More than 53 million Americans, or 34% of the U.S. workforce, work as freelancers. These workers contribute $715 billion to our economy every year. Some work on a project or contract basis. Others moonlight with a full-time job, or mix a part-time job and freelancing. Still others run a business while freelancing themselves.
Freelancing is one part of creating a three-business card life, where work is no longer confined to the directions of your boss and the structure of a 9 to 5. Instead, many of us mix and match work and play as we see it.
It’s not just touchy-feely goodness, either. Over 77% of freelancers say they make the same or more money than they did before beginning to freelance. It’s about earning a decent living while doing interesting and rewarding work.
Freelancers are a diverse bunch representing a wide variety of ages, but Millennials are leading this booming economy. 38% of workers under 35 are freelancers, as compared to 32% of workers over the age of 235. Freelancers also operate in a wide variety of industries, from unsurprising industries like marketing, writing, and graphic design, to less obvious areas like insurance inspection and accounting.
Technology Is the Key
The freelancing life can be a great one, but what allows freelancers today to be more successful than in the past? The internet and social networking have made it easier for companies to hire and freelancers to find work.
Marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr connect freelancers with clients. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for freelancers to expand their networks. Blogging and websites help freelancers show off skills to potential clients 24/7.
65% of freelancers agree that the internet has made it easier to find work, and 42% have found and completed a gig entirely online.
Why We Want to Freelance
There are a lot of benefits to freelancing. Freelancing helps diversify your income so you aren’t solely dependent on one employer for your livelihood. And in the freelancing life, it’s possible to control how when, and where you work.
A participant in the Elance-oDesk (now named Upwork) study articulated how freelancing helps create a diverse, three-business card life. “I prefer the freedom to choose what sort of work I do without my schedule being controlled and my choices being commanded by someone else,” they explained.
Their unique situation made freelancing even more appealing, as they could pursue other endeavors like working their land as part of a way to earn a living. “I can express myself and be appreciated for it as well as bring beauty to the world by way of my work. It also is less stressful than an office environment and allows me the time necessary to take care of my farm.”
Businesses Benefit, Too
It’s not just freelancers that benefit from the freelancing economy. Relying on a network of independent contractors helps businesses find high quality talent at an attractive price.
Instead of hiring an employee with a full-time salary to cover a wide range of jobs, a company can scale up or down their specialized contracting staff as the work ebbs and flows. Even small companies can hire an experienced freelancer within their budget.
How to Get Started
If you’re sitting on the sidelines, it’s easy to get starting with freelancing. Survey what other freelancers are doing in the marketplace. Take a look at your own knowledge, skills, and abilities to see what you may be able to offer to others. Get in touch with potential clients to see if you might be able to help them grow their business. Remember, it only takes one yes to start your freelancing career.