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Are you a freelancer or an entrepreneur?

Time and time again I get told that people don’t identify themselves as ‘entrepreneurs’. That is for the Dysons, the Bransons, and the Sugars of this world. The question is how do people who start their own business identify themselves? Doing some very rough and ready Twitter-based research (OK, so I asked a question), the feedback came, quite clearly that people who start a business tend to refer to themselves as ‘someone who has started a business’. At the university I speak to numerous students about business start-up, entrepreneurship and enterprise and the language I use with them is important too.

Language is everything

Here is an example from a student studying English. As he passed our stand at a careers fair I asked if he had thought about starting his own business. He said no, he wants to be a freelance writer. Questioned further about being self-employed he quite clearly said no, he will be freelance. This was very interesting, he wants to freelance, not have his own business, which relates directly to the current trend of the gig economy. There is a lot of information on the internet on the gig economy. Interesting articles from The Guardian, The FT and The Telegraph state that the self-employed (freelancers?) in the country are numbering nearly as many as public sector workers. This student, when he graduates, wants to be a self-employed freelancer, working the ‘gig economy’ – short-term assignments, contracting in to other organisations. But he isn’t starting a business and sure isn’t an entrepreneur.

When I market the business services that the university offers I need to think carefully about the language I intend to use. Especially when I am targeting students. Are they an entrepreneur? Are they starting a business? Or are they freelancers, professional artists, theatre companies, coaches, therapists or, just plain and simply, trying to make some cash to help them through Uni?

There are numerous customer segments for the business support that is provided at the University of Chichester. Making sure that I understand them and how they identify themselves is crucial to the success of delivering the support. Because there are so many customer segments then quite clearly and demonstrably, the answer to my question is that they identify themselves in many different ways. Time to rethink my marketing.

If you have started a business how do you identify yourself? Are you an entrepreneur? A freelancer? A business founder? Self-employed? Someone who runs their own business? Let me know in the comments, it would be great to hear your thoughts.