Freelancing is reshaping the workplace
Freelancing offers some unique advantages to other styles of working — including the ability to apply your trade fully remote.
And with freelance income making up almost $1 trillion, or nearly 5% of the national GDP, the freelance industry contributes more to the U.S. economy than industries like construction and transportation placing it on par with the information sector.
The freelance economy is no longer a movement or a trend — it is here, it’s growing, and it’s not going away. A quarter of the United States workforce now works independently, according to the Freelancers Union, and research from McKinsey & Company suggests that by 2027, half of all workers will be freelancers.
As freelancing continues to become more mainstream, businesses will adjust their strategies and create structures that support this growing work-style (rather than fighting it) in order to attract and retain top talent.
In a recent TechRepublic article, Lindsay Lagreid, senior adviser for the Limeade Institute, said that people have had a lot of time over the last year to think about what role they want work to play in their lives.
“People have been thinking about who built this system of work and why it works for some but not all people,” she said. “People are thinking about sacrifices they had made previously, and hearing, ‘We want to go back,’ but thinking about how ‘back’ didn’t work well for me.”
And, for many of those people, freelancing presents an appealing alternative.
It's an opportunity to redefine success on your own terms - and build a business around work that you love. Upwork’s freelancing study, called “Freelancing in America – 2019,” found that 71% of freelancers agree that freelancing provides them a way to:
- Work from anywhere they want
- Earn the extra income they need
- Escape working for a traditional employer
The same study found that more Americans than ever are freelancing: in 2019, more than 57 million Americans (up from 53 million in 2014) admitted to freelancing. This represents 35% of the U.S. workforce. Adding to that, full-time freelance work has increased in America. As of 2019, 28% of freelancers in the United States are full-time freelancers, meaning they make the rules when it comes to their jobs.
As the most comprehensive study of the independent workforce, “Freelancing in America” (FIA) has determined that in the future, freelance work in America will not end:
- 51% of freelancers state that no amount of guaranteed money could convince them to switch back to a traditional job
- 71% say that freelance work is gaining a more positive perception as a career option
- 91% believe that better days are ahead for freelancers
- 59% of non-freelancers say they’ll likely do freelance work at some point in the future
And it’s not just the United States…
Like the US, Europe has experienced a significant shift in the workplace. Because more freelancers than ever make up Europe's workforce, the European Commission has made it clear that the European Small and Medium Enterprise Definition should “acknowledge freelancers as a stand-alone category within the definition and legitimize the smallest of small businesses, those who – with a 45% increase since 2000 are the fastest growing segment of the EU labor market.”
Maybe that’s why the future of work will undoubtedly include more freelancing than ever.
According to Voices 2022 Annual Trends Report:
- More than 90% of respondents confirmed they will permanently offer remote work opportunities, compared to last year's 52%.
- 31% of respondents are hiring creative freelance talent once per week, or 50+ times per year.
One factor that comes up again and again when people are asked what they’re looking for when it comes to employment is a flexible work environment.
Technology makes it possible for people to work anywhere, not just in a brick-and-mortar office. And with studies showing remote workers are 47% more productive than workers in an office setting, workers are no longer blindly accepting traditional work arrangements. When surveyed:
- 84% of freelancers claim that with freelancing they can live the lifestyle they want
- 67% of freelancer polled state that freelance pay should continue to rise
- 48% say that freelancing is a work style meant to last long-term
It’s important to note that when we talk about freelancing, we’re talking about people who are offering their skills on a freelance basis, not gig workers..
As Alexander Lewis of Lewis Commercial Writing said, "The gig economy and the freelance economy are not the same thing." Lewis goes on to explain “freelancing is fundamentally different from working a gig-style job.”
When we refer to skilled freelancers, we mean those “individuals that indicate that their current freelance work entails selling skilled services (e.g., computer programming, writing, design, IT, marketing, business consulting, etc.). These freelancers “earn a median rate of $28 an hour, earning more per hour than 70% of workers in the overall U.S. economy” and most of them don’t want traditional jobs.
The freelance workforce is growing rapidly, allowing professionals to work from home or be location-independent. It gives them a sense of balance between work and life that they may not have enjoyed while tied to a traditional office position.
Freelancing has become the new normal, providing people with more flexibility and control over their careers.