Before you start your business, consider this question “Are you a freelancer or an entrepreneur?” The answer to this question will help determines your vision and lays the crucial framework for decision making.
What is the difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur?
A freelancer sells her talents. While she may have a few employees, basically she’s doing a job without a boss, not running a business. There is no exit strategy. There is no huge pot of gold. Just the pleasure and satisfaction of making your own hours and being your own boss.
An entrepreneur is trying to build something bigger than herself. She takes calculated risks and focuses on growth. An entrepreneur is willing to receive little pay, work long hours, and take on great risk in exchange for the freedom to make something big, something that has real market value.
Atomic Media went through 2 founding partners in its first 2 years because we didn’t ask ourselves this crucial question. My first partner is a programmer and oh boy did he ever love to program. One time, we spent a couple of hours trying to figure out the algorithm to determine the pattern of the barcode of the Vancouver Public Library cards. My second partner is a designer and he absolutely LOVES to design. He worked for bigger companies such as Starbucks, Wal-mart, etc… He doesn’t want to do any thing but to do perfect pieces of art. As we progressed as a company, there was more and more fight about little operation details.
Every single time we fight, we always agree to step back and stay small so we can focus on quality. It was a huge mistake to keep staying small, we should have figured out….what is keeping us small? The truth was my partners love doing the work and they will work work work until the cows come home. They love it…they LOVE working on their craft. I, on the other hand after many nights of working alone in my room to program and design – I decided I want to go big. I wanted to have a multi-national firm reaching people from different continents and also be able to make money when I am sleeping or on vacation.
I wanted to grow, to hire and to step back from the daily operations. My partners couldn’t understand why…. They thought I was “corporate” and “greedy” but I wasn’t – I wanted freedom and I wanted to envision an entity bigger than what the three of us can do by ourselves. My mentor always said, “Minna, it is not failure you fear it is the success you fear because it is an unknown” and she was right. I didn’t want to challenge and speak out against staying small because I wouldn’t know what to do if we were successful, I was more comfortable in being mediocre and tucked away from any important decision making.
I don’t remember when but slowly the fights got to be too much and my first partner left us. We were Cerberus Studios and we re-branded to Atomic Media. After last partner left me, I kept the name Atomic Media and ran the company by myself for another 2 years. It was a tough two years because when my partners left, we still had obligations to our clients that we had to fulfill.
With my new partners for Atomic Media, we have a clearly defined vision that we all agreed on. It has been 6 years now since Atomic Media first started but the first 4 years were mostly about learning lessons. Only the last two years did we really grow and it was because we now have a clear definition of who we are and what Atomic Media needs to be.
Avoid the pain…. have that conversation with yourself now, “Am I an entreprenuer or a freelancer?”