Before I moved to London 6 years ago I wasn't familiar with the terms Contractor or Recruiter. In the Netherlands we only use the words Freelancer or ZZP-er for someone that works for herself and as far as I know there are not that many recruiting agencies in Amsterdam. But also in London I sometimes have to explain the differences between being a Freelancer, Contractor or Consultant. Because even though the term Freelancer is commonly used for all three, the way of working is quite different.
Freelancers are people who have their own client base and most of the time they charge by the hour. They usually work from home or from a rented desk somewhere in a hip co-working space. A Freelancer is very flexible and works for multiple clients at the same time. They are personally responsible for getting in enough business to pay the bills, so they have to be good at managing client relationships (and chase payments!).
A Contractor works for one client at the time and usually at the client's office on a fixed-term contract. These clients are the bigger advertising, branding or design agencies. Contractors usually charges per day and have good over-time payment rules set up. Contractors work directly with the client or they get hired via recruitment agencies. A Recruiter is a person or an organisation that links Contractors to their Clients. The Recruiter handles the contract between the two and also deals with the payments. Read my post on working with Creative Recruiters here.
A Consultant is a more experienced professional and is specialised in a certain subject. Where the Freelancer and the Contractor are executers of a set out job with a clear result, the Consultant has a more conceptual and theory based approach. They work on an advisory level and are usually not accountable for the outcome. Because of their years of experiences and their knowledge of their field, they can charge a very high fee.
At this moment I'm combining contracting jobs with personal freelance jobs. Because contracting is my bread and butter, I'm able to work for friends and family for free or a very low fee (a bottle of wine mostly :). In the future I would love to work as a design consultant, but I feel that I need to have a few more years of experience, before I would feel comfortable offering this service. Also teacher is something that I would definitely want to be doing in the future!