In May of 2002, a book entitled ‘Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself’ was released to much acclaim. In it, author Daniel Pink coined the term ‘free agent’ to reflect movement towards an economy dominated by freelancers and the self-employed. His message was revolutionary at the time, sparking debate as to whether this new band of independent workers would be able to earn a sustainable living via non-traditional work.
Let’s fast forward to 2015. According to a new report released by the contractor-matching site Upwork and the Freelancers Union, freelancers say that they are indeed making bank, bringing in more money than their counterparts in traditional office jobs. This year, an estimated 34% of the U.S. workforce categorized themselves as freelancers. When distilled down to raw numbers, 54 million Americans – up by over over 700,000 workers from the previous year – are functioning in either a full or part-time freelance capacity. Many talent economy experts expect this trend to continue.
My Own Personal Journey
After 7 years in leadership roles in the healthcare human resources field, I began my journey as a solo business owner in 1993, providing consulting services to a wide swath of corporate clients. This later morphed into a career on the speaking circuit, amassing an average of 60 engagements a year for conferences throughout the U.S.
To handle the heavy demand of my growing business, I even hired a virtual assistant (me in Chicago, she in Minneapolis), before this idea had even become popular.
Needless to say, we – among the rare few back then who elected to unlock the corporate handcuffs to pursue our own gig – were considered to be nuts. “What about your retirement benefits?”, a few would ask. “It seems so unstable,” said others.
Yes, it seemed risky at the time. But honestly, I’ve always felt more secure pursuing my own thing. Even to this day, the thought of being locked into a W-2 job evokes a nauseating sense of unease in the pit of my stomach. I know, I know… it’s a control thing.
In fact, talk to most freelancers these days and they will share a similar tune. We all love the flexibility of creating a career on our own terms. And in terms of money, it’s far better to capture all of the money due for the value you’ve delivered than to have to work for pay that has a ceiling. Unlimited income possibilities + flexibility: how can you beat that?
Those surveyed indicated that they are largely satisfied with how the freelance lifestyle is working out for them. 60% said they turned freelance by choice and as a result, they are earning more than they did previously in their traditional jobs. And somewhat surprisingly, 78% noted that they had exceeded their previous earnings within a year of going solo. “