According to the 2018 Freelancing in America report, Americans spent 1.07 billion hours on freelance work during the year. About 56.7 million workers chose to freelance, and the numbers are expected to keep growing. What’s behind the sudden boom, and what does it mean for the future of work?
Improvements in smartphone, computer and internet technology are making it possible to work from just about anywhere in the world. At the same time, many businesses are replacing legacy systems with cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms. Together, these advances have broken down many of the barriers to remote work. Companies can now recruit more third-party contractors when specific skill sets are required and provide access to the apps necessary to successfully complete jobs.
Greater Desire for Flexibility
Fewer and fewer workers, especially in the millennial generation, are interested in being stuck behind a desk from nine to five every day. Statistics from 2018 reveal 57 percent of all workers and 74 percent of millennial workers are interested in freelancing. Four out of 10 millennials want to leave their jobs and start freelancing sometime during the next year.
Individual reasons vary, but a driving force for many is the desire for a better balance between work and life. Employees are no longer satisfied in jobs where they’re forced to choose between working and being present for important personal events, and high stress levels are leading to a need for more time spent away from the office to unwind.
Although it seems counter-intuitive, 77 percent of freelancers say they have more financial stability, not less, since quitting their traditional jobs. Many freelancers feel more stable in their work situations overall, perhaps due to the ability to diversify income streams. Freelancers can now find work suitable for a wide variety of skill sets through several popular websites, including UpWork, People Per Hour and iFreelance. Social media platforms like LinkedIn make it possible to connect with companies across the country in need of contract or remote workers.
By building strong relationships through these channels with a core group of regular clients, it’s possible for freelancers to secure steady work. Occasional side projects boost income and offer potential opportunities for more jobs in the future.
Ability to Expand Skill Sets
Pitching freelancing services provides practice in the art of sales, allowing people relying on remote work to hone their skills over time and gain access to higher-paying work. Each job offers the chance to develop existing talents or learn something new. Freelancers may also choose to invest time in extra training either through local programs or online platforms when they wish to strengthen a particular skill.
Freelancers are expected to comprise 43 percent of the American workforce by 2020, and it’s important for employers to respond to the growing trend. Companies offering flexible and remote work opportunities will be more likely to attract team members with desirable skills sets and retain the talent necessary to stay ahead of competitors.