If you’re on my mailing list, you probably saw that I just announced a new podcast on which I’m a panelist. The title, not coincidentally to this post series, is “The Business of Freelancing.”
So what are you to make of me having a podcast that dispenses advice for freelancers and writing a blog post telling you not to take freelancing advice from freelancers? Do I need to channel Doc Holliday in Tombstone?
Apparently, my hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Well, no, I hope. I like to think that, after a bit of nuance, I’m right both times. But whether that’s true or not, I can at least stake a claim to logical consistency.
Freelancers and Business Owners
In the initial post I wrote for the series, I created a distinction between freelancers and business owners. The latter reasons about business profit, whereas the former does not.
In that same post, I also introduced this image, sketching two career paths, stating that “freelancer” is just an intermediate step along one of two roads.
Put succinctly, the freelancer either starts to reason about profit and grows a sustainable business or else they simply wind up an employee again. I overcame the “but I know a freelancer that’s been doing it for 15 years” objection by pointing out that “employee” doesn’t necessarily mean being someone else’s employee.
In another post in the series, I talked about the duality of the freelancer’s role as an “owner-operator.” The endless freelancer is (technically) both a shareholder and the only employee of a business that earns no profit.
But they in no way behave like the shareholder and owner, so that becomes an unoccupied, vestigial role. They focus, instead, on the technician aspects of their employee role — delivering website wireframes or code or whatever.
Think for a moment about what this means, if you look at their role from a career advancement perspective.
The freelancer is the sole employee of a business with disinterested, absentee ownership and no plans for profit. For any employee, career advancement depends entirely on one of two situations: business growth or changing jobs.
The indefinite freelancer can have neither possible outcome, so all that remains is perpetual employment in a dead-end business.