Depending upon the circumstances, sometimes I’ll suggest to my clients that they explore freelance work. All too often, the response I get is, “What?!? Are you crazy?”
One client—we’ll call her Sally—nearly had a heart attack.
“Are you kidding me? I need a regular paycheck! How would I find work? What if I couldn’t find enough work? How would I pay my bills? And what about benefits?”
Slow down, Sally!
While there are certainly some downsides to freelance work, there are also a lot of misconceptions. It’s not for everyone, but the reality is that it can be the perfect career move for some professionals, depending on a variety of factors. And there are a ton of perks—making your own schedule, cherry-picking clients, and being your own boss, to start.
Not to mention that there’s also no better time to build a freelance career. Demand is huge—the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 53 million Americans earn income freelancing, which is about one in every three employees. Considering that freelance work basically didn’t even exist until around the late 1980s, that’s a massive amount of growth. And what’s more—growth in freelance work is only expected to surge. A study conducted by Intuit predicts that by 2020, “independent workers” will comprise 40% of the total workforce, including freelancers, contractors and temps.
The timing for freelancers is also ideal because of technological advancements that have evolved in a way that allows freelancers to thrive. Technology enables people to work remotely and do most work on mobile devices, so having an office or a designated workspace is no longer necessary. So many professionals can—and do—work out of co-working spaces, home offices, or various other locations.
Ever try to find a seat at an urban Starbucks around 10 a.m. on a weekday?
Not only that, but technology has also given us platforms that link talent with businesses and workers with customers. Websites like Contently.net and Hourlynerd.com link freelancers with companies that need their services. Uber and Lyft link drivers with passengers. These platforms solve one of their biggest challenges independent workers have faced historically: finding clients and getting enough work. The potential for freelancers to grow their client bases through these platforms is infinite.
Freelancing is also particularly advantageous for workers in certain industries. A study conducted by Paychex.com that analyzed more than 400,000 freelance resumes posted on Indeed.com revealed that the most common undergrad major of freelancers was graphic design, followed by communications, English, and journalism, respectively. Top skills freelancers listed on their resumes included a lot of tech skills—design, Microsoft, Photoshop, Adobe and illustrator being the most common. Location matters, too, when it comes to freelancing. Los Angeles has the most freelance positions (just under 35,000), followed by New York (about 25,000), Denver (15,000), and Seattle (12,000).
Freelancing does, however, have some drawbacks. Freelancers pay for their own health insurance premiums—an expense that can get pricey, although the enactment of the Affordable Care Act has made health insurance much more accessible for independent workers. Freelancers also manage their own financials, including taxes. Not such a problem for those who are more business-minded and are financially savvy, but not an easy task for the average professional by any means. The idea of filing quarterly tax reports is likely to make most people cringe… Which is why having an accountant is a must (and a bookkeeper!).
Freelancing is the way to go. All in all, though, it seems that freelancers are here to stay. It’s not for everyone, but if you can carve out your niche and you’re willing to work your tail off, you’ll reap the benefits of being able to make your own hours and pick and choose projects and clients.
I’ll save you a seat at Starbucks!