The New Normal: 5 Reasons Why Freelancing Is The Future Of Work
The work landscape is always changing. The global economy has created a work world that is almost unrecognizable from what it was 40 years ago. Companies used to hire an employee who would work for twenty or thirty years and then retire with a pension. That employee might have one or two careers or jobs in a lifetime.
Now, companies are no longer loyal. The average worker generally has ten jobs before they turn 40, and anywhere from 12-15 jobs on average in their lifetime (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Freelancing in the United States has gone up 8% in the last three years and statistics show that by 2027, over half the workforce is going to be either independent consultants or freelancers (Forbes).
These changes to the work landscape impact all industries: retail, manufacturing, white-collar industries, blue-collar industries, and a whole range of creative professional industries. No one is immune to these changes. Freelancing is here to stay, and for good reason.
1) There's more money to be made in freelancing than ever before.
In an effort to keep their overhead low by reducing their full-time headcount, and therefore their benefit and healthcare costs, companies are hiring more freelancers than ever. Fewer full-time workers means companies can grow or contract their workforce as needed. These positive incentives for corporations to hire temporary workers means that freelancers are in greater demand and that demand is continuing to grow. With more work available, it's easier to make a living freelancing than it ever has been before.
2) Freelancers are better prepared for changes in the marketplace.
New trends in business, new skill sets, new industries, and new innovations are coming down the pike all the time. Freelancers make it a point to stay up-to-date on what's changing in the marketplace, while full-time employees have a tendency to sometimes get comfortable and complacent. Freelancers know that they have to stay on their toes and be prepared for the future.
My professional network of consultants and partners talk about these market changes all the time. By doing so we're always staying up-to-date on the latest innovations, movements, trends in business, and skill sets in the marketplace - much more so, I believe, than our full-time counterparts.
3) Artificial Intelligence and freelance work.
A popular topic amongst my consulting network: Fast Company says that 50% of freelancers are already seeing the impact of AI in the workforce. Artificial Intelligence is certainly affecting the creative professions in particular. Some examples: Envato templates, Canva, Haiku Deck, Adobe Spark,or RelayThat. All of these applications are plug-and-play, just like WYSIWYG website templates but for graphic design and they are increasingly digging into the bottom line of the design profession.
However, the founder of LinkedIn has said he thinks freelancers are better prepared for the threat of AI than full-time employees. It’s true, freelancers are going to be less impacted by AI because they are in direct contact with their clients. They work P-to-P: in people-to-people relationships. They communicate directly with people and build skill sets and a knowledge base that are rooted in human relationships. AI does not threaten this sort of work.
For example, AI won’t supplant my human expertise in brand consulting. Consulting expertise uses skills like creativity, judgement, planning and resource management - skills AI cannot learn. Artificial Intelligence won't be able to replace my eye for discovery, or my adeptness at competitive analysis in design or in planning creative strategy targeting a specific avatar. Freelancers are practiced at amplifying competitive strengths and adjusting to just these sort of shifts in the market.
4) Freelancing spreads your risk.
Just like investing in index funds, where buying a broad range of companies mitigates the risk of any one company failing, freelancing spreads employment risk. Smart freelancers work with a range of companies, a diverse set of clients. By working a broad a range of industry categories the risk of getting adversely affected by a downturn in any one industry is lessened.
Working across industries also forces freelancers to diversify their skill set, which keeps them in demand. They are constantly learning the newest technologies, systems, and processes. They become less specialized and more of a Swiss army knife, which can be especially useful to employers who need to keep their freelance headcount tight.
5) When you freelance, you own your own brand.
Freelancers are actively building their own brands. They embrace the idea that “you own you,” and understand that no one can take that away from them. All of the work they put into their practice, network and clients stays with them as a freelancer. They are building their own equity, not the equity of an employer. No layoff, no market crash, no downturn, or organizational shakeup can take it away. No one can lay you off from you.
Change is the only constant, and that is true in the job market now more than ever. Freelancing embraces the idea of change and as a result, makes the freelancer less vulnerable to it. It forces the freelancer to organically expand their skill set and network, and neutralizes the risk of an unexpected change, like a layoff.
Freelancing is like a permission slip to grow as much as you desire professionally. In fact, in recent years the historical drawbacks of freelancing; lack of loyalty, lack of consistency and exposure to market shifts and economic forces have started to look less like a downside and more like a competitive advantage.