Updated: Oct 14
This week we have interviewed Olivia, a freelancer, independent contractor, and independent consultant from Luxembourg. Yes, there’s a difference between these terms. She’ll tell us more.
We have discussed clients, opportunities, flexibility, and agility as a work model; why an independent contractor always has to keep learning , skill up, but also relax and take vacations.
The First Projects. Freelancer vs Independent Contractor
Olivia, we’ll start with a fun, easy one. When have you realized that you are a freelancer? Was it such a moment that you said: “Oh I’m a freelancer”?
I wouldn’t say there was a certain point I realized that I was meant to be a freelancer because “freelancer” means flexibility. So when you are only looking for flexibility, of course, you’d want to become a freelancer.
If you’re not looking at that as a top priority, and actually what you’re looking for is to do something by yourself, engage with the clients you want, and take a certain level of control of your life, that’s when you want to start to do... I wouldn’t say freelancing...
I would rather call myself an independent contractor.
Actually, when I am pitching to my clients I always am an independent consultant.
Consulting projects are different every day. When you’re working in a huge company, you’re just a little piece in the big machine. You only get to do what is assigned to you. Me, I like to talk to clients myself, and I like to engage, understand their needs first-hand. I think it was a moment when I thought “well, why can’t I just be independent?” and work for myself, so, that’s what happened by the end of last year.
So what’s the difference between a freelancer and an independent contractor?
First of all, there’s the subjective impression from your own heart, about how you want to define yourself, right?
But for me, the independent contractor is more about the sustained marathon, not the fast sprints. You sign a contract, some sort of a work contract. Work contracts can sometimes be for short, definite time, or long-term, indefinite time. So you commit your energy, and time in the long run, and you have to be prepared for that.
Yes, you are free to choose your own projects, because you’re independent, but once you've chosen your project, you’re committing. It’s a fine line, but that’s how I feel.
Future Regulations and Laws about Working from Home?!
On the “freelance market” as an international scene, do you feel there is a lack of regulations and laws to decide on the relationship between a contractor and employer in the same way you have the relationship between an employee and an employer regulated?
I see something they should be having, and also something they should not be having. Yes, I see something like a security net or some social benefits or perks that the government should help with.
But something that should not be in the freelancer’s work mode is the “you cannot fire me” protection.
Well, if you don’t want to get fired that’s easy, you should not work as a freelancer, because here it’s a more competitive world, and you always have to prove your ability, right? That’s the nature of freelancing and you cannot change that.
Do you think that with more people working from home because of the pandemic, we can see a rise in the number of freelancers, independent contractors on the market?
I think it applies to some people, especially those people who have families. When they figure that working at home can be good, they can take care of their family, as well as working, they might discover that this is the best choice for them, and might never want to get back to the 9-to-5 life.
Social Security as a Freelancer
Do you see yourself retiring as an independent contractor and securing a nice safe retirement?
I don’t see myself working on an hourly basis forever.
There are also some times when you get paid based on your results. Say you accomplish one certain task and you get paid. So I think I’m categorizing my time management into two different kinds of tasks. One is to do this hour's job, to secure a stable revenue stream for me, and the second – I want to challenge myself to do something that is more goal-oriented like say I’m doing fund-raising for clients and I’m not charging anything unless I get the funds for them.
The risk is higher, but it’s also more challenging, and exciting.
So, are you thinking of yourself as a business, as a one-person business?
I consider myself a business, and I’m always thinking about how to scale up. Even though you’re independent, you also have to be resourceful. How to find allies, how to find the people that can complement your skills... these are always on my mind.
Do you want to talk about your latest vacation?
It was only one week in Austria...
I had to work now and again because of my many commitments... This is how I have vacation , a lot of distractions.
Do you think you could have done better? Tell them you’re not available? Or you really wanted not to miss anything?
This is interesting, I think it was something I wanted to do because I knew that if I was falling behind, I would miss a lot of what was happening on a project/organisation.
I think this happens if you’re used to always seeing the bigger picture and be part of the strategy-making process. However, I was aware there were some things on which I could have say:” Why won’t you wait for me? It’s not the end of the world”. Yes, maybe I could have done better.
The Relationship between a Freelancer and a Client Should Be...
Referring to your clients, do you feel they’re your colleagues or bosses?
It depends. When you get engaged with different types of clients, you start to appreciate the different personalities.
My desired client has to be professional and know what she’s doing, but also admit there’s something she cannot do and that’s why she’s hiring a consultant to help.
So if you’re hiring people and think you know everything better than them, then that’s the worst.
Are you a team-kind of person? How do you feel about belonging to a team of freelancers?
I am a collaborator when I’m in a team setting, but I’m also a lone wolf. I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage or disadvantage. This is how I was shaped.
At the very beginning of my career, I was sent to Africa to do business development, so for some time I have been on my own and I learned it is very time-consuming to ask for answers from the headquarters. So, sometimes you have to know how to make quick decisions and how to work on yourself with limited information.
I'm asking you to change roles and imagine if you were one of your clients and you were working with you. How would you see yourself from the client’s perspective?
I have a client working as a service new venture. He's very knowledgeable in software development, but he has never done the commercial part in his life, so for him, I am someone who tells him things like “No, you’re wrong”.
This is my style, I tell you you’re wrong.
I consider a lot of projects as a learning opportunities, as well. I’m doing your project, but I’m also learning a lot because there’s never the same project. So, I need to communicate with the client and need to even learn from them if they can spare some of their time because this is how I can deliver better results.
If you’re not open to me, you have a lot of information you are hiding from your side, then the result is not going to be satisfying.
Here Comes the Pandemic...
And the last one, how has the pandemic influenced your work?
I have started independent work by the end of last year, so I wouldn’t say there’s a huge disruption for me. But there are some disruptions for my clients.
For example, at the beginning of the year, I had to do a traditional business fund-raising. So we’re started by establishing its business model to make it viable and we’re trying to construct the pitch for the investors. But because of the COVID-19, it’s postponed, and it’s still postponed now, but we are keeping in touch.
On the other hand, some projects are happening due to the COVID-19.
People are seeking to actually take advantage of this COVID-19 to buy in some cheap assets and also to start some new projects, and ventures because they have nothing else better to do.
To a certain point, it is good timing for some entrepreneurs to start new projects, this is normally the clients' segments that I’m working with.