The Past, Present & Future Of Freelancing: Some Shocking Facts

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The world is changing ever so fast. Old paradigms don´t seem to answer new questions anymore, and there´s no turning back now. The employment game is ever-changing, particularly with the development of the internet.  Considering this, it is a fair question to ask: what will the workforce look like in the future? Read on and find out the astonishing facts.

The generation of the “I choose not to.”

For decades, the world looked something like:

Study in college + find a steady job/profession + buy a house = Happiness

Nowadays, the equation has drastically changed, and young people don’t aspire to work in the same place for thirty years to pay a mortgage. The highest paying jobs are not the most sought-after ones; in fact, the most precious asset a person can have is freedom. This doesn’t mean that the American Dream is over and youngster’s don’t want to be millionaires! It means they are trying to find a way to do it without sacrificing liberty and, above all, going against their values. Meaningful work means a lot to them. The generation we’re talking about is Millennials. They will respond with ‘I choose to’ or ‘I choose not to’ (more likely the second) when presented with a situation. They are the generation of the empowered decision makers. They do not want to be locked down to a job that does not suit their lifestyle, and this brings us to the world where entrepreneurs and freelancers are on the increase.

Why Millennials and why now

As a study shows, Millennials represent the largest demographic group regarding age in the overall workforce, and more than one-third of them are independent workers. Most employers face the hard challenge of convincing them to choose their company above the competition. As crazy as it may seem, everywhere in the world big companies deploy retention programs to prevent resignations. To have a full understanding of why this shift is happening, it is crucial to look at the involvement of the internet and smartphones. These innovations change the quote from ‘home is where you make it’ to ‘the office is where you make it.’ All a freelancer needs is Wi-Fi, and a phone/tablet/notebook. Since these are available regardless of location, getting to travel and see the world while earning a steady income is more tempting than ever.

From extra to the main character

We can trace freelancers back to the year 1995, in which a report by the GOA (Government Accountability Office) showed they made up 32.2% of the workforce - though most declared they had another job paying a regular wage. By the year 2005, it dropped to only 30.6% in the same study. The Freelancers Union announced recently that the latest survey showed the total amount of freelancers in the US today is 53 million, almost 34% of the population, and they contribute an incredible $715 billion dollars to the economy. Moreover, this study identified that 80% of those remaining non-freelancing workers would consider working outside of their primary income source as freelancers to earn more money. 36% of those who do both jobs have thought about quitting their full-time job to go completely independent. According to another study called Freelancing in America (2016), 63% of freelancers converted because they chose to, not because they needed to, and 54% of them earned more as independents than they did in their steady jobs. A staggering 79% said freelancing contributes to a better lifestyle than working a traditional job. These facts bring freelancing into the spotlight.

  • Have you ever tried freelancing at something you are good at, or delegating to a freelancer those annoying micro tasks you no longer want to do? Try it at least once and see how it goes. It might change your life too.

Education and degrees

Millennials are making their path as they go. The gap formed between the newly created needs and the old institutions are making it harder for the world to catch up. Getting a college degree and starting a working life is something many are not willing to do. Other careers and courses are the leading choices; they value soft and self-taught skills more than those acquired at an academic level. Another revered element is multitasking capabilities; those who can perform more than one task get requested the most. So, rather than perfecting one career, they will go for the multiple learning paths at low cost, YouTube and social media being their primary source and target focus. Experience is a precious asset nowadays, as opposed to academic knowledge. There are far more recognized non-graduate personalities, drop-outs and self-taught businesspeople to those who went through the entire educational system. However, college education is still a great way to get positioned in the job market, to complement traditional careers with new skills.

The future of Freelancing

If the trend continues on the same path, we can expect to see the world full of more freelancers. According to the Freelancers Union report, 77% of freelancers think the best of the freelancing world is yet to come. Additionally, various sources have stated that by the year 2020, 50% of the US Workforce will be freelancers.  That´s only three years from now. There are several improvements in communication, data transferring and especially device sizes that can transform any space into an office. Some freelancers are even turning into digital nomads, as there are a plethora of online options that make traveling and staying abroad an easier option.

Challenges to overcome

Although freelancing is on the rise, there are some challenges the freelancing community must face to survive:

  • Avoid getting eaten by the big fish - it’s important for entrepreneurs and freelancers to prevent big corporations setting the prices and working hours, in order to maintain freedom.
  • Get essential benefits - entire generations struggled for years for the 8-hour business day,  paid vacations and other benefits recognized by law. In years to come, this may apply to freelancers too.
  • Getting regular work - there are many freelancers worldwide competing for the same tasks, and income may not always be steady.  Price yourself correctly and work to complete tasks on-time and at a high standard, to boost your reputation and encourage more work your way.

Times are changing, and innovations pave the way to the future. Since its early years as a side source of income, freelancing and entrepreneurship have become the primary job. Culturally and economically, everyone is trying to catch up. Both small business and large corporations are designing their products and services with freelancers as the target audience. Also, new ways of providing services appear every day. The downside of this growth is that policies and laws in many countries, including the US, are failing to catch up. It could mean that the corporate eye will realize it and start hiring freelancers to do regular jobs, and pay them per task instead of hiring employees for steady jobs. With room to grow and prosper, the freelancing community can hope to see their numbers increase exponentially in the years to come.

Would you like to add your views and personal insights to this story? Feel free to comment and tell us what you think.

Đã đăng 28 tháng 8, 2017


Freelance Journalist & Reporter

Alice is a Community Correspondent at She drifts between London & Sydney.

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