I read plenty of blog and forum posts stating that translators, and freelancers in general, are entrepreneurs. Or need to think like entrepreneurs. Or act like entrepreneurs with their customers and competitors.
The truth is, I really don’t understand why. I guess this is just a more fashionable way to look at it. Maybe someone has embraced this perspective after the tenth time she’s been asked if being a freelancer means to have a real job, and I can understand that.
However, this isn’t true: we are NOT entrepreneurs! Seth Godin has already said it all:
A freelancer is someone who gets paid for her work. She charges by the hour or perhaps by the project. Freelancers write, design, consult, advise, do taxes and hang wallpaper. Freelancing is the single easiest way to start a new business.
Entrepreneurs use money (preferably someone else’s money) to build a business bigger than themselves. Entrepreneurs make money when they sleep. Entrepreneurs focus on growth and on scaling the systems that they build. The more, the better.
The goal of a freelancer is to have a steady job with no boss, to do great work, to gradually increase demand so that the hourly wage goes up and the quality of gigs goes up too.
The goal of the entrepreneur is to sell out for a lot of money, or to build a long-term profit machine that is steady, stable and not particularly risky to run.
The trap is simple: Sometime freelancers get entrepreneur envy and start hiring other freelancers to work for them. This doesn’t scale. Managing freelancers is different from being a freelancer. Managing freelancers and saving the best projects for yourself gets you into trouble. The cash flow gets you into trouble. Investors don’t want to invest in you because you can’t sell out if you’re a freelancer at heart.
– Seth Godin (source: here)
This is why I don’t outsource my projects and always handle them personally, even if that means that my client will have to wait for a week. This is why I don’t trust those who brag about their “network of highly qualified professionals blah blah”: I prefer to rely on my know how, my skills and my sectoral expertise only. This is why I don’t offer courses, Italian lessons, copywriting services and so on: I only do what I’m good at, and what I really like.
This, of course, doesn’t mean I don’t see my activity as a business: quite the opposite! I have a clear business plan (see, for example, here), a USP, a network of useful contacts and so on… and I even “steal” a few healthy habits of entrepreneurs, from time to time! 🙂