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Where you’ve staked out ground in the solopreneur vs freelancer issue will have an immense bearing on your long-term level of success.
There are a lot of freelancers who mistakenly believe they are solopreneurs, or solo entrepreneurs. After all, they are working for themselves (kinda, sorta) and in some senses of the word, they have their own “business.”
But freelancers who make this mistake are missing out on the important parts of being a solopreneur and this is not just some minor error of categorization – it’s a huge error that leads to financial misfortune.
I’m going to do something that I usually hate when I see other people do it: I’m going to examine the words themselves. However, I’m going to do it in a different way. My blood pressure goes up when someone writes something like, “According to Webster’s dictionary, a widget is a blah blah blah.” It’s the oldest and cheapest essay trick in the world and one I saw often when I was teaching some middle school classes. However, the origins of the words we’re looking at here – solopreneur and freelancer – are really very informative.
Solopreneur vs freelancer etymology
Freelancer is a combination of free and lance and it has its origins in the word for a medieval mercenary. It was a guy who owned his own lance and was free to hire out to anyone who needed a fighting man.
Solopreneur is, of course, a modern adaptation of “entrepreneur” and back in the early 19th century entrepreneur denoted the “director of a musical institution.”
Therefore, with a freelancer, we have a person who sells his fighting skills on a temporary basis to whomever he pleases. His loyalty can be rented.
With an entrepreneur, we have a person who directs the various elements of a musical institution, with the hopes of creating a beautiful sound whose value is far greater than the sum of its individual pieces.
The free lance mercenary could never earn anything more than he could demand for his days, weeks, and months as a member of some nobleman’s fighting force. And, this is exactly the position of the freelance writer, designer, business coach, or any other profession that lends itself to freelancing.
Making great music
The solopreneur, on the other hand, can “orchestrate” a far greater composition by bringing a wide variety of commercial elements into harmony within his or her life. In other words, the solopreneur is the orchestra conductor while the (best) freelancer is the principal violinist. Of course, in reality, most freelancers are average members of the string, woodwind, brass, or percussion section.
I was a freelancer for several years. The distinction and importance of the solopreneur vs freelancer really started to come into focus in the last year or so, even though I have written a lot on many of the important topics and also have an element of my personal life that was crying out for an “entrepreneurial attitude.”
Let me quickly address that last remark. My wife and I have owned residential rental real estate for many years. However, I let it sit for a long time without considering how I could grow it. Some recent concerns forced me to see that I needed to put it on a course that would maximize its value to us.
Now I have researched rental markets and methods of analyzing real estate investments. I’m selling properties in one area and purchasing properties in another area.
Have you let investments slide?
While you may be criticizing me for allowing an asset be underproductive, I bet many of you do the same thing. Do you have a savings account, 401K, or brokerage account that you have essentially ignored for an extended period of time?
Passive income is great, but it’s far less great when its value isn’t maximized.
In addition, I recently brought on my first virtual assistant. My initial motivation was to merely offload some routine work I do for people that eats up some of my day. With a VA on board, the time I save could go to higher dollar work.
However, I soon realized that not only can my VA do these tasks, my VA can help me with some fairly big projects I’ve wanted to do –some of which I’ve already started, but lack the time to push them through to completion.
Today, I see myself as a solo entrepreneur taking on the role of an orchestra conductor. I’m trying to develop the talents of each section of the orchestra and finding how they sound best when playing together.
Above I said that when we develop our roles as solopreneurs, or solo entrepreneurs, in this manner, the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. We see this in the way the VA liberated me. Also, as new rental investments provide more capital, it will free up time and create more opportunities.
But there is another major element in how the new “whole” is greater than the sum of the individual pieces: When you pursue a wider range of elements in your solopreneur “portfolio,” you create diversification. This gives you the ability to maintain your strength when one element of your entrepreneurial efforts begins to go down or just never does very well.
Those of you who are going down the single freelance road probably know what this is like. For example, if you have one or two major clients, when one of them decides not to use your services, you’re stuck with a major void in your income stream.
It’s only through a diversified approach to solo entrepreneurship that you can avoid this kind of dip.
Have you branched out beyond merely selling your time? Your time is very limited and even if you charge a good rate as a freelancer, there is always a ceiling on your ability to earn. But, if you work hard at being a solopreneur, you can bust through that ceiling and get into an area of unlimited potential.