Forget the 9-5—work is becoming all about flexibility and diverse skill sets. Chances are, you won’t work for one company your whole life like your grandparents did. Instead, you may be involved with a number of companies or join the millions of others who have started freelance work.
Want to get in on the freelance action? The benefits of being (or hiring) a self-employed worker have been causing steady growth in this field for years—and it’s only becoming more popular. We’re now seeing a freelance economy emerge as the workforce becomes more mobile and independent—and as businesses cut costs. But what does this mean for the future of work? If you’re not sure what all of it means, here are 5 insights on the growing freelance economy.
Who are Freelancers?
Freelancers are independent workers who are self-employed, and not tied to any one business on a permanent, employee basis. Some freelancers take on contract work and consult onsite, while others work entirely remotely. Most freelancers have several clients at one time, and must be able to juggle several different responsibilities at once.
How Quickly is the Field Growing?
There’s been a major uptick in the number of freelancers in the United States—and worldwide. Currently, there are 53 million Americans who identify as freelancers—a number that’s up 31% since 2006. This is partially in response to the competitive economy: more qualified recent grads are looking for work, and employers have only so many positions to fill. At the same time, many businesses are finding that they need the services freelancers offer—and don’t have the money or need for someone on staff full time. Combined, these factors are causing the field to grow very quickly. By 2020, freelancers are expected to make up more than 40% of the workforce.
What Services do Freelancers Provide?
Many people don’t know that there are many different fields that are well-suited to freelance work. Common services include writing and editing, web design, graphic design, digital marketing, virtual assistant, transcription, translation, and consultant services. Any work that can be done remotely or on a project basis is fair game, and lots of people have skills that could be turned into a freelance business. Some freelancers provide local services instead, when their services demand in-person meetings—such as massage therapy. Even some attorneys are breaking out on their own! Many freelancers have several interests and combine different income streams to make a living that’s interesting and satisfying.
How Much Money is In This Industry?
It’s not just freelancers who are benefitting from this new economy. “Sharing” services like Uber, AirBnB, and Instacart are also cashing in on the rise of independent workers. Coworking spaces (subscription based offices for individuals and very small businesses) are springing up in cities worldwide, creating a new type of business that caters to the new economy. Businesses may be spending a lot on freelance services—but they’re not paying for the overhead of extra employees and benefits, helping many companies save cash overall.
What does the Future of Freelancing Look Like?
The popularity of co-working spaces shows that freelancers are redefining work culture around the world. Currently, many workers in the United States supplement their income with contract and freelance gigs (a practice known as “moonlighting”), but more and more people are beginning to make the shift to full-time freelance work. Many employees in traditional settings would consider contract work, and with more people struggling to find a balance between work, life, and other demands, the flexibility of freelancing can prove very attractive. In fact, due to factors like the ability to choose their own projects and the ability to work from anywhere, freelancers are often happier and more productive than employees in an office setting.
What’s the takeaway from this? Our economy, and the way we work is changing rapidly. Buckle up for the new world of work—where success is based on a diversified skill set, freelancers enjoy a flexible lifestyle, and businesses benefit from reduced employment costs.