A recent study of the U.S. workforce by independent research firm Edelman Berland investigated the number of freelance workers compared to the number of permanent employees. They found that 53 million, or approximately 34% of U.S. workers, now work as freelance contractors. Many experts agree that we can expect to see jobs continue to move toward more part-time, temporary, and contract positions.
What’s fueling the trend?
Sources cite different reasons for the trend, from increasing costs of healthcare for permanent employees, to fluctuating business needs due to the rapidly changing workplace. In any case, many freelancers say their work is in increasing demand.
Technology improvements contribute directly to freelance opportunity growth. Work products may be electronically-based, and online communication tools make it possible to meet online, share documents, and gather customer feedback easily. The study also notes that many millennial workers (under age 35) consider freelancing an appealing, viable work option.
What does freelancing look like?
- About 40% of freelancers are independent contractors. They are self-employed, and work exclusively on a project basis for a variety of organizations.
- Another 27% moonlight. They are generally full-time employees who conduct work for other organizations on their off hours.
- 18% of freelancers are considered diversified workers, meaning they have multiple income streams from a blend of freelance and part-time employment sources.
- About 10% are temporary workers, or employees with a single job, hired on a temporary basis.
- Business owners make up the final 5% of freelancers. They bridge their own independent freelancing with entrepreneurship by hiring employees for larger projects when needed.
Freelancing appears to be a trend that is likely to grow, so consider how you can benefit and grow with it.
Flexibility is high. Workers who need flexibility in their work schedules may especially benefit from this trend. Permanent employees with new family or health-related demands may choose to negotiate a freelance arrangement to accommodate changing schedule needs. This trend can also benefit workers who supplement another income source.
Greater personal control over your work. Have you wanted to explore a new direction in your field? Build new relationships, or develop new work? Many contractors appreciate the ability to choose their projects and pursue their own work interests.
Provide your own “benefits.” This trend also means that fewer jobs will come with employment benefits, so it will be important to consider how to meet your needs for health care, professional development, and retirement without an employer’s contribution.
How are your networking skills? CareerOneStop can help you develop your network, an essential step for freelancers. By keeping social media up to date, participating in professional associations, and pursuing contacts from a variety of sources, you can explore a range of potential contract possibilities. It may also be important to research employers in your area that hire people with your skills, to expand your list of freelance prospects.