Are you an Entrepreneur or a Freelancer?

Entrepreneur or Freelancer

Earlier this week, I had to take my wife to a clinic to get her an ultrasound scan. When we called up the diagnostic center, we were told that if we needed an appointment, we have to wait for at least a couple of months and if we wanted to get it done sooner, we can walk in on any day and wait there at the reception and they will sneak us in whenever they have a gap between their appointments.

Since we wanted to get the scan done sooner than later, we landed at the diagnostic center at 7:45 in the morning (when the center officially opens at 9:30AM), expecting us to be the first one’s to arrive. To our surprise, we found that not only were we not the 1st but we were the 26th in the que.

When I tried to find out the reason for this, I am told that the doctor who does the scan is considered to be the best in the city at what he does and hence, doctors from all over the city refer their patients to him whenever there is even a hint of complexity. Hence this hue and cry about the availability.

The doctor has set up a great team and good processes to take care of the patients that come to see him everyday, without appointment and runs an immensely successful diagnostic center.

Now the question is as follows:

Is he an entrepreneur or a freelancer?

Some might say, that he is an entrepreneur as he set up his business and is immensely successful. However, I think that he is still a freelancer and not an entrepreneur yet.

This is primarily due to the following reasons:

  1. It is his reputation that drives doctors to send their patients to the diagnostic center. What happens if he wants to take a month long vacation or for some reason is no longer able to complete the scan?
  2. Can his business grow at an exponential pace? All he does is charge money for his time. So, there are practical limitations to how much he can grow.

Are you in a similar situation? Do you think a hundred times before wanting to take a couple of weeks off from your business or are stuck to the business even when you are not there? If your answer was yes to both the questions, you are not an entrepreneur yet. You are still a freelancer.

Not that one is better than the other, but it is clear to know and understand what you really are. It gives you a good perspective and understanding of what you can expect from your  business.

Now, if this doctor wanted to shift from being a freelancer to an entrepreneur, he could consider doing the following:

  1. Identify, recruit and train doctors to his level of proficiency.
  2. Build a brand around his business (or diagnostic center) and actively try to fade his personal brand.
  3. Put in place processes including checks and balances to ensure highest quality output from his team.
  4. Repeat.

What this effectively means, is that instead of working in his business, he should start working on his business (as Eric Ries said so well in his book – The Lean Startup).

What advice would you give to the doctor if he wants to move away from being a freelancer?

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