Business 101: Are You A Freelancer Or A Consultant?

November 8, 2015

When it comes to your small business, are you a freelancer or a consultant?

This discussion has come up many times lately within my digital circle, and I think it’s worth outlining and understanding.

I feel it’s important to be conscious of:

  • The difference between a freelancer and a consultant
  • How/if “freelance work” and “consulting work” are interchangeable
  • How/when to label yourself as something different altogether

B Squared Media has gone through some serious growing pains in 2015, so this post will help clarify some things for freelancers, consultants and small business owners.


Let’s start with defining each role: Freelancer, Consultant, & Entrepreneur

What Is A Freelancer?

When I first started B Squared Media, I didn’t have a company name, DBA, or any “real” business set up.

I was moonlighting — testing the waters for doing my own thing while I was employed full-time by another company.

A lot of business owners get their start this way as it makes taking the leap a little easier.

Business Dictionary defines freelance as:

“Working a contract basis for a number of companies … freelancers are often considered to be self-employed … without being tied to any one company in particular.”

Essentially you’re selling your work, or deliverables, as a time share, available by the hour, day, or project.

Did you catch the word deliverables?

Freelancers are hired to deliver something to the client. They often have a defined set of tasks to complete.

Take writers for instance. Writers are often working as freelancers and their deliverable is the copy — whether an ad, story, blog post, or press release.

These freelancers, or writers, probably work for several clients during the course of the year, and are paid as a 1099.

But isn’t this basically what a consultant does?

Let’s discuss …

What Is A Consultant?

For the most part, there isn’t much different between a consultant and a freelancer.

Consultants often have many clients they work for and are paid as a 1099 as well.

While freelancers have a set of specific tasks and deliverables, a consultant is more often hired to create processes, a strategy, or even coming up with the specific tasks that require deliverables.

Consultants are usually responsible for things like:

  • Strategy
  • Project management
  • Insight & forecasting
  • Research

With my own business, I eventually started helping with digital strategies and needed help — from a freelancer — to do the actual day-to-day tasks that supported the social strategy I created.

My job was to be both a consultant and a freelancer, but as my workload and client roster grew I needed to divide the work between strategic thinking and “must do” tasks.

Of course by this time I had gotten a DBA and started my own company, which leads me to my third label.

Do you have to be a freelancer OR a consultant? Or is there a label more fitting?

Brooke Ballard B Squared Media

I’m An Entrepreneur — Here’s Why

Whether you’re a freelancer or a consultant, you are selling your time as an individual to other individuals or businesses.

As an entrepreneur, I sell my business services to other businesses.

There are many traits that make me what I am and the “Double B behind B Squared Media.”

Sometimes I act as a freelancer, especially when people or companies hire me to write, and most of the time I act as a consultant and build processes and plans around a brand’s digital presence.

I also employ freelancers and consultants who help me complete specific tasks, or in the case of our ads specialist, devise strategies around online advertising.

When it comes to hiring my brain and experience, you can rent me. I’m not for sale, but I do still partner with some larger consultants or agencies as a consultant (like Mark Schaefer and our work together on The Content Code!).

I guess I’m all three, but overall I feel “entrepreneur” fits me and my work/business the best.

Blurred Lines

While a freelancer could be seen as an hourly employee, a consultant and entrepreneur could be seen as working for oneself.

However, a consultant is often a 1099.

You see where things get blurry and confusing.

This is probably a topic ripe for discussion and disruption considering 34% of the U.S. workforce consider themselves to be freelancers.

What do you think?

Are you a freelancer or a consultant? Or are you an entrepreneur? And what parameters help you define each? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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