Freelancing: Friend or foe?

A recent Fast Company article on the current state of the freelance job market revealed, at least in the eyes of this media outlet, that “working for one’s self used to be the definition of the American dream – and, apparently, it still is.”

The article reports on the Freelancing in America 2018 study, which concluded that “Americans’ increasingly prefer to work where they want, when they want, and on the work of their choosing.” One in three American workers freelances, and 61 per cent of freelancers said they’ve chosen to work this way versus working in staff jobs more by necessity. Millennials are leading the pack. Forty-two percent of of 18-to-34-year-olds now freelance, up from 38 per cent in 2014.

The study results make seem as if freelancers are eating their cake and having it too. It reports that full-time freelancers are 21 percentage points more likely to say their work also allows them to live the lifestyle they want (84 per cent of freelancers say this versus 63 per cent of non-freelancers).

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This paints a rosy picture of freelancing as one’s primary form of employment, which appears to be coveted by younger workers. But what the researchers don’t seem to ask is what about the labour market has made freelancing float to the top? And, has it become more common by choice or necessity?

According to Forbes, the driving forces behind the freelance job economy are becoming more prevalent. These include education not meeting the skills that employers need, using “gig” workers to reduce employment costs (freelancers are often paid low wages and do not receive health benefits), and bringing freelancers in to meet short-term project needs. The availability of communications technologies that support freelancers is making the growth in this job category possible.

Twitter also responded by highlighting the complex issues at the heart of the study results, while also calling out Fast Company’s use of the word “deciding” in the headline. For example, @RevEricAtcheson explained some of the reasons that freelancing is a necessity, not a decision, for some. He said:

“Deciding to freelance” sure is a funny way of spelling “navigating a job market that has eliminated pensions, affordable health insurance, cost-of-living raises, and many other trappings of steady employment our parents and grandparents benefited from for decades.”

Freelance, career, resume, cover letter, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation

That said, freelancing has other pros and cons that should be considered. It can be a way for people to generate an income for their side hustles. Or, freelance work could allow a person to gain experience and references in a new industry as a stepping stone to a career shift, while still working full-time elsewhere to make a living. Saving time, energy and money on a daily commute by working as a remote freelancer might be a perk for some people, while others might miss being around colleagues on a daily basis.

So, although freelancing’s attributes are a good fit for some people, for others it’s likely done out of necessity if a full-time position, along with its security and relatively higher pay level, can’t be obtained.

What are your thoughts on the growth of the freelance job market? If you’re a freelancer, what advice would you give to others? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Twitter.com.