Posted on: December 14th, 2012 by Jen Mueller

Sports metaphors can be effective descriptors at work – if everyone is on the same page and understands the correct meaning.  Each week we’ll take a look at a familiar sports phrase or metaphor in business, identify its origin, explain its meaning and demonstrate how to use it in business.


Josh HamiltonSports phrase: Free Agent

There’s a lot of talk right now about the big free agents in baseball, particularly Josh Hamilton who just signed with the LA Angels. That’s not the only place you’ll hear the term “free agent.”  But before we get to that, how about a quick sports definition?

A free agent in sports is a player who is not beholden to a particular team.  A player becomes a free agent when his contract is up or if he isn’t drafted or selected by a team.  A free agent is free to shop his services to the team that will pay the most money or offer the best deal.

Business Application:  In business this phrase is usually used to describe a person who works for his or herself, rather than an employer.  There’s typically more freedom in being a free agent.  The difference between the business use and the sports use is often intent.  Being a free agent in sports can offer many different leverage points, but eventually the player will sign with a new team or he can’t get paid.  Free agents in business aren’t necessarily looking to join a new team or go back to a corporate environment.

  • Steve left corporate about 6 months ago and now he’s a free agent working with his own clients.


*Take these definitions with a grain of salt.  They’re based on years of being a fan and more than a decade in sports broadcasting and Jen’s status as America’s Expert Talker.