Entrepreneur, Freelancer, or Wantrepreneur: Which One Are You?

I've been thinking a lot lately about entrepreneurship. I see so many entrepreneurship-oriented social media profiles, sub-reddits and posters in those reddits, and websites.

The thing is, the vast majority of them are selling entrepreneurship because it's become the "in" thing to do, but they're claiming that the business of selling entrepreneurship is what makes them an entrepreneur.

Do a search on Instagram for the hashtags "#entrepreneur" or "#entrepreneurship" and see what you come up with.

Most of them are profiles that have no connection to a real, successful business. They're filled with "inspirational" quotes attributed to successful entrepreneurs that probably never said whatever it is they're being associated with.

Even a search for "entrepreneurship" in a stock photo engine returns multiple images of someone on stage speaking to a crowd as the first results!

Entrepreneurship subreddits are filled with "wantrepreneurs" (I believe I'm stealing this term from Mark Cuban or one of the other Shark Tank crew) that follow them only to criticize real entrepreneurs that might try to use the space to grow their businesses or their brands. Instead, they help promote "get rich quick" or "side hustle" content that they'll never follow or, even if they did, will never help them build a real business.

Gary Vaynerchuk has built a massive brand and agency based on selling entrepreneurship to people that will never build a business. A large amount of the content he produces on a daily basis these days is dedicated to telling people to stop following him and listening to him and actually go out and do something ... and those are the posts that probably get the most amount of attention from his followers! (If you can't see the irony in this, it's why you've failed to build that business you keep talking about or thinking about.)


The other category of self-titled "entrepreneurs" are the freelancers.

Let me start by saying there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a freelancer. You can have a lot of freedom all while making a good living if you're able to do this well.

But the hardest part about being an entrepreneur and building a business is going from one to two employees. (Peter Thiel wrote a great book called Zero to One that discusses a similar principle.)

Freelancers struggle to get over this hurdle because they're stuck charging for their time. It's very hard to bring on an employee when you're only bringing in enough revenue to pay your own salary.

Then, even if you can go without a paycheck for a time while you pay your new employee, you start to realize the amount of overhead involved in having an employee: The amount of time it takes to interview and hire someone, managing them on a daily basis, acquiring new clients, managing all of those new clients, handling overflow when that employee is sick or goes on vacation, doing payroll, dealing with health or other benefits you need to provide to compete for talent, overseeing someone else's work, training, handling turnover and doing all of that over again, buying equipment for a second employee, increase in rent so they have a place to work ... and the list goes on.

Most freelancers make the mistake of thinking hiring a second person means they can double the size of their business. The reality is that a 1.5x increase in productivity would be a lot. When they realize they're doing more work and making significantly less money, they ditch the band and downsize back to solo artists.

Being an entrepreneur is mostly about finding a product or service you can sell at a rate high enough to make profits well beyond what you earn for your time, building a model that allows it to scale, and then being able to actually scale it and manage that growth.

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