What is an Employee Freelancer?

What is an Employee Freelancer? Should you aim to be one…or not?

When you start out in business, you’re keen to get a client, to prove yourself and to make some money at this craft of yours. You’re likely not super particular about any of it – yet. 

This is where most of us begin. A client has a project that’s a fit with your skill set, you agree on a price and a delivery date and get to work. 

Great. You’re underway, being paid to practice your craft, the thing you’re good at and have decided to pursue as a business. You’re getting the experience that allows you to develop some discernment.

It won’t take many client projects for you to discover what you like doing, what you don’t and who you like (or don’t like) doing it for. It takes time and experience to figure these things out for yourself, and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. You’ll shape and re-shape your business over time. Try not to pressure yourself to make all the decisions right away. Approach it like an experiment, ask a lot of questions, gather information like it’s your job–because it is!

At this early level, you’re always competing on price (because you’re selling deliverables). No one is relying on your expertise or input – you’re not calling the creative shots. Your client orders from you like they order a sandwich at the deli – exactly the way they want it.

Later on you’ll discover what they want isn’t always the best solution for their problem – but in this role, at this level, you don’t have much say – you take what they say at face value. 

Your business isn’t always a lot of fun, because your client sees you as a very temporary employee – you don’t get a lot of respect. 

Staying at this level works if this is truly a side gig and you’re in it to hustle for a few extra bucks. If you’re looking for career level income, think of this level as where you start while you figure out where to position yourself. Everyone has to go through this stage. My goal is to get you through it with your eyes open, and your head clear. 

I call this level of serving clients The Employee Freelancer. You’re a cog; clients fit you into the spot they need to fill, when they need to fill it. It doesn’t provide you any kind of longevity or repeat business and the fees aren’t great. Turns out to be a trifecta of all the things you don’t want. 

And, as negative a picture as I’m painting, most of us start here – and it’s a fine place to be – at first.

Know this: if you find yourself fed up with the role I’m describing, you’re not stuck. It’s part of the journey. Learning what works for you is the huge value you gain from this early stage, so you can craft your business deliberately. Next week, I’ll share the next stage; The Business Owner and what you need to do to find yourself there. 

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