Gig Economy Revolution: Freelancers Lead the Way
Freelancing has become an increasingly viable career path in many industries. More than 55 million Americans – about 35 percent of the workforce – are freelancers. The reasons for a worker’s entry into the gig economy and motivations for remaining are diverse.
Types of freelancers
Who are these workers? A new Intuit report outline five primary categories of freelancers.
- Business builders – 22 percent of respondents, primarily motivated to be their own boss.
- Career freelancers – 20 percent of respondents, primary career-fueled by independent work.
- Side giggers – 26 percent of respondents, supplementing their primary income to increase financial stability.
- Passionistas – 14 percent of respondents, pursuing work they love to do.
- Substituters – 18 percent, replacing a conventional job no longer available to them.
The McKinsey Global Institute issued a recent report that breaks it down even further. According to its research, there are four categories of gig workers.
- Free agents – 30 percent of independent workers, they have a primary income derived from freelance work they do out of choice.
- Casual earners – 40 percent of independent workers, they have a supplemental income derived from freelance work they do out of choice.
- Reluctants – 14 percent of independent workers, they have a primary income derived from freelance work they do out of necessity.
- Financially strapped – 16 percent of independent workers, they have a supplemental income derived from freelance work they do out of necessity.
The combined research makes it clear that the majority of those actively engaged in the gig economy are doing so out of choice rather than necessity.
Business builders and career freelancers
Business builders and career freelancers want freedom from the corporate world. They want the freedom of being their own boss while creating an income comparable to that in a more traditional career. That was the case for Erica Gordon, writer and founder of The Babe Report.
She described her transition to freelancing as a career, “There was a time when I worked at an office 9 to 5 and freelanced on the side to make extra income, but as more and more clients came my way through word of mouth and via my website, I was able to take on freelancing as a full-time job.”
This seems to be a common thread in the lives of those who become career builders. They enter the world of freelancing in one of the other categories and slowly develop the ability to make their side gigs a full-time career.
Gordon’s tips for being one’s own boss include the need to be self-motivated, a strong desire to hustle, the discipline not to take time off that hasn’t been earned, and strong communication skills.
Side giggers, passionistas, and substituters
People in these categories tend to look at freelancing as a supplemental form of income or are those who do not need a full-time income from their gig work.
Gig work can be a lifeline for those who suddenly find their financial situation has changed dramatically. This can happen when their longtime job is suddenly downsized or outsourced.
This was the case for Janet Darbey who describes herself as a digital nomad freelancer. She began writing travel content and taking photographs to support herself after the death of her husband. She explains, “I love to travel, write, and take photographs, and this is a great way to earn money to support myself with my skills.”
There tends to be a greater focus on the types of gigs freelancers are working rather than the companies for which they are doing the work. What motivates a business to hire freelancers?
Holly Wolf, director of customer engagement at SOLO Laboratories, has experienced the gig economy from both sides. She entered the gig economy as a freelancer after a bank merger eliminated her position as a chief marketing officer. She then worked as a career freelancer for eight months before returning to the world of corporate employment.
In her new position, she has had the opportunity to hire and work closely with a multitude of freelance workers. In part, she attributes this to the decline of administrative assistants in the workforce. She has used freelance workers to help with administrative tasks to free up her time for more strategic projects.
She explained the importance of employers treating their freelance team with professional respect. She asks about availability and pays invoices within a predefined time and, as a result, has a team that is always willing to work.
The gig economy continues to expand and a greater number of those involved in the revolution are beginning to self-identify as freelancers or entrepreneurs. As cultural acceptance of this type of career path expands, people will begin to choose a degree plan based on its compatibility with a freelancing career.