Have you ever rented a room in a private house when travelling abroad? Or take a taxi ride in a private car driven by a nonprofessional driver?
If you haven’t done so, surely someone in your circle of friends has. Or someone is a provider of such services to others. With the rise of sharing economy and the economic crisis of 2008 many full-time workers started to side hustle either to keep their heads above water or experiment with using online platforms to get an extra income out of their assets or skills.
Over the years, those who work independently have been given many names: freelancers, contingent workers, gig workers, independent contractors and the list continues but the essence is the same. They have the freedom to select projects and clients they work with, they have no formal boss, usually work according to flexible schedules, their workspace can be just anywhere and they possess specific skills that allow them to thrive as solo workers.
The growing number of freelancers worldwide- only in U.S. by 2025 close to 80 million people, up by 22%, will be freelancing- confirms that many prefer to get rid of the constraints imposed by the corporate politics and choose projects that fulfill them.
What makes people choose freedom?
A few years ago, I started to have a growing feeling of being stuck in a rut. I was tempted by the idea of freelancing to manage my schedule and choose projects that were meaningful to me. According to reports, I was not too far off from what drives other people to becoming independent. Majority of freelancers opt for this kind of work for reasons revolving around time management. Being able to manage their schedule is the highest ranked benefit, as 79% of respondents claim. Others value having spare time to dedicate to activities they are passionate about or being with the family.
This freedom also allows them to take reigns of the intensity, frequency, and volume of work. 27% of freelancers in U.S. claimed to work from 20 to 30 hours per week. A smaller proportion, 16% stretched their working time to up to 7 hours a day which makes up 50 hours a week. It is quite common for freelancers work on several projects or juggle several jobs – 27% have more than one job at a time. According to statistics though, 44% dedicate their time to only one venture.
All that glitters in not gold
In Sweden, Brazil and Indonesia over half of freelancing population prefer to preserve their independence and look for more clients rather than search for a full-time job. But in France the opposite trend prevails with 32%, of freelancers willing to be employed full time rather than continue as their own boss. This compared with 41% preferring to remain working by their own rules might suggest that being independent worker in France might be less enticing than in other regions of the world. There can be several reasons to that.
Pros and cons of being independent
While the prospect of being independent is attractive because of flexible schedule and not having anyone to report to, it carries the risk of getting less money than expected at the outset of the project, unreliable clients, fluctuating income, employment related expenses that would otherwise an employer cover, doing jobs one might be uncomfortable with such as paperwork or selling your services. But, if you get passed your fears, the uncertainty and have enough guts to get yourself out there, this is probably the best way to spread your wings. The result? The feeling of being in charge of your professional career.
Gig workers tend to look after all aspects of their venture- from boring administrative tasks to client acquisition, marketing, they often become well-versed with accounting intricacies. Many of those tasks are unrelated to their core business. And this what makes them well-rounded potential employees. Add to this creativity which undoubtedly many need to demonstrate to get the project off the ground, patience, strong will and resilience to failure among others, and here comes a sought-after candidate, companies would be more than willing to hire.
A two-way street
Freelancing has quite a lot to do with corporate offices contrary to the belief that it targets only small and medium enterprises. Big market players rely on freelancers for projects that require expertise in areas permanent workers lack such as in operations, production & IT. Talent on demand is available at a lower cost than that of a full-time employee and at times when the company most needs it. The two – cost savings and covering peaks in demand – are other major factors that compel companies to opt for services of a freelancer. Yet, this decision does depend on the nature of the business. Tech startups hesitate, when faced with the option to hire a freelancer, because of costs of a freelancer exceeding their budgets or fear of an intruder getting to know the secrets of their business. In marketing, content submission is usually the domain of the full-time worker of the company in question, yet freelancers seem to have a higher stake at the job than a professional agency.
In years to come, freelancing will become a way of living for many. As some statistics show – jobs were lost, those who maintained them had their wages and working hours cut. Some others seeing the rapidly changing employment landscape took to improving their skills. All those trends may be a launching pad to start a business dedicating all your time to it or just a few hours a day. Are you ready to go for it?