Earning income directly from one’s own business, trade, or profession rather than as a specified salary or wages from an employer. ~ Merriam Webster
Legally speaking, when you’re self-employed, your clients have a say in the final results of your services/products, but not how you work/produce.
In other words: you’re your own boss.
No one controls you. You’re an independent contractor and proud of it. If you’ve ever filled out a 1099 at tax time, this is most likely the box you checked to describe how you came about your yearly earnings. This is the term the government prefers to use when talking about a single worker with no on-going employer.
Unfortunately, the “self-employed” label is often looked upon as a euphemism for unemployed. Let’s face it: employment rates aren’t what they used to be. This has made people more than a little skeptical about any labels outside of the typical 9-to-5 careers.
When you go to apply for a credit card, rent an apartment, or buy your next car, you’re likely to be met with some cynicism when you announce that you’re self-employed. At best, you’ll be asked to fill out extra paperwork; at worst, you’ll be turned away for being too “high risk.”
I Am a Freelancer
A person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization. [This person] pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer. ~ Merriam Webster
This is the big one. Whether they chose the life or stumbled into it, more and more people are becoming freelancers. Data from the most recent U.S. census shows experts predicting “that freelance businesses will grow by 1.5 million in 2014” with no signs of slowing down.
For better or worse, “freelancer” is the most well-known (and oldest) label for independent workers of the three terms we’re looking at today.
Freelancers typically work from home, for more than one client at a time, and have a flexible self-enforced work schedule. Designers and writers are the most likely to call themselves freelancers; however, anyone with a marketable skill who works for themselves can fall into this category.
But there’s a disheartening misconception in some circles that freelancers workforfree.
And, while we know that freelancers are some of the hardest-working individuals around, James Chartrand has stated that “Many others perceive freelancers to be rebels, risky, lazy, overly proud and a touch snotty.” She goes on to say that because of these negative connotations, “Many businesses, despite the benefits of hiring freelancers, have a no-hire policy in place.”
Another writer noted that “freelancers have a reputation of being amateurs.” Ouch.
I Am a Solopreneur
An entrepreneur who works alone, “solo,” running their business single-handedly. They might have contractors for hire, yet have full responsibility for the running of their business. ~ Urban Dictionary
The term solopreneur is fairly new — so new there isn’t a traditionally published dictionary definition for it — but its meaning is almost intuitively simple: an entrepreneur who goes it alone.
These individuals are typically small business owners, business consultants, or other highly business-minded people such as virtual assistants, copywriters, and online developers. They’re either entrepreneurs in the traditional sense — creating something from nothing — or they use the label as a way to stand out from the crowd.
Solopreneurs have got entrepreneurial spirit in spades and it seems to be working in their favor.
Recent studies have shown that solopreneurs are exceptionally skilled at marketing and delegating. They’re also happier and earn higher wages than their “freelance” or “self-employed” counterparts.
While solopreneurs do tend to gain confidence from their entrepreneurial mindset — and, therefore, increased benefits — the label isn’t “intuitive” to everyone. More traditionally-minded clients may give you a raised eyebrow and a “What did you say?” when you tell them your employment status.
The solopreneur label is new and relatively unheard of outside of, well, the people who are solopreneurs.
As a budding solo professional, you may find yourself facing a lack of respect among old-school clients.