If you’re anything like us, you’ll have noticed that the terms ‘contractor’ and ‘freelancer’ are often used interchangeably. Indeed, we have probably been guilty of it ourselves from time to time. So are they (contractors and freelancers) one and the same thing, or are they like chalk and cheese once you dig into the detail?
Let’s start with the similarities. It’s true that contractors and freelancers are both part of the UK’s fast-growing flexible workforce, and that both work on a non-permanent basis. Both can be classed as independent professionals, operating free from the ‘supervision, direction and control’ associated with employer-employee relationships.
Like contractors, freelancers are responsible for finding and completing their own work, having made the bold decision to leave traditional employment behind. Both often turn to recruiters for help in this endeavour.
Contractors and freelancers are generally specialists in their chosen field, offering organisations access to niche, key skills such as web development, project management, IT consultancy and digital marketing to name but a few. Contractors and freelancers are both responsible for handling (or at least arranging the handling of) their own tax and financial affairs, whether as a self-employed sole trader, umbrella company employee or owner of their own limited company.
So far so similar, but is it right to treat contractors and freelancers as one homogenous group, as politicians are so prone to doing?
The answer is no, and here’s why. As far as we’re concerned there is one crucial difference between contractors and freelancers, and that’s the way in which they work. Contractors tend to work on one assignment at a time, devoting their time to that before moving onto the next one.
Freelancers, in contrast, will generally juggle several ongoing projects and clients simultaneously, splitting their time between each of them.
Have your say
What do you think? Is there any difference between a contractor and a freelancer? Which category do you fall into? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts.