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Contractor vs Freelancer

Stephen Adams
I'm a web developer, building apps for my clients using #angular
・2 min read

Recently in a Freelance Facebook group I'm a member of someone posted a question about what is the difference between a contractor and a freelancer?

For me, a contractor still works for themselves, but is employed by a 'single' client to come and work on their project, mainly onsite, for a few months.
The contractor is expected to work just on the one project, usually full-time (9-5) five days a week. It is possible to work on more than one project at a time, but this is extremely difficult and you have to be great at managing your time.

Freelancers usually have more than one project on the go at one time, they also work either from home or their own office and the projects they work on are usually shorter, e.g a number of weeks instead of months.

This is the typical difference between freelancer and contractor, but over the last few years I've seen the lines between the two start to blur. Now as a contractor I can now find a 'contract' that is 100% remote, giving me the time to work on another project at the same time (which for me has been working on a writing a book).

Also eventually after a few years working as a contractor you can start building up your reputation as a good developer, which may lead to get some work directly from previous contracts or recommendations from old clients who have told someone else about your great work.

You may also find work yourself through social media, or your contributions to open source, both paths can lead to a contractor getting work in directly instead of the traditional route of getting work via a recruitment agency (this is the usual way in the UK).

While a few years ago, when I started contracting, there was a clear difference between a contractor and a freelancer, these two ways of working are becoming more and more blurred, now we can all call ourselves a freelancer or just someone who works for themselves as a solo business owner.

So what do you think? Is there still a difference between a contractor and a freelancer? Do you consider yourself either of these titles or are you now a full-time business owner?

Discussion (2)

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Katie Adams

A really interesting take! A someone who's potentially interested in self-employment in the future, this is helpful. Do you have a preference for one or the other in the industry?

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Stephen Adams Author

Hi, great question. I would say start as a contractor, you’ll be paid more regularly and you’ll get great experience on what it’s like to work for yourself (how to manage money, raise invoices, pay taxes etc), but if you want total freedom of the hours and where you work freelance is a better choice.
I’d start with contracting and see if you enjoy it, then work towards freelance by getting your work and name out there and letting people know what you do and how you can help.

Stephen