Are you an employee, freelancer or co-founder?

Okay, so there are also retired people, students, volunteers, homemakers and so on. However, when you’re considering recruiting, or trying to earn a living, there are three common kinds of contracts.

Most of the time, we assume that job adverts are looking for employees. When I was in my late teens, and I answered an ad that I thought looking for an employee, only to find out it was commission-only MLM.  I was a bit miffed.

Freelancer, commission only, subcontractor, all these differ from employee.   While a zero hour contract is technically an employee, sometimes you feel like a freelancer who accrues holiday pay.

However, sometimes job adverts aimed at subcontractors look similar to those aimed at employees, but I suppose it depends upon what is expected within the industry.


Now, as I’ve hinted, most of my job searches over the past 20 years or so have been for employee positions. That’s what I expect to find when I’m looking on a job board.


I initially wrote this article to appear on LinkedIn.  Many of us are looking for work. We aren’t all looking for the same kind of work. I’m not just talking about consultants who are trying to sell their time, that’s another category altogether. I’m talking about people who are looking for someone else’s project, a full time position.

First, why would you want to devote yourself full time to someone else’s project? Well, some of us are more motivated when we have team members, or at least a guided infrastructure and goals. Sure, we may have our own goals, but if someone else is working toward the same thing, it legitimizes the goal. It doesn’t feel like a vanity project.

For most people, it’s simple, just follow someone else’s vision, and take home a paycheck for doing your best. When I worked at those temporary day jobs that I don’t put on my CV (those that I did during holidays or after school), I wasn’t always sure what the overall vision was.

Put away these files, make these copies, send these letters?
Move those bags of fertiliser from one truck to another?
I’ll do it!

The point? Because it’ll make the boss happy! Because I’ll get that satisfaction of a job well done! Because I’m getting paid to do this!

Okay, sometimes you want to know the vision, and still take home a paycheck.

You have other motives:

  • it’s a good company,
  • you like the customers,
  • the work may even be fun.

But, it’s still largely about the paycheque.  It’s still that employee relationship.


Many freelancers operate on the same principles as employees, but without the job security. You’re in it to make a living. As a freelancer, you’re probably working for a multitude of employers, so in a way it’s even more about the money than as an employee. You work because you have to.

As an eBay seller, I was more or less a freelancer. Oh, I guess I filed taxes as a self employed person. My customers were from everywhere. Who was my supervisor? Well, me. But, I wasn’t so much my own boss. I couldn’t just do what I wanted, that would affect my ratings, my business, my reputation. (Okay, so maybe you never heard of Udigrudi books and movies, but I think I may have had a few repeat customers.)

I also freelanced doing small parts for industrial films, and as a day labourer.

Screen the cue cards, hold this pose, move this couch.
Where would you like the couch? The pose like this?

Once, I got paid ten pounds to pretend like I was going to throw an egg at someone. I never saw the completed film, but I guess I was only in it for a fraction of a second. Freelancers want to do a good job, but they don’t always have time to find out what the point of their work is.

Vision statements?
Make a living.
A job well done.

Now, here comes the tough one.


How many people are actually looking for work as a co-founder? I don’t know. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of boards, social networks, or groups that seem to specialise in finding co-founders. Well, there are a few, but they seem to assume that you have a “technology” (which usually means front-end software) company.

What’s a co-founder? It’s someone who doesn’t pay you and doesn’t get paid by you. Kind of like a business partner, but not. When I say business partner, I get people thinking of the legal entity called a partnership, with all the negatives like unlimited liability.

A co-founder could eventually become an employee. Perhaps the owner will be a venture capitalist. Perhaps the co-founder will retain ownership, or at least partial ownership.

Basically, the co-founders could search for jobs and pitch their business plans as a team, like a two headed monster.

Believe it or not, I have at times sought out work as a co-founder on someone else’s project. The problem is that not many people in the arts understand what a co-founder is.

Okay, there are no end of people willing to “collaborate on a screenplay.” I will alienate most of them right now by saying having a great idea does not give you the right to dictate your idea to others. If you want me to tell your life story, you can hire me as a ghost writer, but I’m not doing it for commission. It’s extremely difficult to sell something like that, and I have a huge backlog of screenplays (finished and in development) to deal with first.

Another note on co-writing scripts, one partner often ends up disappearing. I have a great script, well two actually, with multiple writers, but it’ll never be produced because the paperwork wasn’t filled out. I’ve lost touch with my co-writers, so both projects are dead. wasted time.

Being a co-founder, sharing an idea, can produce a lot of headaches. However, it has one key advantage. If the other person truly cares about the project, you can produce a synergy that you won’t find anywhere else.

Yes, employees do their best, when the money is in the bank, and freelancers have a reputation to uphold. But, for the co-founder, this isn’t just about their work. The success of the project becomes part of your motivation. More than just money is on the line. The project is bigger than you.

A normal business owner might just sell the business when given a high offer. A true co-founder, however, won’t just put that business into any hands. The business, like a well loved pet, or an artistic masterwork, needs to go into the right hands.

Of course, there are employees and freelancers who also care that much about their jobs. They might have a co-founder attitude.

Let’s say your business fails. Are you most worried about money, about getting the next job? Or, do you perhaps want to see whether you can revive the business, the project, in another way? What is your level of commitment, that of an employee, or that of a co-founder?

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