Freelancer to a Full Business, a Bootstrapper’s Journey

Bootstrapping is when an entrepreneur builds a business, only using the profits from the sales the company makes. A freelancer is someone who gets paid when they do work. People pay freelancers for the value that they give. A business is a set of processes that work together to create revenue for the investors.[Concept from The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber] Usual in a small business context, the investor is the owner who has put all of the original money, blood, sweat, and tears into the business to get it going.

When you look at a freelancer and a small business person, it often seems like they are doing the same thing. As the E-Myth describes, the small business owner is in the role of the worker, which is the same role that the freelancer has. The business owner and the freelancer’s difference is that the business owner has the vision to create a repeatable process where someday, they will not also be the ‘technician.’

But in any business, the first work is that of freelancers: doing the work to get paid for it. Airbnb didn’t seek their first customers with the intent to make a billion-dollar company. The customers paid for their stay, and the company lived another day to serve more people. The Airbnb founders were freelancers who were renting out their apartments. Once the concept started to spread, and the Airbnb expanded beyond the founders – then the business was started. As you start your business, you will start as a freelancer who is doing things that don’t scale. At some point, you will decide whether you want to continue as a freelancer or are ready to design the repeatable processes that will turn your freelancing into a business.

Freelancer vs Process Structure in Projects

The same concept of a freelancer and ongoing processes can be applied within your project management role also. Sometimes you will be in projects where you are the only contributor. When this happens, you are the freelancer who is paid for your offering. As you gain more project experience, you will see that your value is creating the repeatable processes that help deliver the project. When you focus on the process, you turn into the leader and not simply the technician.