This topic came up when discussing a recent question where there was some debate about whether questions about inventing, marketing, or selling a product (that wasn't commissioned by a third party) are considered "freelancing" questions. My goal here is to find a more clearly-defined scope of what "freelancing" is.

Does "freelancing" refer to all forms of self-employed work, or only to commissioned/contract work performed for third parties?

I think we all agree that if John hires me to make him an app on a contract basis, that is considered freelancing. If Sally creates a unique new app that can increase productivity in the real-estate industry by 25%, starts her own business, and is trying to sell that app to real-estate companies, is that considered freelancing?

2 Answers 2


My feeling is that "freelancing" is synonymous with "independent contracting" and refers to work performed for clients under a contract basis. For the work to be considered "freelance", the individual must be hired to perform work by third parties. Using the above example, Sally would not be considered a freelancer because she was not hired by a third-party to develop her app, but created it herself and is now trying to market it for sale. Under these conditions, I feel she would be referred to as an entrepreneur.

Some definitions:


a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer.


a person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization

a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer


working ​independently usually for ​various ​organizations ​rather than as an ​employee of a ​particular one:


A freelancer or freelance worker is a term commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. Freelance workers are sometimes represented by a company or a temporary agency that resells freelance labor to clients; others work independently or use professional associations or websites to get work. "Independent contractor" would be the term used in a higher register of English that designates the tax and employment class of this type of worker.


Independent contractor

An independent contractor is a natural person, business, or corporation that provides goods or services to another entity under terms specified in a contract or within a verbal agreement. Unlike an employee, an independent contractor does not work regularly for an employer but works as and when required, during which time he or she may be subject to law of agency. Independent contractors are usually paid on a freelance basis.


a person or business which performs services for another person or entity under a contract between them, with the terms spelled out such as duties, pay, the amount and type of work and other matters.


A person or business who performs services for another person under an express or implied agreement and who is not subject to the other's control, or right to control, the manner and means of performing the services; not as an employee.


Current Policy

The Freelancing stack exchange currently does not include a detailed description of freelancing. However, the help page "What topics I ask about here?" indicates:

If your question covers...

•Agency work while freelancing

•Selling services to different employers without a long-term contract with any of them

•Client responsibilities to freelancers

•Cross-border requirements and laws for freelancing


...then you’re in the right place to ask your question!


None of these suggests that questions about marketing and selling ones' own products would be on-topic.

  • Your second, third and fourth definition of 'Freelancer' seems to me as including those who create a product or service to sell, even if not commissioned directly to create or support it.
    – Canadian Luke Mod
    Mar 10, 2016 at 21:21
  • @CanadianLuke I tried to be fair in the definitions I selected, rather than picking and choosing only the ones that most closely suited my opinion. Regardless, my opinion is that "freelance" means work performed under contract/commission. I've never heard a person who creates and markets their own products describe themselves as a "freelancer"; typical descriptions for this are "I'm self-employed" or "I run my own business."
    – user45623
    Mar 10, 2016 at 22:31
  • Based on your edit, I would assume that part 2 would cover this specific scenario. I'd definitely like more of the community to weigh in as well, before we make the decision by ourselves. I marked this topic as a Featured topic, so hopefully more eyes will see it. I understand what you're saying, and I appreciate your fairness in picking definitions. As I said earlier, it could also just be the way I was brought up, or the way people in my area think of what it is. I'm neither saying yes or no to the idea, as it's too big for just myself or another single member to make the call.
    – Canadian Luke Mod
    Mar 10, 2016 at 23:22

If you have questions about startups, or starting your own business, perhaps those questions are best asked on our site for questions about Startup businesses. From the Startups SE FAQ:

If your question is about…

  • Starting or running a small business including partnership and corporate structures, business plans, finance, legal or IP issues
  • Operational issues such as attracting and hiring talent, compensation, employee relationships, training and development
  • Strategies for successfully bringing a product or service to market

and it's not about…

  • Evaluating your ideas ("Please review my business", "Will this product sell?")
  • General brainstorming ("I have this idea... what now?", "How can I market this?", "Help me find a name", "Make my website better")

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

Stack Exchange sites generally work best when questions are focused around a clear topic with a group of experts; thus, the experts for startup-related questions are more likely to be found on Startups SE. Hope this helps!

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