustrator, copywriter or another creative professional. From some of our recent conversations with freelancers in our own community, we’re finding that many independent creatives are now shunning the term. They feel that in this time of near full employment, there’s a stigma attached to the term. They think that many companies or agencies may underestimate their talents and thus not hire nor want to pay their rates if they do.


The Consultant

Some have fallen back on the term “consultant.” While this moniker certainly has some prestige in the corporate world, it can often be a misnomer for creatives. Many consultants, but certainly not all, work in the field of management consulting, where they assess a company’s situation from some combination of sales, marketing, operations, and other factors, and then prescribe solutions to challenges they identify. You can see that these most well-known consultants, who tell executives what to do but don’t actually perform the tasks necessary to execute the strategies they prescribe, don’t really resonate with creatives who are the very definition of implementing strategies.


The Entrepreneur

So what are we left with, if freelancer and consultant don’t really fit? We’d offer that the term “entrepreneur” would actually be the best option. First, you’re self-employed, whether you intended or not when you first pushed your boat out as a freelancer. Second, many of you have gone to the trouble–and still many more of you should–to set up a business entity like an LLC, which will optimize you legally and from a tax perspective, while giving you room to grow at some point due to client demand.


A Creative Business Name

Third, there’s a psychological aspect to what you call yourself, which may be the actual root of this question anyway. Calling yourself an entrepreneur or some variation like “creative entrepreneur” may not only change how your prospects and clients think of you but also what you think for yourself. When you think of your work as being in business for yourself rather than just writing or just designing, you’re likely to have more confidence when you talk about what you do with others. People are attracted to that confidence, especially when it’s well-placed in someone with talent. While some of you reading this may think this is a non-issue, how we communicate who we are and what we do is of real value. In fact, it’s how we establish and build on our value proposition, which of course grows and thrives from the actual great work we do as creative professionals. 

Find What Works

The real answer is for you to find a term that works for you. If you can use freelancer with confidence, do it. If you like to call yourself a consultant, and that wins business for you, keep doing it. And if you like the idea that you’ve started something special, on your own, as an entrepreneur, embrace that and prosper. Just know that you have value as long as you do great work and devote some strategic thinking to your personal brand along the way.

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