A Freelance Business is not an Employer-Employee Setup

Get out of the employee mindset. You’re now a freelance business owner.

In 2010, I started dabbling in the world of online writing. Not long after, I became a full-time freelancer. It wasn’t a pretty start but I learned a lot. It was only in 2015 that I started shifting my mindset from that of an employee to a freelancer — and ultimately, an entrepreneur. Today, that’s the very first thing I tell people when they ask me about freelancing — to get out of the employee mindset.

As a freelancer, you are selling your services — writing, graphic design, virtual assistance, whatever service that is. You should know your services inside and out. You should also be the one pricing them — that’s how running a freelance business works.

The difference between employee and freelance mindset

In the office, where the employer-employee setup is most apparent, your boss is…well, your boss. They give you tasks and adjust them when needed. Oftentimes, they’ll tell you if you’re needed for overtime. And, without a doubt, they’ll check in every now and then to make sure your work gets done. In this dynamic, your boss decides when to recommend you for promotion too. You, as the employee, are expected to show up at the office every day, at your specific work hours, and do your job.

With a freelance business, many are still stuck with this employer-employee mindset. They see their clients as a boss — which is to say, their clients set the rates, set the work hours, and have the freedom to adjust the workload. It’s like taking the traditional office work setup and doing it at home full-time.

The freelance mindset is different. It’s where you understand that you are running a business and your services are what you sell. You lay out the services you want to offer, set your prices, and control your work hours. That’s right, since you’re the boss you need to set your own deadlines, schedule your calendar, line up your projects, and, overall, be accountable for yourself.

Importance of shifting to a freelance mindset

If you can take the traditional office work setup and do it at home, isn’t that a win already? Maybe… But that’s not a full picture of what freelancing is. If your goal is to become a freelancer, then a traditional work setup might make you feel lost and confused.

This is why shifting your mindset early on is super important. Your business depends on your mindset and perspective. If you still see yourself as an employee, you can’t really build a business. On the other hand, if you see yourself as an entrepreneur, you’ll be able to market your services better and build your personal brand.

Scaling also won’t seem so difficult anymore either. Of course, you must make that decision for yourself. If you’re ready to scale, then go for it. If you’re happy with where you are, that’s fine too. Unlike employees who work hard in the hopes of getting promoted, you don’t have to wait for a client in order to raise your rates. You don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval to go out there and expand your skills either.

Like most things in adulthood, having a freelance business comes with responsibilities. As someone running their business, you are in charge of everything, including the things you may not be interested in doing. These things could range from doing your taxes, preparing contracts, invoicing, and/or paying collaborators you hire for a project. These responsibilities may not be fun, but it’s also why having a freelance mindset matters —you know exactly what you’re responsible for.  Basically, your scope of responsibility goes beyond writing articles, building a website, translating documents, or producing videos for a client.

Financial gains of freelance business model

With so much responsibility, there must be rewards too, right? Yes! This mindset shift has solid financial gains too. This is another reason why I’m a big advocate for freelancing. When running a freelance business, you are the final deciding party when it comes to rates. There will be negotiations between you and a potential client, but that conversation starts with your defined rates.

If you’re not okay with how much your potential client wants to negotiate, you can leave the table. If you’re already working with a client and you want to increase your rates, you have the power to say so — in most cases, existing clients will see no issue because they respect your value. In the event a client relationship is no longer working out for whatever the reason, you can fire the client and move on for the betterment of both parties.

There is so much financial freedom in freelancing. You can charge whatever you want and match that rate with the quality of your work. And if you think you’re not worthy of being paid well, think again! As long as you know your target clients, how to market your services, and you’ve built a solid personal brand, you’ll find people willing to pay for what you offer.

We all have different reasons for wanting to dive into the freelance world. For some, it’s the freedom it provides. For others, it’s the diversity in work opportunities. It could also be for the money, or because you’re like me — don’t like working for someone else. Whatever your reason, success as a freelancer starts with having the right mindset.

Tammy Danan
Tammy Danan

Tammy Danan is a storyteller who reports on environmental and social issues. She also covers productivity, creative pursuits, and the future of work. Her words have appeared in VICE, Audubon.org, ZEKE Magazine, Shutterstock, Toggl, among others. You may find her on Instagram @SlowFreelancing.