The days when freelancing was merely thought of as a source of extra income over the traditional nine-to-five work life, or reserved for those crazy creative types, are officially over as people increasingly following this work path by choice rather than necessity. Of late, the labour market seems to be renovating and launching itself into the ‘gig-economy’. Amongst many definitions, the one which best describes the latest business buzzword is as straightforward as its name implies, in the sense that each piece of freelance work is an individual ‘gig’. These are exciting times for professionals and companies in the marketplace, so we decided to investigate what factors are driving change in labour and how the freelance concept has evolved in order to find a favourable balance for employees and employers, as well its pros and cons.
According to a recent report by the global consultancy agency McKinsey & Company, the freelancing trend started to develop alongside a shift in employees work preferences relating to their mobility and flexibility. The constraints of that 9-5 no longer feel as practical, or necessary, especially when you take into account technological advances. The ability to work remotely and at a time that suits you as an individual is becoming easier by the day - consider the significant growth of digital platforms which pair talent with businesses, and their efficiency as community-creator and income-generating tools. This removes the previous struggle of acquiring the right skill set within a business at the time it’s needed and avoids being tied to a long-term contract once that need has ended. This renewed vision of freelancing resulted in a spectacular growth in economies such as the British and North American, having increased by 43% between 2008 and 2016 in the first and representing 35% of the total U.S. workforce last year as revealed by The Association of Independent Professionalsand the Self Employed and the New York-based freelancing platform Upwork respectively.
There is another exciting point to consider in regards to freelance work that may initially be seen as negative until you dig a little deeper. Gig or temporary roles are associated with the rise of employee dissatisfaction, businesses downscaling and the uncertain economic climate – which certainly sounds negative. However, it is also now being related to the fact that high-skilled employees are starting to be seen as a source of fresh ideas, with the ability to provide “knowledge transfer” by large companies, as pointed out by Fortune’s Erika Fry. This, therefore, indicates an opportunity for independent workers to enhance their portfolio with some big names whilst maintaining an independent way of working. Rather than the traditional ‘job for life’ mentality of previous generations, freelancers are able to maintain multiple sources of income from their different projects; not only providing variety to your working life but also potentially may offer more security. Full-time employment is not as protected as it used to be, we already touched on business downsizing which is often driven by technological advancement and an incessant desire to be more efficient. By not relying on one company or activity to provide your livelihood, you are not subjected to cut-backs or redundancy and although there may be periods where work is thinner on the ground you have the flexibility to look elsewhere.
However, although setting your own hours, picking and choosing your projects and work from anywhere you wish rather than from an office desk sounds fantastic, there are a few disadvantages you should carefully think through before leaving your full-time, corporate job life. Amongst those, inconsistency in terms of income and the lack of work benefits such as health insurance, paid holidays, and parental leaves are the top ones. There is no formal and commonly accepted freelancer status in the business world (yet). There are also many personality and lifestyle attributes that may too be a barrier for individuals who want to dive into freelance, such as being poorly organized and soft-hearted to set limits with clients. Therefore, if you are too disordered to deal with strict deadlines and not confident enough to be firm with clients, then perhaps you should get practising and improve these aspects in your current position a little longer before becoming a self-employed professional.
In the end, although we can all agree that it is very personal whether freelancing is or is not your cup of tea, one thing is legit: Freelancing is growing fast and its concept is increasingly being more accepted in the business world. Digital platforms connecting freelancers and companies are making the whole communication and contracting process easier, so if the self-employed life looks like a match for your lifestyle, and you have been considering a shift in your career for a while… You may want to start contemplating the idea of freelancing.