Who Are You: Consultant, Freelancer or Entrepreneur?

As small business owners, one of our biggest strengths, especially when building teams, can be the ability to be clear.  People can’t serve you if they don’t know what you want from them.  Clarity is an ally and can seriously improve professional relationships.

Of course, the first conversation that we have begins within. You can’t build a successful team on a pile of confusion–it will always fall apart at some point. Here are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. Who are you, professionally?
  2. What do you want?
  3. How are you willing to adapt to get it?

question face

1. Who Are You Professionally?

In “Freelancer, Consultant, Entrepreneur: Which Are You?,” Susan Reid breaks down these three words that many small business owners toss around. Are you a freelancer delivering a specific set of services or a consultant providing expert advice? Or are you an entrepreneur creating a business that could be sold one day, if you chose to?

In this article Susan says, “Entrepreneurs sell their businesses.” Of course, there are many owners who will not sell their companies, but her key point is that entrepreneurs create sustainable organizations that “can survive after they (the owners) are gone.” If you have never thought about this before, her article is a great conversation starter.

Entrepreneurship also puts me in the mind of family legacy. If you intend for your company to grow and stay in the family, you may need to choose the entrepreneur’s method instead of the way of the consultant or freelancer.  In order to pass something on, there must a workable and duplicatable  system that supports the company. Nobody wants to inherit a mess.

So, who are you? Well, it’s your question to answer, but it’s not the only one on the table.

2. What Do You Want?

What is the role that you want your company to play in your life? Businesses solve problems for others, but what kind of problem are you expecting your company to solve for you? Yes, the day-to-day is about your clients, but when you created this company you wanted something too. What do you want? Autonomy? Freedom? Respect? And how do you define those things?  When you know what you want, then you work to create the kind of company that takes care of you and your clients, seamlessly—no matter how much effort it requires at first.

John Mariotti, in “Talent Is Important, But Winning Is the Goal,” shares the lessons that he learned from “successive years teaching Little League” and applies them to business.  John says you can win with less talent, “but it requires a much more carefully crafted strategy.” That strategy includes “using the talent you have in the best ways, constant attention to good execution, and lots of hard work and hustle.”

Building a company that truly meets your desires–and those of your clients–will require the same kind of hustle and strategy.

3. How Will You Adapt to Get What You Want?

Small businesses have the advantage of size. We can move and adjust quickly. We can sometimes redirect ourselves in days or hours, while larger companies take weeks or months to change. But our weakness lies in the fact that we don’t always document and structure these changes so that they become a part of our small business system.

The moment you know what you want out of your business,strategy requires you to come up with a way to make it happen. In “Is It Time to Restructure Your Small Business?,” Anita Campbell says, “Companies make small changes here, tiny tweaks there… never (or rarely) giving a thought to the big picture.  Over time, however, those umpteen little changes start to affect the overall structure—and, in most cases, weaken the company. ”

If you are ready to make the adjustment, then look at the nine steps Anita provides for evaluating and restructuring your company.  And get busy, because this type of work is easy to ignore on the front end and painful (if unaddressed) on the backend.


Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

15 Reactions
  1. Stephen Eugene Adams

    Jamillah, great analysis. Even entrepreneurs have a tendanciy of not building their business to sell. They make themselves indespensible to the operations and then can’t figure out wht their business won’t sell at a great price.

  2. I am not to fond of putting a definition on entrepreneur. Entrepreneur does not mean necessarily that you are going to sell your company. In my mind an entrepreneur is someone who sees and opportunity to have a niche and builds something in that niche.

  3. Stephen Eugene Adams

    You don’t neccessarily need to have the desire to sell the company. You just need to build something that is sellable. If it is not sellable, it is just a job and it will die when you do.

  4. Hi Jamillah,

    All the 3 questions raised in this post are extremely important for any business to move in the right direction. Understanding your primary role is necessary for the company to survive, it’s only after you know what you want out of your company is that you can make plans and strategies to achieve those goals. Thanks for sharing!

    Riya Sam
    Training for Entrepreneurs.com

  5. Hi Jamillah,

    Thanks for your insight. I am in the process of re-branding and struggling to define my goals and skill set to appeal to a broader audience. Your article helped to point me in the right direction, and I particularly appreciate your sources and additional information.


  6. Good questions. Most people do tend to lump these terms together and, as you rightly point out, they are different. This kind of self-evaluation needs to be done regularly, not just when you start out or every five years. As you say, little tweaks make a difference. By stepping back to take a look at your business annually, you may see where you’re veering off course or a new course that might be better.

  7. Carolynne Mather

    Jamillah, I agree with you and needed to read this information at such a critical time in my business. After almost 30 years of being in business I need to rebuild or grow my business. I own a preschool and have been depending on government funding and programs and now that they are being cut parents being laid off and am wondering is it time for me to change careers or how do I go about building in such a difficult time.

  8. Either way is the same result – you are still in business to provide a service. I am with Ed, not everyone is out to sell their business (at least in the spirit of an acquisition).

    Yet – it will be important to understand HOW you want your business to look in a few years. Do you want to be working away at your personal skill, or do you want to be providing the services through others. Sometimes it is hard to see where it is leading though.

  9. Jamillah Warner

    I agree Dale, ultimately we are in business “to provide a service.”

    Even if you are not going to sell a business, I like the point that Stephen made “You just need to build something that is sellable. If it is not sellable, it is just a job and it will die when you do.”
    Carolynne and Sirron, I understand that process and glad to help in some way. I thought it was a scary and exciting place to be in and the perfect time to figure out what you really want.

  10. Hello Jamillah,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your articles guides me to a question I´ve read an article about a few days ago. As a Freelancer you have to face the question to whom you are going to sell your service – is your target group “small companies” or is your target group the fortune 500. When you decide serving as a freelancer my advice is to keep to the fortune 500, due to the bigger chances for longterm contracts.

    In a bigger company the chances for new projects are much bigger, than in smaller ones. When you build a website for a small company in your town, chances are not good, that this company will buy a second website 6 months later. In a fortune 500 company chances are good, that another website/microsite/web-application has to be built.


    Andreas, Germany

  11. Hi @IT Freelancer. Your decision changes your strategy and as you point out, it changes your reward. But the “freelancer” will have to be passionate about that choice and skilled in navigating the corporate environment. Those are interesting points. Thanks IT Freelancer

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