Client vs. Employer: What’s the Difference?

difference between a client and employer

I use the word employer when I really mean client. I mostly do this because I’ve been rocking the thesaurus and I don’t want to use “client” every other word. There’s a difference, though. Clients and employers are two separate entities, and each treats the people who work for them differently.

Before we get into that, I want to disclose my inspiration for this piece.  Yesterday on Twitter, an angry content writer was looking for other writers to sign a position against a certain content site because it doesn’t offer job security. My response to her was that no freelance gig is 100% secure, and, really, no full-time job is 100% secure either.

However, if you’re looking for job security, it’s best not to become a freelance writer. This writer was looking for a client to become an employer. A client can offer regular work, but he can’t necessarily offer job security.

Client vs. employer: What’s the difference?

A client is not an employer. He’s not deducting health care and taxes from your weekly paycheck, nor does he have eight hours of guaranteed work for you each day. An employer provides steady full-time or part-time work and those who work for him (or his company) are considered members of the staff.

A freelancer is not a staff member. A freelancer is a contracted worker. We’re in charge of handling our own deductions and business matters and we’re not guaranteed work every day. We work independently and any support staff is our own.

When the work runs out

If I worked for an employer and I finished up my regular tasks for the day, I’d probably be assigned extra work or to help another salaried employee. If my client runs out of work for me, I’m done until he needs me again. This also means I’m done being paid. An employer has to pay me to show up, even if he doesn’t have enough for me to do that day.

Job security

Freelancers have steady clients, but nothing is certain. If they feel we’re not up to the task, they have the option of letting us go. They’re not obligated to have work for us every day, unless our contract says this must be so.

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Client vs. employer: roles and responsibilities


  1. Seek services or products: Clients are individuals or organizations who require services or products to fulfill a specific need or achieve a particular goal. For instance, a client may seek the services of a graphic designer to create a logo for their business, or they may seek the products of a manufacturer to stock their retail store.
  2. Provide payment for services or products: In exchange for the services or products they receive, clients are required to provide payment to the service provider or product manufacturer. This payment could be in the form of a fixed fee, hourly rate, or commission on sales. Payment is typically negotiated and agreed upon before the services or products are provided.
  3. May provide feedback on services or products: Clients may provide feedback to the service provider or product manufacturer to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the quality of the services or products they receive. Feedback could be in the form of a review, rating, or direct communication with the service provider or product manufacturer. This feedback is useful for the service provider or product manufacturer to improve their offerings and enhance the client’s experience.


  1. Hire employees to provide services or create products: Employers are individuals or organizations who require services or products to be created or provided to fulfill their business needs. They hire employees to work on specific tasks, such as producing goods, managing finances, or providing customer service.
  2. Provide compensation for employees: Employers are responsible for providing compensation to their employees in exchange for their work. This compensation could be in the form of a salary, hourly wage, or commission. Employers may also offer benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off as part of the compensation package.
  3. May provide feedback on employee performance: Employers may provide feedback to their employees on their performance, including areas where they excel and areas where improvement is needed. Feedback could be provided through regular performance evaluations, coaching sessions, or direct communication. Employers use this feedback to help employees improve their skills and performance, which ultimately benefits the business.

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Client vs. employer: relationship dynamics


  1. Generally have a shorter-term relationship with service providers: Often have a shorter-term relationship with service providers as they may only require the services for a specific project or period of time.
  2. May have multiple service providers for different needs: May work with multiple service providers to fulfill different needs or projects.
  3. Can terminate the relationship if dissatisfied: Have the option to terminate the relationship with a service provider if they are dissatisfied with the quality of the services provided.


  1. Generally have a longer-term relationship with employees: Typically have a longer-term relationship with employees as they require ongoing work to fulfill the needs of their business.
  2. May have multiple employees with different roles: May have multiple employees with different roles to cover various aspects of their business.
  3. Can terminate the employment relationship if necessary: Have the ability to terminate the employment relationship with an employee if necessary, such as due to poor performance or business needs.

Client vs. employer: pay


  • Pay for services or products received
  • Pay a fixed fee or hourly rate negotiated before the work is completed
  • Pay for services or products received upfront or upon completion of the work


  • Provide compensation for work done by employees
  • Provide a salary, hourly wage, or commission to employees as compensation
  • Pay employees on a regular schedule such as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly
  • May also offer benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off as part of the compensation package

A freelance client is not an employer and we shouldn’t expect them to be. We’re freelancers because we enjoy our flexibility, even if that means we don’t receive the same perks as salaried employees. There’s a trade-off, but it’s one that’s well worth it.

This post was originally written by Deb Ng and published in January 2010. It has been updated by Noemi Twigg and republished in April 2023.






9 responses
  1. Anne Wayman Avatar

    lol, it’s not as if a job with a corporation is exactly secure… I’ve been fired and I’ve also had companies just disappear out from under me.

    Glad I missed that round of unhappy content providers – you and me? We’re writers.

    Anyway, this is also a good article… there’s a huge difference between a client and an employer, thank goodness. I do often arrange my contracts so the pay is monthly, but that’s on big, multi-month contracts.

    Thanks Deb

    1. Deb Avatar

      Thanks, Anne. Freelancers can make sure they have a steady stream of income throughout the month, but there’s always the chance a client will bail. It happens to every single freelancer at one time or another. Even content writing sites go under – it’s happened in the past.

      You’re right though, no job is 100% secure.

      1. Phil Avatar

        I’ve had regular clients fold after several years in business. But I also have a friend who’s been out of work five times in 20 years. Clients — even large ones — can only fire/lay you off a percentage (the percentage of your business they represent) at a time.

        And, as you point out, certain payments by an employer (taxes, et al) are paid by contractors, which many in several service businesses seem to forget when figuring what is a legitimate income — revenue minus expenses, not straight revenue.

  2. allena Avatar

    I also feel that freelancing is more secure, as you can always move on to someone else/some other source (and if you’re smart, you’ve got other “eggs” like Deb teaches).

    I call my clients my bosses to my children- it’s a concept they understand a little better.

    1. Deb Avatar

      I call them bosses as well, Allena. It’s hard for my son to grasp the concept of freelancing but he starting to get responsibility.

  3. Genesis Avatar

    I was recently offered a proper job with a company that I write for and I turned them down because, while the regular paycheck might be nice, I value the freedom of being a freelancer. Not to mention, I hate to put all my eggs in one basket!

    1. Deb Avatar

      I took off a year from freelancing to accept a full time job and it just wasn’t for me. I missed the freedom and flexibility and also being able to handle multiple projects. It would have to be an amazing offer for me to go back to a full time job.

  4. Kurt Evans Avatar

    I think that if writing is in your blood as it is in mine that client or employer doesn’t really matter as long as you get to write.

    1. Deb Avatar

      Yes and no, Kurt. I do agree we should write for who we want without being criticized, I also thing we should always aspire to bigger and better things, and, also, not take projects that go against personal beliefs.

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