Freelancing has grown rapidly in popularity over recent years, and in some small and medium sized businesses, it has even gone as far as to replace the traditional 9-to-5 office job.
Such is the growth in the freelance workforce, many financial and employment experts are now saying we are entering an new era or work, one that favours the hiring of people for a single project or gig rather than employing a permanent team to work on everything that comes their way.
According to a recent survey conducted in the USA by the Freelancers Union, the data discovered that 34 % of the American workforce are doing some sort of freelance work, either full-time or after hours. But also the younger generation of workers are more likely to take up freelance work than older workers already in established jobs.
This survey was conducted on the US workforce only, but it is believed that the same results are pretty representative of working patterns across Europe too.
Many employment specialists also believe the rise in popularity of freelance work amongst the younger generation of the workforce is due to the lack of available full-time jobs, and also what is being offered. Many young workers don’t like the work that is being offered to them, so they choose to go freelance in an effort to find more interesting work to do.
Many young people are staying in education longer, and are gaining the qualifications needed for their chosen line of work, but they are either not being offered a top ranked job because they lack the necessary experience, or they don’t want the structure associated with working for someone else. They often prefer freelance work right out of college or university because they can set their own hours and fit freelance work around their lives, instead of the other way round.
Because of the freedom that the internet can offer, there has also been a growth in part-time freelance work being done from home by parents looking for flexible work that can be fitted around the needs of their children. This type of work was often denied to previous generations where you had to work outside of the home to earn money.
There is a downside that is often overlooked when starting out. Many people will start out freelancing only to fail because they lack the discipline to get the work done. Much freelancing work can be flexible enough to fit around your lifestyle, but still will have deadlines to meet, and sometimes you will still have to be available to meet or speak with clients during regular working hours.
Probably the main disadvantages of becoming a freelancer is that you are not entitled to paid leave, and if you fall ill, there is no such thing as sick pay. It may not be as easy as you think to take off on holiday whenever you like, because while you are on holiday you are receiving no pay. Every day you take off is a day you don’t earn any money.
Sometimes it is hard to say no. A freelancer can be tempted to overwork, especially if you work from home where you are always connected in some way to your work, whether that is through your emails that you are checking and answering all evening, or the open project laying on the desk in the next room. You need the strength to set some boundaries and close the door on your work at a given time each day.
Yes, there is great appeal in ‘not having a boss’, but this also means that you have to be your own boss. You will have to summon up enough self-discipline, drive and determination to work by yourself with little to no input from anyone else. Where this may be OK for a more mature worker who has had more practice at managing their own time, a younger worker who is used to ‘living in the now’ of social media, and instant updates, may find it more of a struggle to cope without that connectivity that they are used to. They may find it socially isolating to work without the support of a supervisor or co-workers.
Further down the line, someone who has freelanced for most of their working life may well find it difficult to get on the property ladder. Many mortgage lenders will want to see a history of secure employment, or at least evidence of a consistent income. This may be a tricky situation for a freelancer who has a fluctuating income, or cannot supply a guarantee of a steady and long-term income.
Freelancing has both pros and cons, and it is ultimately up to you whether you choose to take this path either short term or long term. Yes it can give you the freedom of choice you crave to suit your lifestyle, but it can also impact on your future life choices if chosen as a career.