The freelance economy is exploding. Fifty three million Americans – 34 percent of the population – are categorized as freelancers, as reported in a recent study by the Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk. However, 14.3 million workers are considered moonlighters – those who have a primary, traditional job with benefits, and supplement their income with side work. About 21.1 million are traditional freelancers, working on a per-project basis. Another 9.3 million have multiple sources of income and 5.5 million are temporary employees, working for a single company for a specific period of time with benefits. The last 2.8 million are business owners who employ one to five workers.
“Freelancing is the new normal – and this survey shows that America’s new workforce is big, crucial and here to stay,” said Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union in a statement.
“The growth is a clear indicator of a transition of work online,” says Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance-oDesk. Even more traditional jobs, such as accounting and legal, are becoming virtual. E-commerce is also a booming trend, accounting for 6 percent of all sales in the United States. Just as you can order an office chair from your desktop or mobile device, business owners can find employees. Mobility is quickly becoming synonymous with efficiency as more workers own mobile devices, increasing communication between business owners and freelancers. In the freelance economy, there is no need for lengthy hiring processes, HR departments, or recruiters when qualified workers are at you’re your fingertips.
You’re thinking of launching a new website and running a six-month social media campaign but the lack of manpower is just a piece of your marketing concerns. You have several options: (1) take the time to learn everything about website building and online campaigns; (2) invest trust, time and money into someone to complete the tasks at hand and then when the project is finished, scramble around looking for new work to give them; or (3) hire someone to work on the designated assignments with no future commitment of continued employment after the project is complete. I’ll take the latter.
The ability to get the work you need, for only as long as you need it, is the beauty of freelancers. Freelancers will generally have the skills necessary to complete the tasks without business owners having to take too much time to teach. What about commitments? Freelancers and commitments don’t typically go together. They tend to work on a temporary or per-project basis, providing the greatest benefit: no benefits! In other words, healthcare, life insurance, savings plans, etc. do not need to be promised and the respective costs can be allocated to other areas.
Field Nation is another work platform for independent contractors. They released datashowing that 90 percent of freelancers questioned in a survey viewed themselves as “deeply committed to the work they do for their clients.” Freelancing is more respected today than it was in the past, and there is an increase in demand for their services and they enjoy that.
Thirty eight percent of millennials under the age of 35 say that they do freelance work. The rise of online marketplaces, digital work platforms, Millennial innovations, and spare time has created a large group of part-time freelancers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average workers remains with a company for 4.4 years. As for millennial workers, it’s 1.5 years. Business owners may be reluctant to hire millennials because of their job-hopping reputation, but when it comes to part-time freelance work, isn’t that what you’re looking for? Someone with an entrepreneurial mindset and vision for success, without the long-term commitment? “In this world, removing friction, reducing time to hire, time to results is extremely important,” says Rosati. Business owners want things done fast and now. This is why freelancers are the way to go.