Freelancing is the future. Oh no, scratch that – freelancing is very much the present! The Freelancing in America: 2016 survey found that 35% of US workers now work freelance. Their combined income is in excess of $1 trillion, according to the Freelancers Union.
The story is the same in other parts of the world. Exploring the UK Freelance Workforce in 2016 reveals that the number of freelancers in the UK rose by 43% between 2008 and 2016. Together, those freelancers contribute £119 billion to the UK economy. The figures also show that an increasing number of workers cite freelancing as their main job, with 1.77 million of the UK’s 2 million freelancers falling into this category.
Bounce over to the Philippines and the story is the same. Freelancers now account for more than 1 million workers, as Filipinos swap the horrors of the Manila commute (the city has the dubious honour of having the worst traffic on the planet) for the joys of working from home.
People’s reasons for freelancing vary hugely. Some people seem born to work freelance, with an independent, entrepreneurial streak that just doesn’t fit in a traditional office environment, but that flourishes when given enough space. Others are pushed into freelancing by circumstance. Being made redundant in a difficult economic climate is a key driver for many new freelancers. For others, ill health and/or caring responsibilities may force them to seek a career that they can flex around their availability and lifestyle.
Being made redundant in a difficult economic climate is a key driver for many new freelancers. For others, ill health and/or caring responsibilities may force them to seek a career that they can flex around their availability and lifestyle.
Freelancers cover a wide variety of roles and business sectors, from the provision of professional translation and copywriting services to the latest tech skills. According to the Exploring the UK Freelance Workforce in 2016 report, professional, scientific and technical industries account for 21% of the freelance workforce. Education follows, with 13% of freelancers engaged in this sector, followed by arts, entertainment and recreation (11%), information and communication (10%) and health and social work (8%).
Meanwhile, when it comes to the hottest freelancing skills, it’s all about the tech – at least, it is according to the recently released Upwork Q2 2017 skills index. And with 12 million registered freelancers, Upwork is certainly in a position to know a thing or two about what’s hot and what’s not in the freelancing world. According to the freelancing behemoth, 65% of the fastest-growing freelance skills are tech-related.
Whatever the sector and individual circumstances, more and more people around the world are making the move to freelance working. However, it’s only fair to say that the lifestyle doesn’t suit everyone. As such, we’ve looked at five ways to tell if you’re cut out for freelance working.
Are you comfortable with uncertainty?
A key part of freelancing is living with uncertainty. The majority of freelancers have no contracts. Some don’t even have a list of regular clients. Many have no way of knowing for certain how much money they’ll make in any given month. Or whether new clients will pay their bills on time. Or at all. It’s one giant, uncertain roller coaster with no end in sight and no safety net.
If the thought of all this fills you with dread, it’s fair to say that you might not be suited to the freelance lifestyle. We’re not saying that freelancers are happy about living with so much uncertainty – but they do manage to do it without letting it stress them out unduly, despite facing the same living costs and responsibilities as their full-time employee counterparts.
Does variety inspire you?
Do you like flicking through a wide variety of different tasks each day, or do you prefer more of a routine when it comes to your working life? Freelancing is anything but routine. There’s no average day. Plus, you have to turn your hand to anything and everything related to earning money.
That means not just doing your job, whatever that may be, but also managing invoices and client payments, undertaking marketing activities, filling out tax returns, maintaining your IT kit, backing up your data… the list goes on. Suffice it to say that freelancers need to be good at multi-tasking!
Are you self-motivated?
This is one of the most important ways that you can tell if you are suited to freelancing. If left to your own devices, do you hurtle through tasks, ticking each one off the list with a sense of pride, or do you spend the majority of your time taking Facebook quizzes, binge-watching TV and napping? While freelancers do treat themselves to the odd nap (it’s one of the perks of the lifestyle, after all!) they have to know when to put work first and be really self-motivated – really, really self-motivated!
Does financial insecurity scare you?
Most freelancers don’t get paid holiday leave or sick pay. Many also have no pension – or certainly not a pension that will be of much use by the time retirement age rolls around. Freelancers can also find it harder to get a mortgage and borrow money for other purposes.
Financial insecurity can be scary. Life is unpredictable and we never know what’s around the corner. For some people, the only way to balance that is to work as a full-time employee, with a regular paycheck, paid leave and a steadily building pension pot.
It’s an attractive package and if the thought of leaving it behind fills you with terror then you should think very carefully before committing to replace it with the financial insecurity of a freelance lifestyle.
Do you enjoy your own company?
Many freelancers – particularly those who work from home – spend large chunks of time on their own. While being free from having a boss can be immensely liberating, having no colleagues can at times be a lonely experience. This can impact on motivation levels, to the detriment of productivity. If being on your own for more than a couple of hours leaves you climbing the walls, consider how the solo nature of freelance working might affect you. It’s not a situation that suits everyone.
However, if the freelance lifestyle still appeals after reading all this, then you may well be cut out to be part of the modern freelancing trend!